back to back
Jim Ingebrigtsen
Is It Just Me…

Is it just me … 

… or is it time to get back to normal, or, the New Normal, as it were, or is? Spring is back. Time to get back to the back yard. Getting everything from the shed and garage back where it really belongs. The only thing you might not be looking forward to is … your back. That is, if you have my back.

I have Degenerative Disc Disease. It’s a misnomer. It isn’t a disease at all. It is a condition where the rubbery pads between the vertebrae of your lumbar (lower) region gradually wearing out. These discs act as shock absorbers and over time, as we get older, they aren’t as rubbery as they used to be. 

There is a long list of painful things that can go wrong with a person’s back, especially your spine. Bulging discs, herniated discs and slipped discs are but a few. 

I can’t say for certain when or where my back problem started but, I think it started in the late 70s when I was attempting to move a boat on a trailer that was dug into a gravel pad. I was making headway after rocking it back and forth for some time when all it needed was one more good pull. I felt something click but I doubt it was the realization I should have asked someone to help me pull the boat that wasn’t even mine. I spent three days lying on the floor in the most pain I had experienced in my life to that point. A few words of advice for all ages … don’t rock the boat … by yourself.

Once I made it to my doctor I was prescribed my first NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug). It helped. In the past 40 years I have tried most everything available to ease the pain when it flares up, which is often. Usually after attempting to move, lift or carry something I should have asked for help with. Although the burden with age is increasing, I can still carry the weight of the world on my shoulders but not so much pianos anymore. 

At one time, after lifting something I shouldn’t have, the pain would last a day or two. Now, it can hang on for a week or two depending on the level of stupidity I have exerted. 

My use of the big name NSAID’s didn’t last long. After reading the long list of risks associated with the continuing use of these drugs, I weighed the benefit of easing my back pain to the possibility of getting hives, skin rash, wheezing, bleeding in the stomach or even death. About two out of every 1000 “users” die every year from taking some form of this type of prescription drug. I still take the occasional off-the-shelf pain relief capsule prior to when I know I am heading to the back yard to do something stupid once again.

I have sought relief in most every area one can. Physiotherapy, laser therapy, message therapy, acupuncture, chiropractic and yoga. Some of these might work for you, not for me. 

I have read two books recommended to me by a friend and former Winnipegger, Sam Broverman. The first book is titled Crooked, “outwitting the back-pain industry and getting on the road to recovery”. Cathryn Jakobson Ramin is an American journalist who suffered from back pain and after researching ways to find relief she wrote an in-depth book about the “industry” of back pain and the more than 600 billion dollars a year that is spent in the U.S. on it. At least half the book are her opinions on every area of the “back pain business” and cautions you on everything from medication to surgery. The library has it or you can get it online. If you have back pain – read it.

The other book, The Back Mechanic, is written by Dr. Stuart McGill, a professor emeritus at the University of Waterloo. He doesn’t spend as much time on the cons of the back business as much as the pros, as in how to make your back better. Simple exercises are the key and he illustrates them all. Creating a routine and sticking to it is the key. If you have back pain – read it. It’s also available online and the library. It’s okay, it’s not heavy.

The only thing missing in both these helpful books is a section dedicated to stupid guys (mostly) who still don’t ask for help lifting heavy things. 

I have to get back to the pharmacy (Liquor Mart) to refill my prescription (pain relief) as I have to get back to work in the back yard.