I entered the new year on my back. Not in an exciting sort of way. Quite the opposite, in fact. For a few days I regularly had an ice pack under my lumbar spine, popped pain medication and read The Signature of All Things (the nicest part of this debacle). The simple act of standing up from the floor, while holding a book and twisting a bit, led to an unexpected fireworks show in my back. Searing pain shot up my spine. I got dizzy and blacked out. I didn’t lose consciousness, but I couldn’t see for a second. If labor pains had shot through my system with the same intensity, I would’ve had an epidural within 20-minutes.
I immediately knew what had happened. I have attended countless “Take Care of Your Back” seminars while working in hospitals. Visions of vertebrae on Power Point slides haunted me for a few minutes while I iced and longed for Aleve to kick in.
I was mad, extremely disappointed, a little scared. I had just “graduated” from physical therapy after dedicating four months to consistent resistance exercises, icing and stretching. I was finally experiencing days without pain in my hip. My PT even cleared me to run short intervals with the promise I bought new shoes. I was so excited that I bought them right after that session and ran the next day. I reveled in every stride around Green Lake and remained pain-free as long as I held correct posture. Dreams of more time to write, cook, and garden emerged, since most of my free time this fall has been dedicated to healing my body. (I’m incredibly grateful to have this time.)
Anyways, after resting in bed for a few days thinking it was best (it’s not) and waddling around like a 42-week pregnant woman because any uncalculated movement would make me cringe, I scheduled a session with my physical therapist. I kid you not, I walked out of the office pain free. Between her massage and this crazy exercise that I’ve grown to love, my back found relief. I now visit daily to be tightly strapped into a traction machine via a horse-like saddle, also known as the least discreet corset ever. (It’s leather. I have slightly bruised ribs from it.) Anyways, after many reps of these weighted squat/pull-up combos, I unhook feeling normal. Well, that’s actually not true. My hands ache like hell from grabbing the bar, but my back. Oh, it feels good.
Now, the pain still ebbs and flows but it’s isolated and manageable with meds, icing and exercises. The primary way to eliminate and prevent lumbar pain long-term is to improve my posture, practice safe body mechanics, strengthen my core, and stretch. It will take time and dedication, but my body certainly grabbed my attention. Preventing chronic pain is self-care 101. (Making my heart sink a little bit for those who have little control over physical pain. I have thought of you, collectively, a lot these past months.)
I wanted to share this part of my journey with you for a few reasons. First, I highly recommend that you avoid doing what I did. Don’t twist and lift. Strengthen your core. Stretch. Fire your glutes. (I’m looking at you, runners.) Second, If you happen to hurt your back, waddle your way into a PT office stat! I can’t imagine how much harder these past weeks would’ve been without proper guidance and treatment.
Lastly, a lesson being seared onto my brain with equal intensity as the acute pain, ASK FOR HELP. We don’t have family around to fill in, so we have to call on friends. Asking can feel daunting, especially when most of our friends have family available or young children under foot. When reciprocity isn’t the norm, it’s harder for me make the request. But, I reminded myself that I am always happy to assist my friends. I don’t feel put out- I feel honored they asked and thankful I can lend a hand. (I can also say no if I’m unable, but that’s a separate lesson, obviously.) So, I asked. The encouragement and help I received, including a friend whisking away my boys with hers to the zoo (can we say energy explosion?!), reminded me of how awesome my local tribe is.
Pondering what entering the new year on my back taught me just might be my best motivation for moving forward with greater purpose and grace this year. I will be dedicated to building strength, flexibility and stability. I will remember that this requires repetition, often pushes me out of my comfort zone, is frequently monotonous and always makes me sweat. I will pursue balance, not to avoid uneven ground, but so that it doesn’t make me tumble. I will remember that this requires focused eyes and grounding. I will include others on my journey, whether it’s pretty and picked-up or painful and dirty. I will remember that this requires trust. My friends love me for who I am, not how clean my house is or how I look. I will be quick to lend a hand, especially when my life has abundance. I will remember that this is often best done tangibly, but even a thoughtful phone call or text lighten the load. Finally, of tremendous importance, I will avoid wearing corsets at all costs after therapy concludes.
Happy New Year, friends. I am thankful you stop by here, grateful for your support.
PS- I’m ringing in 2014 with a facebook page for my blog. (Yes, I have done this before. It could vanish again, but I don’t think it will this time.) There will be further explanation as to why in a post soon to come, but if you prefer to follow my posts via facebook, just “like” it to be subscribed. I only plan on posting when I write. If you’ve been following awhile, you know my pattern. You can rest assured I won’t clog your feed.
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