Hump Day: Finally getting a little bit of relief for continuing back pains

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
Editorial section

After more than 10 years of enduring lower back pain, I finally decided to go to a physiotherapist. In the past, I’d tried a chiropractor, massages and orthotics. All had helped somewhat, but nothing had “cured” it.

I’ll definitely be going back to the chiropractor, though. Having my neck adjusted was too cool not to do it again. You’ve probably seen that done on television where the chiropractor twists the patient’s neck and a loud crack is heard. I was petrified of having it done but it felt pretty good, actually! (Although my chiropractor gets zero points for not laughing at my “I can’t feel my legs!” joke.)

Last Thursday, I trotted myself down to a physiotherapist’s office for my first-ever appointment with one. It seems like everyone I know has been to one except for me. Actually, I should have gone to one 10 years ago when the pain started, but it was only recently that it became unbearable by waking me up at night and making walking my dog quite uncomfortable.

There’s nothing that can make a person feel as guilty than a little white fluffy dog wanting to continue happily on her walk but that is being forced to return home by her hobbling master with a gluteus medius muscle that is driving him up the wall.

If you’ve never heard of the gluteus medius muscle, you’re not alone. Like many muscles in your body, you don’t know it’s even there until it’s sore.

The “wonderful” thing about this particularly annoying condition is that it can be aggravated by sitting or standing. The only other option is lying flat on your back or on your side with your legs twisted like a pretzel to give the muscle some relief.

Although sitting does not help matters much, standing still is what really drives it into overdrive. Standing in line at a bank or talking to people at a reception can be agonizing. Like my chiropractor said quite accurately, people with the condition start doing the “dance” – shifting from one hip to the other, leaning against walls or sitting down to alleviate the pain.

I remember when he told me that. I thought he’d been stalking me. “That’s what I do!” Luckily, it’s quite common and is highly treatable, with surgery only required in the rarest of cases, such as a major tear. I certainly was not in that territory. It was just terribly annoying and painful.

Stand-up receptions are particularly difficult because the pain starts almost as soon as I stand still for a few minutes. Imagine talking to someone and then having to dance around like you need the bathroom. Most of the time, I was just honest and told them I had a “bad back” and needed to sit down. Within 30 seconds, things were back to normal, but as the years went on, it only got worse.

After one reception last year at a local hotel, I barely made it back to my car in the parking lot. I didn’t have much of a choice but to keep going. I couldn’t very well sit down in the snow in the middle of the lot.

Lately, though, the condition had started waking me up at night – likely after being aggravated by my becoming more active because of the new dog. That was the last straw. I even had visions of myself being in a wheelchair. If I had 40 years left to live, I certainly didn’t want to be in pain that entire time. That’s the direction I was going.

So, I made the appointment and have been doing the assigned exercises since late last week. This seems to be the ticket, I think, since I’m noticing some small improvement already. If the situation was rated 100 last week, it’s about a 97 today. At least it took the edge off. A few months from now, I hope to be relatively pain-free for the first time in 10 years – at least I hope to be.

Besides, painkillers aren’t supposed to be another food group.

Sometimes, it becomes such a habit that a person thinks it’s just normal to wolf down gobs of over-the-counter pain medication every day. It’s not.

If you’re living with chronic life-changing pain, I feel for you. I can’t pretend to know what true chronic pain is like. An annoying sore back versus being in so much pain that you can’t function are not the same thing.

I once knew an RCMP officer who’d been attacked with a baseball bat. He lived with chronic pain every day from the attack – including debilitating migraines and neck pain. He rarely complained – only when it became unbearable. I admired his determination to keep working. I’m not sure I could have done the same thing. If I get a migraine – even a minor one – I’m out for the count and know that it will pass. To have to live with a never-ending migraine would drive even the most stable person batty.

A lot of people live with chronic pain. I’m just glad that mine is likely curable and not on the same scale as something truly debilitating. I can simply sit down or shift positions in the chair to ease the pain. Many people have no relief. How they must wish that simply moving around a bit would ease the pain they deal with on a daily basis!

In a few months, I hope that I’ll be able to go on longer walks with the dog. Now that I actually want to go on walks (a miracle in itself), it would be cruel irony not to be cured. That little white dog is motivation to get better. Those expressive brown eyes looking back at me begging me to walk farther are no match for any pain.

4 Responses to Hump Day: Finally getting a little bit of relief for continuing back pains

  1. I hope you feel better soon!

    I have had a lot of experience with physios, some so so and some good. The good ones have saved my skin a few times.

    Milane would love for her Dad to be better too!