Well, if not the saddle, then the computer chair. I’ve just come in for my second day in the office again after an extended period of working from home. Still moving a little slow….walking with cane..but walking and feeling a tad better each day.
For those who don’t know, the main reason for my extended period away from the office is that back just before Thanksgiving last year I totally tweaked my back. I mean TOTALLY. Woke up one morning and could not get out of bed. Pain in lower back and everything else (upper back, torso) just seemed locked up. Took near 30 minutes to get in an upright position and almost as long to make it the 15 or so feet to our bathroom. ACK!
The next 2+ months since my back ‘went out were a bit of a perspective changing experience for me and, I have to admit, I experienced more depression during this period than I can recall during any other period of my life.. But now that I can both see (and feel) progress and realize that my earlier fears of being wheelchair bound for the rest of my life were unfounded (okay, a bit overdramatic, but definitely seemed like a realistic outcome a few weeks back at 3AM when I couldn’t get out of bed to save my soul).
During the period after my initial pain came on I went to…the doctor….a physical therapist….a chiropractor….got an xray…an mri….got drugs…..then more drugs. Somewhere between Thanksgiving and Christmas I started using a cane. Pain had settled into my left leg and was a bit painful walking without the cane. By New Years I was on crutches and walking without aids had become excruciating. When I put weight on my left leg, I would feel sharp pain shooting up the upper back of my left leg into my left buttock….along the sciatic nerve. On a number of occasions, this pain was severe enough to make me shriek in a way most folks would associate with that of a little girl who’s had a spider put down the back of her dress. Loud. Unabashed. Shriek.
My boss at work was very supportive and encouraged me to work from home on days when I had too much pain to make it into work. Over the next two months, this became the norm rather than the exception. Just getting up was a challenge and as the pain seemed to increase rather than subside, I found myself moving less and less (hey, it HURT when I moved!), and ultimately being ABLE to move less and less. One truism about back and muscle pain is….if you don’t find a way to get them moving and USING those muscles, they won’t simply get better on their own. Rest only goes so far where back muscles are concerned.
My downward spiral hit bottom just about the new year. By that time I found that I needed crutches just to get the 15-20 feet to the bathroom. Had moved into our home office which we set up with a la-z-boy recliner (graciously donated by a good friend) that let me sleep without disturbing my wife, but more importantly, help me be more able to actually get up in the morning, just by pushing that lever forward and getting me up into a sitting position (something that would take a lot of wrangling, with help from my wife, and about 15 minutes to accomplish otherwise).
The doc had upped my medication from anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxers to real pain relievers (Percocet)….but by this point, while the Percocet helped with a lot of the minor aches and pains and general discomfort around my upper back, it wasn’t enough to fully deaden the pain I felt when trying to walk. This was about the time when I started questioning whether I would ever be able to walk like a normal human being again.
The turnaround came about 3 weeks ago when I finally heeded the advice of a good friend and went to see her friend Priya who was a Massage Therapist. Priya talked with me longer than any of the other health professionals I had seen, all before laying a finger on me, and she was the most ‘right on’ in her diagnosis beforehand, and during the massages (as she would tell me where I felt tight, and it all tied into where I was having problems). After dealing for two months with folks who were talking in generalities, or taking a drug first- find problem later approach, she pegged that my problem was that my whole back (all the muscles) had been really tight when the problem first occured and that left no ‘wiggle room’, the other muscles that might have taken up the slack for the ones that were hurting, simply couldn’t. Once she got those muscles moving again, everything became easier. When we had our second session, I literally felt some of the key muscles that had been so tight “unlock” during the massage. Afterward I stood up straight for the first time in about 2 months and could walk around the room without the crutches I came in on. I left her office with tears in my eyes. If I hadn’t fully realized how despondent I had been before, the relief and gratitude I felt while I walked to my car (actually holding my crutches in the air in front of me) was a clue.
So, here I am today, back in the saddle…not at a full gallop, but on my way. As I said, still using the cane for a little support, but feel like I need it less and less each day. I now am making sure to take a break and stretch at regular intervals during the day (helped along by a great piece of software called RSIguard) and am looking forward to the day when I will be walking without a cane or even a hitch in my giddyap.
Over the last few months, I recieved a lot of really kind kind and encouraging words from my friends. Also, I have recieved a bunch of great advice & suggestions, some of which I will share below:
The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook: Your Self-Treatment Guide for Pain Relief – Clair Davies – http://tinyurl.com/yfurglb
Fix Your Own Pain Without Drugs or Surgery – Jolie Bookspan – http://tinyurl.com/yls9n7w
Pain Free: A Revolutionary Method for Stopping Chronic Pain – Pete Egoscue – http://tinyurl.com/ygeh8xy
Theracane – A self-massaging tool great for reaching and treating triggerpoints – http://www.theracane.com/
Nada Chair – I am using one right now as I type this. a GREAT device for helping keep your back posture while you sit in ANY chair – http://www.nadachair.com/
Percocet – a lovely drug that – uh, wait. Oh, never mind.
RSIguard Software, Stretch Edition – This software is designed to monitor your computer use and pop up reminders when to break, suggest a particular stretch to do, etc. It seems really simple, but actually works really well. How often have you sat at the computer, think you will just work for 15-20 minutes and next thing you know it’s hours later. This software gives you very useful reminder, not just that you should break, but what to do during that break to keep from developing Repetitive Strain Injuries and also, as applies to my case, keep your back healthy. They have a fully functional 45 day trial which I highly recommend – http://www.rsiguard.com/index.htm
I cannot stress enough that my turnaround after 2+ months of Doctors, Physical Therapy, Drugs and more, finally came from finding a great massage therapist as noted above.
KEEP IT MOVING
Okay, this is one that everyone probably knows, or would intuit, but as none of us are getting any younger, and given how much of a wakeup call this was for me, I am just going to say it anyway. If I didn’t appreciate the need to keep some regular physical activity as part of my ongoing routine before, I sure as hell do now. Some of it is just incorporating stretching, walking around and other breaks in my workday. More is making sure that I am not spending too much of my life at the computer as opposed to out and about.
Okay, enough preaching from me for today. Gonna get up and take a walk around the office. You should get up too. At the very least, stand up and take a good long stretch… feels good, doesn’t it.