Back Pain is Such a . . . PAIN!
Back pain is the number one reason people miss work days and is something that affects 80% of the population. Unless you have personally experienced this pain, you truly cannot appreciate how debilitating it is. Even some physicians I’ve seen have the attitude of “Big deal, you have a backache.” I will admit that I also subscribed to this thinking. That is, until one day I bent over to put my baby’s juice box in the fridge, and I was paralyzed with pain. My life would never be the same from that moment on.
The worst pain I have ever experienced, even beyond natural childbirth, is back pain. Eighteen years ago or so, I was in the prime of my life. I was married with two little baby boys who were my world, and I was working as a psychologist for a school district. Life was good. Then came the “juice box day” as I’ve come to call it, and my world changed forever.
From that moment on, my existence became one of chronic pain. As it turned out, I had herniated discs in my lower back that decided to make their presence known with excruciating back spasms that immobilized me. After months and months of unsuccessful physical therapy, I had open back surgery. I slowly got back to life and what was now my new normal.
The surgery was a success for several years. Then I started having flare ups every now and then, despite being super careful about what I did. There was nothing that could be done about it other than to follow the physical therapy exercises and use modalities (ice, heat, traction, massage, acupuncture, stretching, foam rolling, TENS unit, inversion table, etc.) and take anti-inflammatory medications. Add the occasional epidural steroid injections to the mix and I muddled along. I did NOT want to go back to where I was on that “juice box day.” I dealt with the chronic pain, came to accept it (albeit begrudgingly), and came to the realization that living life with pain 24-7 was now a part of who I was. I carried ice packs and a sock filled with rice (they make great moist heating pads) with me to work. Was I happy about this? HELL NO! But I certainly wasn’t given a choice in the matter. It’s not like God personally asked, “Hey Madelin, would you rather have back/neck pain or something else?”
This new way of life was by no means a smooth transition. I hosted many a pity party where I was the sole attendee. I became depressed. I was a young woman with babies who I couldn’t even carry because it brought on pain. I couldn’t roll around on the floor to play with them. I was angry. I was sad. Thank God I have the world’s most supportive husband! I don’t think I would have made it through this without him.
Fast forward to the present and many MRIs later, my spine is even a bigger mess. The “juice box day” has now been replaced with “I went to get out of bed day.” Thanks, degenerative joint disease (make sure to read that with plenty of sarcasm). I kid you not when I say that my latest MRI report mentions disc herniations, bulges, bone on bone etc. in nearly every level of my spine from my neck all the way down to my lower back plus a couple of syrinxes (cysts within my spinal cord) thrown in just for good measure. Can you say PAIN?
I’m not looking for pity. Believe me, I count my blessings every single day. There are so many people dealing with far worse than this, and that is not lost on me. I am grateful that I at least am able to feel pain as there are many who are paralyzed and cannot. Nevertheless, in the middle of a back spasm, I seriously want to die and forget all about my blessings. Those suckers hurt!
I’d like to hear about your experience with back pain, how you handle it, how your life has changed because of it, anything and everything! So drop a comment below and let’s chat. Only we know what this experience is like. Check back in next time when I’ll be sharing why you can and should still exercise despite back problems. Until then, continue to fuel up for a fit life and may you have a pain-free day!