christopher575 (christopher575) wrote,

It's back

It would be an understatement to say I'm annoyed that my lower back pain has returned. The reason I'm mad about it is that for over a year now, and for the first time in my life, I've been proactive about trying to prevent it. The only advice I've ever gotten from doctors is to strengthen my core if I want to prevent lower back pain from returning. In my mid-40s I finally got serious about it, doing core strength exercises in the pool three times a week.

Suddenly a little over a week ago, it's back.

My life changed forever after the MS (multiple sclerosis) Walk I did with my coworkers that began and ended at the University of Washington campus in...2000? I only worked with them 1999-2001 and was only there during the spring in the last two years. Let's just call it 2000.

I remember a lot about that day. Calling out a coworker's double standard for saying unprovoked that she wasn't in the mood to hear about any gay stuff but then talking about loving waking up to morning wood when a guy sleeps over. The obnoxious cyclist who couldn't just ride somewhere else on the day thousands of people were on the trail and decided to just aggressively ride up against them at the left side of the right half. The disgustingly overfull portapotty.

"Freestyle walking" was a thing high school students were getting in trouble for. This was before parkour caught on, and was kind of the amateur version of it. Lots of jumping off things, mainly. Oh look, it's the story I saw about it on MTV:

Anyway, we were walking back to our cars and I ran up a small rock climbing training rock and jumped off. When I landed, my lower back felt like it exploded. Maybe I landed with my knees too straight? Who can say. And I always have to remember that it probably wasn't caused solely by that jump; it's much more likely that there was already an issue building up and that was the, pardon the cheesy cliche, straw that broke the camel's back.

The pains I had over the next eight years weren't severe so much as weird. Strange shocks when using other muscles nearby, but nothing debilitating. Eventually in 2008, I was walking down the hall at work and suddenly couldn't walk at all. I stood there for a minute and then shuffled back to my desk and asked a coworker to grab me some ibuprofen. I was supposed to go on a date to the movies that evening. Can't remember what we were supposed to see. I asked him to pick me up at work instead, solving the problem of how to get from my office to the bus stop. We ate at Six Arms, a block from my apartment. The seating was terribly uncomfortable.

That was with the last guy I dated before Garrett. We didn't see each other much longer. I had to see a doctor because the back pain was so bad, and I ended up in physical therapy. That lasted long enough that I was still doing it when I met Garrett. I don't even remember stopping. There was no daily exercise routine at the time so the issue wasn't super impactful.

In 2011 I hurt my ankle stepping off a bus onto uneven pavement, and it was after that that I finally got into a daily walking routine. My ankles felt weak for a while before that and I was afraid to walk for exercise, but it turned out they got better because of it.

In 2014, we bought our house, and the move from our apartment to the house destroyed my back. It never got all the way better, but mostly the issue was always that I could walk as much as I wanted, but standing around hurt my back. Even for just a few minutes. But all the bending over to pack boxes, picking them up, going up and down the stairs at the apartment, all of that stuff was just pushing it too much and it felt just about as bad as it had six years earlier. I got out my physical therapy exercise cards and resumed the routine, but didn't get the results I expected to. That's when I took up yoga for the first time.

I wish I had a dollar for every time I've done that video. My back got better, about to the best I've had in my adult life.

And that's what brings us to last year, when I decided to be proactive instead of waiting for the next issue to arise. Suddenly the pain is back in spite of doing the thing I was told was all I could really do. So I'm starting to think I'll need some medical intervention, and of course it was hard to even see a doctor about it. I sent a message and even though I said I thought it was due to my previously-diagnosed bulging disc, they said to try icing my back and using icy hot and lidocaine patches. They didn't do anything at all because those are for muscle pain. I messaged them again and was surprised when they not only said I should come in, but they were able to give me an appointment that day! With so many non-essential appointments being canceled or delayed, turns out they had some availability.

It was very strange to be one of three people in a normally-crowded waiting room at the clinic, and I saw it completely empty when I left a while later. I didn't take a photo, though, because I'm getting really tired of photos of empty shelves at stores and empty city streets. They don't really tell the whole story, like how shelves at stores are being restocked several times a day.

The doctor prescribed celebrex for the pain and sent me to get an x-ray, which surprised me. I thought for sure they'd tell me to wait and see if it still hurt after a week or a month before getting any imaging done at all. The results were normal, though. No bone damage and adequate spacing for the discs. You can't see the discs themselves, though, that has to be checked with an MRI. So I'll work on the exercises and take my celebrex for a month and when it comes time to refill it, if it still hurts I'll let them know. I hope they'll do an MRI without making me do formal PT first. I'm basically doing PT at home right now, after all.

Coincidentally, my coworker has been through all of this, but worse. She has an extra vertebrae and ended up with steroid injections in her disc and a surgery to drill a hole in the bone to relieve pressure. There was an extra hour added when they realized they had to move a nerve.

So obviously I'd love if the exercises make the pain go away but I'd love to see how it'd feel to get additional help. 20 years of discomfort and outright pain seems like enough, doesn't it?


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