Excruciating lower back pain has my body horizontal and my mind in all directions.

September 22, 2010

As some of you may already know from my pathetic tweet in the night, I’m laid up with some pretty intense lower back pain. According to the chiropractor, it’s not a disc (thank God), more likely a pinched nerve or swollen muscle. He pulled this and snapped that, the way chiropractors do, and I did feel better but two hours later I bend over to pick up a quarter and Pow! The invisible sniper shoots me in the back. Again.

He’s a dodgy one, my back assassin. Two weeks ago he got me while I was getting out of a car. WTF? I bike to work, run or workout every day, and yet I get walloped while getting out of a car? Yesterday, he struck again, hitting me while I was walking into my house. I wasn’t carrying anything heavy. I felt great. I. Was. Walking. Bastard grabs my lower back and squeezes, bringing me to my knees. I go a couple years without any major issues and now suddenly I’m crippled.

Funny thing (not so funny now) about my condition is how abstract the diagnosis and prognosis is. I see two specialists and while neither actually contradicts the other both have very different takes on the issue as well as its remedy. The only thing they agree about is putting ice on the pain. Whatever I do, they say, resist the temptation to use a heating pad. “No heat!” they both practically scream. So why the fuck did I install a Jacuzzi in my bathtub?

Alas, I’m also not allowed opiates for the pain. That’s another pain-filled story. Needless to say, the strongest pill I can pop is Alleve. Par-ty.

Look, I know this isn’t Web MD. You didn’t come here to read about lower back pain, mine or anyone else’s. But I’m stuck in bed, propped up by pillows with a brick of purple ice shoved down the back of my shorts. I’m kind of a one-subject man at this point. But guess what? For the first time ever my laptop is actually on my lap.

I’m no Twain but I’m in pain. Ouch.

I remind myself of Jimmy Stewart’s wheelchair-bound character in “Rear Window.” His obsessive nuttiness. Even without meds, I’m getting weird thoughts. Like, what if I’m stuck this way forever? What if I can never ride a bicycle again? Or how am I gonna use the goddamned toilet? It’s kind of scary actually. But then I think about all the people who really do live with pain; pain far worse than mine. How torturous it must be not being able to sit down and eat a bowl of Cheerios because bending the torso sends agonizing flares down your legs. Tonight I can relate.

One last indignity: while hobbling into my study to grab a book I notice a dog turd on the floor. It came from the tiny terrier (Elmo) belonging to my girls. I cannot bend over to pick it up and so I stand there, holding a bag of ice on my ass, staring at this piece of petrifying poop and think: this must be a lesson in humility. At least I haven’t lost my sense of humor. Yet.

“Hon, can you do something about that dog poo?”


19 Responses to “Excruciating lower back pain has my body horizontal and my mind in all directions.”

  1. Anne Ross said

    Did any specialist say sciatica?
    Try a great acupuncturist. Took care of my spasms in 2 sessions.
    Feel better!

  2. Mike said

    As a fellow man who suffers from excruciating lower back pain may I suggest Yoga.

    I had been to several chiropractors through the years and never seemed to find a remedy, that is until I got down on a mat and had someone stretch me out. Within 20 minutes I felt like a new man, and had an arsenal of stretches that could alleviate even the most gruesome pains.

  3. Mike said

    I believe the one that helps me most is called “Pigeon” where your leg is tucked under your midsection and you get full extension of your arms and torso. Locust is another one that helps alleviate the pain. I also grab a strap and do a variation of different leg stretches while laying flat on my back.

  4. william marks said

    Sorry to hear. But look on the bright side–at least the poo you found wasn’t from you.

  5. Annette Skorupa said

    I know from experience that back pain is no laughing matter, but thanks for the laughs.

    My chiropractor recommends ice for the first 24-48 hours, then a few times a day, alternate ice (15 min) and heat (10 min) 3-4 times. I have gotten relief from excruciating pinched nerve pain from the ice/heat treatment, but you have to bring down the inflammation first and keep it down(hence the ice plus Alleve or NSAID of choice).

    I also recommend exercises in the book “Relieve Stiffness and Feel Young Again with Undulation” by Anita Boser (http://www.amazon.com/Relieve-Stiffness-Young-Again-Undulation/dp/0979617901/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1285181475&sr=8-1). These exercises help with spinal flexibility. I have been able to “crack” my back and neck sometimes while doing them — good for “maintenance” between trips to the chiropractor. Also, these exercises help release tension held in the back. It’s funny how much energy it takes to maintain that back tension, yet it is so difficult to let go of. Damn our ancestors who decided it would be such a cool evolutionary thing to walk upright — our turd-depositing pets don’t have these problems.

  6. Steph,

    My sincere sympathies go out to you – the back is nothing to be f’d with and is really the center of our every move – however I think it speaks to your character that the last anecdote in the blog about Elmo’s BM is the first time written word had me crying with laughter in a looooong time. I guess that lends itself to the notion that pain often times brings out the humor in things. Celebrex and Tramadol are two non-narcotics that have proven effective – I’ve got a crunchy shoulder and an MRI two pages long single spaced. The knife is imminent.

  7. Tom Fath said

    I had back surgery while living in Hong Kong in 2001. 14 hours and two months in the hospital, five days watching a monsoon from hospital window. The pain has come back again with vengence. I have graduated from percocet to morphine. Really helps the pain and made it bearable to watch Eat, Pray, Love. Will have another surgery before the year is out.

  8. Sorry to hear about your pain.

    I actually work in the marketing department of Laser Spine Institute, so I hear stories regularly about how debilitating it can be to have a bad back.

    If you have intermittent pain, pursuing conservative treatment is probably you best bet. If the symptoms become chronic, check out LaserSpineInstitute.com. Our minimally invasive procedures are the safe and effective alternative to open back or neck surgery.

    Commercial over.

    Hope you feel better soon!


  9. SRP said

    Thank you, thank you, thank you…
    It sounds corny but just knowing I’m not alone helps the pain go away 🙂

  10. Michael C. said


    Sorry to hear about this. I, too, am a fellow sufferer and just got an epidural steroid injection last Friday, which has improved the situation greatly. Look me up when you’re back and we can share war stories.

  11. Craig H said

    im 19 years old, have played all the sports in my town, raced motocross for years and played hockey for the most part, I have lower back pains that either bend me over, or bring me to my knees! I work at a place where heavy objects are lifted constantly. the best thing for me is an stretch our team used to do before practice. lay on your back, bend your legs up over your head and touch your toes on the floor (if its possible)
    haha it sounds rough but it gets the job done

  12. Caroline said

    I hear ya…. Going on 9 years for me. The worst thing is not getting medical attention, pain relief, a life, as an active …. Use to be athlete… Life has been over for me. I lay in bed most of the day… That even hurts…. But u can’t stand, can’t walk much, sitting is a night mare… I sleep when I pass out from the pain. I can get an hour sometimes 2 hours of sleep… Wow! Yup there is always someone worse off… Hard to mentally cope though. Doctors to me are useless. My day today… Wait for two friends to come over… Get me off my bed… Get me in their Van… Take me to emergency for a pain shot… N I may get 4 to 6 hours of mobile time…. Then I can make my bed, go for a short walk … Shower…. Maybe get out for a coffee down my block…. See people n envy their ability. Then …. Poof the day is done. Back in bed…. Until I can afford another shot… ! Happy Friday!

  13. sel said

    Im in so much pain now.. i did something wrong at the gym and last night i couldn’t even get out of bed i was in so much agony….i cant bend i walk like gumby. I had difficulty driving the kids to school while changing gears killed…. getting in and out of the car killed and now im home and trying to keep up with an 15 month old baby… age 32 tomorrow….. and i feel like im a granny! happy birthday to me….

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