Yesterday morning I woke up in the accustomed 4:30 a.m. time frame, yawned with catlike pleasure, rolled over to get out of bed — and felt a hot, stabbing pain in my lower back.
It’s weird when you go abruptly from pain-free to painful. It’s almost like being in a dream that suddenly turns into a nightmare. You wonder what you did to suddenly make your spine and back muscles so uncooperative. Was it a sudden twist as you rolled over to put your feet on the floor? Was it some kind of unusual physical exertion the day before?
Whatever the reason, it’s your fault somehow, and you’ve just got to deal with it. I’ve had back problems before, so the coping patterns are familiar. You move gingerly hoping not to experience that crippling flash, and you walk in a slightly hunched over, zombie-like way, and you pray that whatever happened goes away without too much time or trouble.
It’s an incident that also is a helpful reminder. Those of us who are lucky enough to have moderately good health can’t really appreciate what it is like to live with constant pain. I’m grateful that this happens only once in a great while.
One of our faithful Webner House readers asked me today for an update on my back. The short answer is: my back is better, thanks for asking.
After suffering through several agonizing days where I hoped my back would improve on its own, I went to the doctor. Her examination led her to believe that it was simply a muscle strain, albeit a painful one — which is good news. She prescribed a few days’ worth of steroids and an anti-inflammatory that I take daily. I didn’t ask for any pain medication because I don’t like the loopy, lightheaded sensation that it often creates. The steroids and anti-inflammatories have worked well. Chalk me up as another satisfied example of the miracle of modern drug therapy!
The only real challenge for me is getting out of bed in the morning. The automatic rollover and twist motion that I use to put my feet on the floor seems to tweak my lower back worse than any other kind of movement. I’ve tried to be more cautious, but when you’ve still sleep-addled it’s hard to not engage in the same, routine movement that I’ve done every morning since childhood.
Sunday I was bending over to push a tee into the soft ground on number 5 North when it happened — a sudden pop of hot red pain in the small of my back. I staggered a bit and tried to stretch it out, but it was no use. I attempted a pathetic shot at the green, then realized my day on the links was over.
It got worse, and by Monday my condition was even more painful. I couldn’t bend over without surging flashes and my walk was an old man’s shuffle. When I tried to walk the dogs Monday morning any misstep led to spasms and herky-jerky reactions that must have made me look like a fitfully directed marionette. I’ve tried taking ibuprofen and applying heat, but the improvement has been marginal, so today I’m seeing a doctor.
In addition to feeling like a Visigoth is hacking at the base of my spine, I’m also just disappointed in my back. With a few, brief exceptions it’s been a pretty good back. Not an athlete’s back or a weightlifter’s back, but solid, reliable, and fully capable of lugging multiple bags through an airport, holding two kids in my arms, or controlling wayward, lunging dogs without ill effect. We’ve been through good years together. What’s happened, my bodily friend? What has brought us to this painful point in our journey? Will you now become greedy and needy, demanding constant attention and tender care as part of my daily routine?
As I have been moving gingerly about the house and at work over the past two days, I’ve realized that the phrase “bad back” could be read not only as a description of a back’s condition, but also as a scolding admonition of a back that has fallen short of expectations — much as you might scold a dog that has chewed up a new pair of shoes. Bad back! Bad, bad back! That’s how I feel.