a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: The Baleful Back: Glad and Sad and all that

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Baleful Back: Glad and Sad and all that

SUMMARY: My back was SO SO bad in mid-2014 to late 2015. Now it's not SO SO bad.

The excruciating pain that I experienced back then, for well over a year, is still much on my mind almost every day. And some of that is in a good way, as in remembering how bad it was and how glad I am that it's not nearly that bad, because it was really bad:

  • Struggling to get out of bed in the morning, as in, moving my body parts very, very slowly and very, very carefully and praying, although I'm not a praying woman, that I wouldn't move just so or turn just so or bend just so to put myself into screaming pain. As in, screaming. In some ways, it was a blessing if it happened while I was still lying down, because then at least I could probably roll into a position where the pain would abate enough that I could catch my breath and go back to careful, gentle stretches.
  • If I were standing up and moving around and DID do the wrong movement, and suddenly I'd learn all over again what a pain level of 8-10 really is like--it hurt so badly that I'd be screaming, and I knew that if I could only lie down on one side, it would abate, and yet the process of MOVING from standing to the floor was so excruciating that it nearly made me faint as I struggled to get to the floor without getting to that level of pain, but even then finally lying on the floor sobbing.
  • Looking at the doggie door that fits into my sliding glass door and that I take out every night and put in every morning and have for nearly 30 years without thinking about it. And knowing that trying to lift it into position would hurt so very, very badly that I didn't want to do it, almost preferred leaving the door open all day. Sometimes did. Thank goodness sometimes someone was around to do it for me.
  • Showering: Could not shower standing up, it hurt so much. Fortunately, there's a built-in seat in my shower.  Still, hurt very badly just trying to clean all of me.  Couldn't stand up to dry myself off. Lifting the towel to wrap around my hair was a danger zone as well.
  • Don't even think about getting dressed. Can't bend to get at my feet because of the pain. Can't lift my leg so I can get at my feet because of the pain. How to pull on pants? Let alone shoes or socks?
  • Going to the movies--once I was in the seat, I could mostly relax and have less pain. Getting to the seat was the hard part. For a while, a friend doing with me would pick me up and drive me there and drop me off right in front of the theater, because me driving my car and trying to walk in from the parking lot--even from the handicapped spot, once I got my tag--hurt hurt hurt hurt hurt.  Some theaters have more walking to the entrance and/or to the theater than others.  Trying not to cry as I hobbled another 20-30 feet before needing desperately some way to take the weight off my back & legs--leaning on something might help a wee bit, but a bench would be much better. Could take me 15 minutes to walk a few dozen yards.

Just a few of the special joys of my life for so many months.

Slowly, physical therapy tricks and tips and classes and pain meds started to help and, finally, when I *could* get myself around again, walking more and more helped instead of wiping me out.

So, in the morning now when I carefully tighen my core muscles, align my shoulders and back and knees and legs to raise the dog door into place and it hurts only a little, I often think about what a miracle is that I can do this for myself.

When I can walk blithely in from anywhere in the parking lot to the movie theater and not have to slow down or stop to stretch or let the pain ease, wow, I walk past places where I'd stpped in misery and think, wow, hard to believe how bad it was. But at least it's nowhere near that bad now.

Still, trying to do foundation obedience & pre-agility baby class with Zorro on Saturdays is aggravating things much more than I had hoped it would. After this most recent Saturday morning, I was hobbling again yesterday and the nerves down the backs and sides of my thighs are just letting me know calmly that they would like me to not do that.

BUT--back after I got Chip and I tried the class with Chip, I couldn't do it at all, it hurt so much, and I dropped out after maybe only 2 classes. And, so, it's not as bad as back then. And I'm glad.

I can shower normally and dry myself off normally.  Well, bending forward to dry my hair is still a risk if I don't do it carefully, but mostly everything's pretty good.

I haven't had screaming or even merely crying pain in months. This is very good.

Still, trying to work full time is right out. I'm managing half time more or less, but I'm often so sore when I get home after 4 hours that all I want to do is ice my back and thighs and lounge on the couch.  (And a lot of computer work is out even then, as working on a laptop like that is hard on my neck and shoulders, even with this wonderful laptop-holding-arm that my company provided for me. Oh, and, right, did I mention very recently discovering that somewhere along the line I completely tore out 2 of the 4 rotator cuff tendons in one shoulder and there's no surgical help for it and it hurts. So that makes it even harder.)

Things that don't bother me so much:
  • Most movie theater seats. I think it's because there's ample support all the way up to my head, plus I can hold up my weight on my arms to take the pressure off the back and thighs so much.  Hard on my arms and shoulders after a while, and I can't just sit there comfortably, lots of shifting around. But can do it without nearly as much trouble as sitting at a desk, even with a good chair and studiedly good posture and getting up every 25 minutes to a timer to walk around for 3-5 minutes.
  • Driving my car. Again, support all the way up? And I think having the steering wheel to grab and/or push on with my hands/arms, and the floor that I can push forward on with my feet, helps keep the pressure lighter than I can ever hope for while computering.
  • Lounging on the couch, as long as I'm not too much lying down and not too much sitting up. I can use the mouse a lot lot lot without bother, which is good for some photo editing and clicking Like on Facebook. I think that's why I often default to FB--I'm on the couch, I'm clicking Like, nothing much hurts. Sigh.
  • Lying in bed.  This is best. But I can't do that all day or things start to get worse again.
  • Walking around. Most of the time. This is much better than either sitting or standing still. On many days, even standing while the elevator comes to my floor is painful. So I just pace back and forth, back and forth.  Standing in the hall and chatting?  moving from foot to foot to foot and back and forth and back and forth---  I say that nowadays walking makes me feel better and better, until I pass some limit on my back's tolerance and it quickly deteriorates to much worse.
Still, what I wanted to say was that how much better it is than it was, and that's why I've been able to avoid having the scary spine surgery that I was sure I'd have to have, back then.

Well, had more I wanted to say, but my shoulders and neck are already killing me.  And my nice comfy bed awaits.

Wishing you all good health from youth through old old old old old old age. 120 or so.  G'night.


  1. I'm glad things are better but still seems like you are not leading the life you would like?? I know you are scared of surgery but if it could change your life, wouldn't it be worth it? Have you gone to a pain clinic? There are lots of options there. They have this small pumps the can put in, that can really help with spinal pain. Not trying to tell you what to do, I'm sure you have already done all of that , just thought I would ask.

    1. Haven't thought about the pain-killer pumps. Interesting. Yep, been to pain clinic. Have 3 docs. Scared of surgery because it's huge--surgeon said he guarantees that no one I know will have had this surgery--and so far he's right, even after asking on FB. And no guarantees that it will make anything better; the main concern was that the spine had been getting worse and the thought is that the surgery might stabilize it. Not necessarily make it better. Surgeon said to expect that even in the best case I'd still be on pain pills for a long time, possibly always. Soooo, it's not an exciting prospect. :-(

    2. (And, yes, got 2nd opinion.)