Friday, March 16, 2012

Oh My Aching Back

If you are anything like me, you take good health, great health even, for granted. I'm of the era and breed of women who while not exactly out milking the cows, grinding the corn and shoeing the horses, certainly figured I could hold my own with a man! "I'll do it myself" is my mantra. Rarely daunted by not having a live-in handyman I've abused my body in many ways - need to move a heavy credenza - no problem - just put back to it and push.  Right before Christmas, impatient with how much time it was taking to prepare a floor for new hardwood, I was right there with the guys, crouching, hammering , levering.

And then it hit! The woman who just two weeks earlier had hiked the Escudilla Trail to its 9,560 foot  elevation  summit couldn't move and was in  agony - screaming in agony, pain like nothing I had ever felt before radiating down my left thigh and calf.

Lord knows how many heavy-duty pain pills, MRI, direct steroid injections to my spine later - I was still, first week of February, a blubbering, immobile wreck.  My Valentine's day was spent in surgery - out patient at that,  and the surgeon performed what he described as a "text book laminectomy decompression" for spinal stenosis.

An eternal optimist I simply assumed that day two I'd be hitting the trail again and back to my old routine. Not so - over four weeks now and week two into physical therapy I can finally walk a mile (my old routine was five miles a day), climb stairs. I cannot squat or bend! So to get the dog's bowl filled I kneel to pick it up, haul myself upright again, fill bowl, kneel to put it back on the floor. Dog is absolutely convinced that I have finally figured out he is  a deity and giving him the respect he deserves.

One other take-away from all this is the havoc that narcotics wreak on your system. I was a full week in withdrawal from the pain killers I'd been taking - night sweats, nightmares, skin crawling, nausea, splitting headache. 

The lesson from all this - do not take your back for granted! Stay limber, flexible. Learn the correct way to bend, lift, move furniture.  Take advantage of Silver Sneakers gym memberships, pay attention to warm-up stretching - and in my case, get off my high horse and ask for help once in a while.  My therapist showed me a neat way to get into a car - one I note the royal family uses - turn sideways, fanny on the seat, gently swing legs in! Saves a really nasty twist to the back.

I'm not pain free yet , might never be - but I am humbled and resolved to take better care of my back in future.