1.14.2012

Umpteenth Post About Back Pain

I am not having the day I was supposed to have today.

I was supposed to meet a friend for lunch and a tour of Two Brothers, a local brewery. It was one of the big ticket events on my Make January More Joyful tour.

And then, while I was making breakfast (cranberry scones and bacon), I had to sneeze.

I turned my head away from the food, sneezed my usual five-to-seven times, and turned back.

And my entire upper back was suddenly seized by severe pain, akin to the kind of pain you get when you get a foot cramp, only it doesn't go away after thirty seconds. I went from being fine to being not fine and hardly able to move.

I canceled the lunch plans and made an appointment for a deep tissue massage.

I burned the scones.

After a mediocre ninety-minute massage, I have a little bit more mobility. And I have a lot of self pity.

Have I really become the kind of person who can throw her back out by sneezing?

I have been dealing with bouts of back pain for about twenty years now. I was still in elementary school the first time I woke up with a head that wouldn't turn. When I was twenty-two a chiropractor took one look at my x-ray and told me I had the neck of a middle-aged man. I've sprained my back by carrying a speaker and lifting a canoe. I've suffered through postpartum back spasms that were infinitely worse than actual childbirth. I've seen physical therapists and pain specialists, gotten massages and and an MRI. I've swallowed painkillers so strong I couldn't hold them down, and learned to avail myself of demerol shots (though not when I'm nursing).

And it just seems like it's getting worse. This is the third time since Genevieve was born that I've had back pain acute enough to  affect our whole family. The last time was just a couple weeks ago, when I sprained my lower back doing balance ball exercises that were supposed to strengthen my back so that it's more protected against pain and injury.

The fruitlessness of this pain is what gets to me the most. Maybe labor really was worse than the back pain ten days later, but there was an enormous difference: the labor pains were going to end with a baby.

I totally get why people need pain to mean something.

Barbara Brown Taylor, from An Altar in the World:


I hope that the antidote to unreality makes me more compassionate toward all the other folks enduring this peculiar experience of being human.

(At least once I can move enough to crawl out of my pit of self-pity.)

In this place of pain, further than any thinking, I give thanks for reality, and cool water, and the someones in my house.

Well, the someones who were in my house, until they left a bit ago at my encouragement to hang out with friends. Just before she walked out the door, Juliette (who is a terrifically sympathetic little girl) said, "I'm glad of you, Mama. That means I love you."

And with that, back to the couch.

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