I’ve had a very multi-faceted epiphany this last weekish in terms of excruciating back, butt, hip, and leg pain that goes as far back as April last year (2014). It required confounding variables to be offered a clue, which I’m delighted to share and explain.
…A brief historical synopsis. In April last, I was up at our cabin to work on a book project, but suddenly could barley walk without some ghost stabbing a knife in my lower back with every step. I got over that using a silly heating pad with a vibrating function and Netflix (Parks and Recreation—the whole series to date). It soon returned though, and I did the same thing (The Wire, House of Cards, Game of Thrones). It returned again with added vengeance—then, with the sticks and needles in hips, butt, and going down my left leg; i.e., if I sneeze or cough, I feel sharp pain in my big toe…then my whole foot tingles, as though to mock me. I was overcome once more, but only long enough to watch all of The Walking Dead—bitterly analogous to how I myself was walking. Long story short, I have an L4-5 herniation that pinches the nerve root. Confirmed by MRI.
The saga continues…
So, I ‘m considering all options, including surgery…but also trying just about everything else that makes some sense to me. This post is about the everything else, because it’s interesting to me, and perhaps can be of value to others. Because, it’s particularly enlightening when you don’t just automatically yield to what you’re supposed to do: which is, of course, to do what everyone else does…and because everyone else does that, then that’s what you’re supposed to do—and if for nothing else, to give everyone else comfort in their own decision.
I’m weird. I feel like someone cutting into my spine is a BFD, and I really don’t care how many other spines he’s cut into with good results. I wish to avoid him cutting into mine. I have help, too. Rick Mehaffy, a nearby Chiro. He’s read my blog for a long time…so not sure how sane of a chiropractor he is. :) Seriously though, Rick has admonished me a number of times, and his admonishments include: you may actually have to get the surgery.
But to not make this too long, let me cut to the most recent developments by way of another semi-long story, short. I did a big session in Rick’s Chamber of Horrors right before the Holidays, intending to take it up again after the NY. First few days after that session, all was golden. He told me it wouldn’t hold, and it didn’t. To make matters worse, I got my first cold virus in 2-3 years on Xmas eve, where Xmas day was a snot-soaked, paper towel nightmare. In this condition, every sneeze and cough is a spasm of a knife in your butt, leg…even left big toe. Even worse: I got over all that virus stuff, but then right after the NY, came down with even more ‘flu-ish’ like symptoms: whole body ache, fatigue, wanting to be dead, etc. And snot. There’s always snot.
Oh, there’s another variable still. Both Beatrice (’cause she knew someone) and Rick (who has one in his practice) suggested I add a Teeter Hang Ups to all the other factors I’m dealing with. So I did. Got a brand new one from a guy who didn’t like it, for a hunerd bucks less on The Craigies’ List.
I’m utterly and miserably defeated this last Monday morning, a week ago, and Teeter hurts to much in my ankles (since resolved). I email Rick that it’s probably useless to continue; depression is setting in, I can hardly write a sentence, the pain is enduring and intense all all over the fucking place. I’m probably just going to knife-punt. He says to come in. ‘We’ll, I’m coughing up a storm, likely contagious,’ so I say wait.
Weird happens. First, my flu-ish symptoms subside soon that day. I realize I’ve conflated the general ache with the specific chronic pain. Check.
Even more weirdness. I wondered whether my initial exuberance in terms of auto-traction on the Teeter Hang Ups inversion table is tantamount to a workout where acute inflammation = pain. See, it’s pretty obvious when you get on one, that underutilized (in that context) muscles and tendons come into play. You may realize: they’re tense due to general unfamiliarity that you naturally fight against; and you gradually learn to relax them and just hang-ups out (in addition to relaxing the foot hold one notch). The process causes acute soreness, like a workout. So I was conflating that pain along with the flu symptoms and the root problem.
What a fucking mess of conflation and confusion, with little enlightenment or relief in sight.
More weirdness still (now I’m integrating and connecting dots fast). At about the same time I recognized all of the foregoing, I felt I had to get out a post on behalf of Kit for his launch of something that was conflating all my variables even more. And I did. And that was early last Wednesday. What I didn’t know at the time of the post in the early morning, was that my butt wouldn’t touch a chair for about another 12 hours. All told, I ended up getting out of bed at 6:30 AM in some pain, and being on my feet—most of it on Topo—until after 9pm, when I caved to my DVR until 2am the next morning.
But, that DVR came at a cost. I had just spent the first day since I could remember almost completely pain free…and with such range of reasonably comfortable pain-free motion that I could put a sock on my left foot without a pistol nearby—just in case it got too excruciating, and all needed an end. By the time I went to bed, I was in the pain again.
I slept a whopping 2 hours, 45. When I got up, I thought it was 5:45, but no. It was 4:45. Whatever! I ached again: all my exuberance from the day before, gone in a flash.
So I did something weird. I repeated. Stayed standing, did “laps” on Topo, then finally a short inversion session on Teeter’s teeter, and all pain melted away. Fast forwarding, here I stand many days later and scores of hours mostly standing and shifting, and I have my first clear sign that this is actual recovery and not just a good day waiting to be spoiled and mocked.
Basically, it seems as though I’ve completely nailed standing, and laying in bed. In the former case, after an hour or two standing, I’m completely normal and can walk normal. In the latter, just small jabs now & then when I toss & turn but otherwise, completely doable and restful sleep-worthy. The one catch still is being able to sit.
Want a weirdness? If I drive my wife’s FX-35, I’m pretty much fine. Drive my own X-5, and the pain in my left shin is nearly unbearable, no matter how I adjust the seating configs. Working on it. At any rate, that’s now the key to this: being able to sit for normal amounts of time without undue pain. Should I nail that—and it’s looking good because I feel a process in the works—then I’ll indefinitely postpone the knife and go neener neener.
To conclude, this has motivated me to think. Critical MAS worked on his chronic back pain by doing a written log, so as to correlate pain with activities. A bit too late in the game for me, since I have too many potential therapies in play. So I wondered: when, what, where did I have back pain in the past?
I recall distinctly. I was bending over the sink in my little beach house in Hayama, Japan, 1987, doing the dishes after having made chili in the crockpot. It plagued me off and on, but never got anything serious. Then, a couple of years later, over my 2 years living in France, it just stopped. A couple of years latter, in 1992, once I returned to the US, it started again and was an intermittent nag for 8 years. In 2001, it stopped again and stayed stopped until weirdness in 2010 and beyond, seriously confounded by heavy weight lifting.
Now, here’s the more dots. In 1987, I went from standing bridge and other watches on USS REEVES—from 1884, where I was on my feet and pacing 8 hours per day—to a staff, desk job on SEVENTHFLEET. In 1990, I went on exchange to the French Navy, and as navigator of both COLBERT and DUQUESNE over those two years, went once again to bridge watches and on my feet many hours per day. In 1992, I came back to the States and sat on my ass trying to be an entrepreneur and make money with my brain and fingers. in 2001, I took up walking, where every morning I did 3-4 miles for years.
Notice a pattern?
Sitting is the enemy and being on your feet is your friend—my working hypothesis. Of course, we kinda have to sit, and I did plenty of sitting all during that time. What I have seen though, is that doing it par the course, at the expense of almost all standing and walking, eventually comes home to roost.