Back Problems Suck

It’s amazing how fast things can change.

If I didn’t have bad luck I wouldn’t have any. Since 2006, I have had a chronic back problem. It’s difficult to describe because when one says, “I threw my back out,” I’m not sure what that means. I think that vernacular applies to bulging or herniated discs. My doctor thought it had to do with the Sacroiliac joint (SI) and my chiropractor says the source of the problem is higher than that but still near the base of my spine.

Here’s what happens. If I bend over the wrong way, whether or not I have any weight in my hands, I feel a wiggle in my lower back and a grab to the lower right of my spine. When I return to an upright position, all the muscles in my lower back seize up and go into a locked spasm. Treatments like heat and ice and ibuprofen only provide temporary relief. Stretching doesn’t help. Nothing helps. The only way I get any relief is when the spasm finally lets go. There’s some residual nerve pain when that finally happens and that usually only lasts a couple of days.

So, last Saturday, a week ago today, I was dressed and on my way out for an early morning run. I dropped my headphones. I bent down to pick them up and when I did I felt the wiggle, I felt the grab and when I stood upright all the muscles in my lower back seized.

I went to the emergency room Sunday. The nurse practitioner wrote me three prescriptions, gave me an insulting brochure and sent me on my merry way. I followed up with my primary care physician Monday and she added ibuprofen to my diet of pills and prescribed six physical therapy sessions. I’ve tried stretching, the heating pad, walking, and ice. Nothing helps. I feel like I have a knife in my back. I struggle to stand up straight and I look like a 5’10” “S.”

My first physical therapy session is Monday. I am skeptical to say the least.

The bigger question is what this has done to my confidence and psyche.

This problem first arose in 2006. I don’t remember what I weighed but a professional sports trainer told me to lose belly fat and develop my core strength. It happened again in 2008 and I was again told that belly fat and lack of core strength were why this kept happening. I started exercising in 2009, lost some weight, gained it back and the problem with my back happened again in 2010, this time while lifting something very heavy. It took six weeks for that one to feel better. It happened again in 2012 when I was pretty close to my heaviest weight. I was lifting something heavy when this one happened. In July of 2014, I bent over to pick something up and it happened again with absolutely no weight in my hands. I saw my primary care physician and she told me anything can cause this and there’s nothing I can do to prevent it. She gave me prescription strength ibuprofen and a muscle relaxer. It took about two weeks to feel better. Sometime in November or December it happened again while I was doing goblet squats. I was pissed off so I finished the legs work out anyway and recovered in about three days.

I strained my calf and pulled a hamstring and saw my doctor about it. She shut me down for a month of no running. I mentioned that the area near my SI joint had been acting up, no spasms just some soreness, and she said my SI joint was out of alignment. I had the chiropractor work on my lower back two weeks in a row. I missed an appointment for an adjustment and two days later it flared up.

Here I am a week later writing this blog. I am angry. I am frustrated. I am fed up. One of the reasons I wanted to lose weight and get in shape was to end this back problem once and for all. I am in the best shape I have been in a long time, decades even. I had achieved another low, 178.4 pounds, of which I was very proud. I’ve put a few pounds back on, which does not thrill me. I can already tell I am losing muscle from not lifting weights.

The bottom line is I don’t feel like I did when I wrote the last blog entry. I have gone from the height of self-esteem and confidence to the bottom again in just over a week. I recently wrote that I have to remind myself that I am trying to undo 16 years of relative inactivity and largess. I can’t help but feel like the work I have put in the last two years has been all for nothing. Yes, I look better. Yes, I am healthier. But I have yet to eliminate two of the major problems that I thought were caused by being overweight. I’m not in the mood to write about the second one right now.

I’m not better than the poster on the wall. I am still the 180-pound Jell-O mold. I didn’t know you could crack Jell-O. If you’ve followed this blog from the beginning you’ll note that this isn’t my first injury or setback. But this is the most frustrating of them all. Nobody seems to want to find the root cause. My doctor doesn’t want to have an MRI done yet. She wants me to do the physical therapy. She wants me to try yoga. I need to know what causes this and I need to find out how to prevent it from happening ever again.

This problem has gone from happening every two years to three times in seven months. Exercise and weight loss have had no affect on this issue, in fact, it seems to be getting worse and happening more often. I’ve been told age is just a number and that being 45 shouldn’t matter. But I can’t help but feel old and broken-down.

I am angry and confused and I don’t know what to do anymore.

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