Hump Day: You have to put your back into rehabilitation exercises

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

I’m one of those people who get all judgmental about those who get sick again because they stop taking their medication. If you stop taking your meds for whatever reason you’ll likely be back at square one before long and have to start all over again.

Well, I should have listened to my own advice and ‘Tsk! Tsk!’ finger wagging. Last year, I went to physiotherapy to help cure or at least take the edge off some lower back pain that I’d been suffering with for 10 years. I just came to accept that it was part of life and something I had to live with. It was bearable . . . until it got worse.

Thanks to a kinesiologist I talked to at the physiotherapy clinic I finally went to, though, he gave me an ‘A-ha!’ moment: ‘It’s not normal,’ he said. And I didn’t have to put up with it. As it worsened, it affected everything I did, whether it was going for groceries, standing up for long periods of time at business receptions, or even walking the dog. At some point, as you age, you start to wonder, ‘If I feel like this now, I can’t imagine how awful I’ll feel in 15 years.’ That’s why I dragged myself to physio in the first place. I’d finally had enough. It was worrying me and the pain was keeping me up at night. Perhaps it wasn’t excruciating, but it was bad enough to affect my sleep.

After a few months of physio, the improvement was remarkable.

The pain was nearly gone and I could walk further, slept better and the best part wasn’t hurting after standing up at business receptions.

Standing still for several minutes usually triggered a spasm. I grew to dread receptions.

In the business world, standup receptions are just a fact of life. You’re going to have to attend some. And it’s a real pain (pun intended) when you have to excuse yourself early from a conversation (and sometimes very awkwardly) because a muscle in your back is in the middle of committing suicide.

I got sidetracked from doing the physio exercises late last summer.

It was my own fault. I got distracted doing other things. Really, there was no excuse. To be perfectly blunt, taking a few days off ended up being a few weeks . . . and then a few months.

Now, if you’ve ever had to do physio, especially for a long-term ailment or injury, my advice would obviously be to keep up your exercises. From what I’ve learned about physio exercises, they only take a few minutes per day and barely make you sweat. It’s all about stretching and moving in the hopes of getting back to normal. Certain exercises that may seem silly at first actually really work! I found that out myself.

In the past several weeks, the pain has returned with a vengeance. It’s waking me up again. I can feel myself standing all twisted and contorted in order to stay comfortable. I sleep with a hot water bottle. Painkillers have become another food group.

This past weekend, I attended The Moncton Home Show. I’m not a handyman, by any means, but I like to go to get new ideas about any future home renovations, additions, etc. I like to especially drool over the kitchens. My 49-year-old kitchen is in sorry need of updating. Whenever I open a cupboard door, I hear it say, ‘Kill me! I’m so tired.’ I didn’t get to enjoy much of the show, mind you, because I had to leave. My back was killing me!

Ridiculous! I was embarrassed. I felt like I was 100 years old. Also, I was angry at myself for letting myself get like this again after having come so far before declaring myself cured and not really in need of physio anymore. Stupid man-ego!

As I hobbled back to my vehicle, I got behind the steering wheel and sat there for a few minutes waiting for the muscle spasms to subside so I could drive, I promised myself that I would never let myself get like this again. Physio started again that night.

The exercise instruction sheets that I’d been given by the physio clinic were still on my bedroom dresser, although they had somehow found themselves buried underneath a bunch of magazines over the past six months. When I got home, I took them out to refresh my memory. I just accepted that I’d have to start from scratch.

The exercises that had come so easily to me after a few months of doing them the first time around were now difficult again. Where there was no pain before (after a few months, that is), it was back. I could feel the stretching. And it felt good, I must say. One of the exercises, so simple that it’s a joke, is better than getting a shot of morphine, I’m sure. The sense of relief afterwards is always noticeable.

But now, it’s back to square one.

I’m not impressed with myself. All that progress: gone! All that relief: gone! All that work: wasted! All that time and money I invested in the clinic: wasted! I’d spank myself if I could reach. But then again, I’d probably tear another muscle doing it and end up in worse pain than I’m in now.

I don’t plan on retiring for a long time, but at some point you have to wonder about your quality of life when you get there. By not taking care of yourself today, it may not be terribly pretty once you get there.

Sure, we can’t prevent everything, but we at least owe it to ourselves to give ourselves a fighting chance.

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