The one from the back…

I think this is the first time I’ve ever written a post from a mobile device. It’s annoying. But if I wait until I’m in front of my laptop, it’ll never get it written. The reason being, that much of my free time lately has been spent exactly as I am now – in bed, flat on my back.

It’s been a busy week for my back. I just came from physio and yesterday I had a CT scan. I don’t think I’ve really gone into the details of what I have been struggling with lately so let’s recap.

Labour Day weekend I went down to the states with some family for vacation. Ever diligent about keeping up with my routine, I went to the gym at the hotel every day.

One day I made note that my back felt particularly tired/tight but I was walking around a lot so that must have been it.

The next day I awoke to intense lower back pain but I was sleeping in a hotel bed, not my own, so that must have been that.

The day we drove home I could not find a comfortable position in the driver’s seat, I was adjusting the chair every way imaginable and was just uncomfortable sitting. I had done hams/glutes in my workout so I must have pulled a muscle doing a kettle bell swing and that was certainly that.

Except, despite all those reasons, once I returned home the pain didn’t go away. I was still going to the gym but I couldn’t pick anything up. My back squat went from 190 lbs to just the 45 lb bar to no weight at all and I was still in agony.

I started doing my squats from the cable machine so I didn’t have weight on my back but I eventually couldn’t crouch low enough to grab the straight bar from the bottom cable, then my 60 lb barbell bicep curls became 40, 30, 20, to barely being able to pick up a 5 lb weight and I realized this was no pulled muscle.

Ok, so maybe I knew well before that but I was in denial. I didn’t want to be hurt.

I bit the bullet and went to the doctor five weeks after the initial pain. I couldn’t get in to see my own doctor but there was a med student working with her so I saw him. I told him about the very intense, localized pain that felt as though a steel rod were jammed through the back of my pelvis, how nerve pain kept me up at night and the muscles in my low back and hip were tender.

His diagnosis? Pulled muscle. He gave me a cortisone shot in the area where I had pain and sent me on my way with a suggestion that I get a massage.

Cortisone provided me no relief whatsoever. I was disheartened to still be in pain but made the massage appointment where she then told me that in her opinion I did not have a pulled muscle but rather had the symptoms of SI joint inflammation. She recommended I see a physio.

In for another appointment in late October with a physiotherapist where he tells me he doesn’t think it’s pulled muscle, or SI joint inflammation but rather a disc protrusion (otherwise known as a herniated disc). He put me on complete restrictions except for prescribed exercises and, for a while, it did get better.

For a while.

I saw him three times a week until Christmas when I had a couple weeks off and I was feeling better. I had started to jog outside a bit and made it through the holidays on my own when got the all clear to get back into some light workouts in the gym.

I made it a week before the pain was back in full force but this time I got it under control much faster so it only set me back another week. At this point the physio figured I’d be okay for a while and he discharged me in mid-January, nearly five months to the day of the injury.

I felt energized, I renewed my gym membership and I was ready to put this bad dream behind me. In the end, I made it two weeks and when the pain returned, it brought friends. Admittedly, I had been testing my limits at the gym, picking up weight heavier than I should and running further, but I felt good. One day a couple weeks ago I was doing my physio exercises on the mats when, somewhat ironically, searing hot pain went shooting through my back. The pain was so intense my eyes lost focus and I couldn’t breathe. I also couldn’t get up.

I kneeled awkwardly on a mat at the gym for far too long before I was able to get myself up and back to the locker room, in tears and barely able to collect my things. That moment set me all the way back to the beginning. Back to the doctor (my actual doctor this time) who put me on anti-depressants, not for the mental fatigue of being in pain for six months, but to dull the sciatica that was now along for the ride. Back for X-rays and a CT scan that will likely tell me what I already know. And, of course, back to physio.

My desk at work has been converted to a stand up (thanks to an employer who cares about my well being) because sitting for long periods is a significant challenge for me, but I’ve still had to take 4 sick days this year because I was in so much pain I couldn’t move. One of those days included a trip to the ER and enough morphine to bring down a cow.

I’ve gained 20lbs courtesy of inactivity coupled with the stress of being in constant, intense pain. (I’m a stress eater – big time. Extra weight only adds to the problem, too.) This experience makes me feel like I will never have normalcy again because I’ve forgotten what it feels like to be able to bend over, pick things up, sit, stand-up, sneeze and roll over in bed without crying out in agony.

I’m hoping a solution is in my future because I’m ready to focus on my back health to ensure this doesn’t happen again!

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