Back in action
May 9, 2016
by Ivan Raconteur

Being back in action never feels quite so sweet as it does following a time my back has been out of action.

Maladies come in all shapes and sizes. I seem to be discovering more of them with each passing year. They can range from minor inconveniences to major roadblocks in our daily routine.

The minor things are easy. We can ignore them and still get on with our lives.

If we have a sore thumb, for example, chances are we can get by using the other hand, at least temporarily.

When I had my ankle rebuilt with some snazzy new titanium plates a few years ago, I became fairly proficient at getting around on one leg. I pretended I was a pirate.

Back pain is different.

I was reminded of this recently when I woke up on a Saturday morning to find a black cloud had descended over me.

It would be an exaggeration to say I greet each new day by springing out of bed and bursting forth with a happy song, but some days start out that way.

On this particular Saturday, however, there was no springing, and my first utterance was more like the wail of a banshee than a happy tune.

My initial attempts to move were greeted with some singularly unpleasant twinges along the port side of the spine.

Cautiously, I swung my legs over the edge of the bed and stood up.

Stood, in this case, is a relative term. You might envision a shape like the letter “I” when you think about standing, but in this case, it was more like a shaky letter “C.”

My mornings are already a bit of a circus.

I have been battling plantar fasciitis, so I can’t put much weight on my right foot first thing in the morning.

My eyes tend to be dry due to far too many hours of screen time, so I can’t see clearly until I have put the first round of drops in my eyes for the day.

Adding the back pain to this did not improve matters.

I shuffled to my chair like a man of 110 in poor health.

When I say shuffled, think of the speed of a glacier. My pace then, and for the days that followed, made the average sloth look quick and nimble in comparison.

The problem, as I was reminded in no uncertain terms, is that we use our backs for everything.

Pain can wear us down, but it is impossible to get any rest because there is no comfortable position in which to sit, stand, or recline.

Once you eliminate the big three, there aren’t many positions left.

I found bracing myself against a wall or clinging to the edge of the kitchen counter were the safest positions.

I discovered sitting in the Subaru offered some relief. Unfortunately, this required getting in and out of the vehicle, neither of which were much fun.

When I am healthy, I simply get in the car.

During the days when my back was giving me trouble, entering the vehicle was a slow and painful process.

Lifting my foot the short distance from the ground to the vehicle was a daunting prospect.

I also discovered it is nearly impossible to enter a vehicle without some degree of bending and twisting, and bending and twisting were no fun at all, at least not for those few days.

I have experienced back pain previously, but one of the differences this time was I have no idea what caused it. I woke up Saturday morning and realized immediately that my weekend plans had changed.

Usually, when I have had back pain it has been the result of playing football, falling down mountains, or lifting a billiard table. I didn’t do any of these things on this occasion, so I don’t know what to avoid in order to prevent it happening again.

With some injuries, it is possible to just power through and ignore it.

Back pain isn’t like that.

I suffered debilitating waves of pain far too often.

If I even thought about moving a bit carelessly, another wave of excruciating muscle spasms swept over me. This is the kind of pain that can cause a guy to drop like a cheap prom dress.

Many times, I would have done just that if I wasn’t clinging to a wall or piece of furniture for support.

My bed was of no use to me during this time. The only way I could get some level of sleep was to wedge myself into a chair in a mostly upright position.

Simple things become major challenges when one is suffering from back pain.

Making dinner may be too much to contemplate.

There are a lot more steps to making dinner than we think about under normal circumstances.

Bending down to take a pan out of the cupboard, leaning over a stove, or reaching to take ingredients from a pantry shelf can all be insurmountable obstacles.

I am happy to say I am back among the land of the living.

I’m not quite ready to do any bouncing or springing yet, but I am walking more like a sprightly 70-year-old than a fossil of 110, and it feels wonderful.

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