Coping with Back Pain

Well like almost everybody I know I’m paying the price for leading an unhealthy lifestyle=long working hours, junk food, minimal to no exercise, no fresh air or sunlight and stress.

Here’s how:

Getting jiggy with it

Getting jiggy with it

The red circle indicates the full-blown disc prolapse on the lower spine, lumbar spine to be exact, and the green circle represents a fledgling one at the crick of the neck.

And that beautiful black and white visual you see is mine own beautiful spine.

The beginning:

Oh wow, my back really hurts doc. I can hardly walk. A fortnight of bed rest along with some pain killers were given. The customary x-ray had shown a small ligament tear. Nothing to worry about said the good doc. I was happy since this gave me a break from chasing headlines and corporate head honchos for afore-mentioned headlines. A cotton mattress was made to order along with matching pillows by a very worried mum. I loved the pampering and all the books I got to catch up on.

A fortnight later I was started off on physio, which at that time (mark you this was a decade back) was stretching exercises.  A week later I was back at my desk complete with desktop, the Collins Advanced Dictionary, Rogets Thesaurus, the Brittanica Encyclopedia, some editions of Time and Newsweek (filched from a colleague) and our inhouse brands (Frontline, Sports Star). Ahem, I did mention this was a decade back, didn’t I?! Back to chasing deadlines, long walks to and from conferences, food at sundry hours but an enjoyable time (had by all including yours truly)

The Middle:

Switching jobs and cities meant catching the very precise trains at Wadala, Church Street, Bandra, Vashi, Church Street…you get the drift. This was Mumbai in the early part of the decade past. Food was at even more sundrier hours, when I could afford it that is unless it was the Vada Pav with its mircha that gave prime time sustenance. Chasing deadlines meant traversing lines across the city and beyond. But note, very active life it was. Stress aplenty but the sprightly version of me managed all of this with a smile and a snarl. Eve teasing was prevalent but not as much as Bangalore. The office was a place you went to park your weary butt and key in a story that had nearly formed in the recesses of your head. The outside beckoned. Endless Cutting chai, walks around Marine Drive admiring the Queen’s Necklace and rounds of shared puffs ended most days.

The Beginning of the End or the Middling-End:

Job switches to take up the role of plumber and carpenter. Like one of my brilliant colleagues said by way of introduction to the new way of journalism. “Forget about writing stories, what we do here is make Tables.”

So there it was. “Table in File” yelled a hundred times and more by fifty vociferous voices and chorused by another fifty. I no longer chased CHs for headlines, which came to me on an engine powered by the Internet. It wasn’t about thinking hard to get that great story peg but acting fast to grab the header and make it the headline. Running across town for stories got replaced by running to the File Head, who usually sat a strike away from you, and food was no longer an issue. Well stocked canteen meant you ate during dinner and had breakfast the next day if on the night shift and ate breakfast at home and lunch as well if you were in one of the odd hour shifts. It was no longer so easy to be sprightly but a gym strategically placed in the office and plenty of nubile nymphets made you conscious if ever the sprightliness was lost.

Brain fatigue at a brain dead job set in since being a first-rate carpenter had never been my lasting ambition so a call to set up a start-up wanting to make it big in a cluttered finance market beckoned. Of course, it’s another matter that a year down the line the start up remained just that but I got out of warming seats for 9 hours as I went back to chasing exclusives and reporters who gave aforementioned exclusives.

A new line beckoned yet again but little did I know that this would be the beginning of the very-near end. Instead of writing I started monitoring what others wrote. 9 hours beholden to the desk, 2.5 hours of travelling across the city on pot-holed roads, 1.5 hours of after-office duties trying to monitor what competitors were up to and of course all this while carrying an extra appendage on the back – the shiny, sparkly laptop. All exciting at first till I started to feel slight cramps in my back. Motion became a problem and I started piling on the pounds.

Nearly 2 years later heavier by a few pounds I switched over to what I thought would be an exciting new line of work. Chasing executives to write their biopics, chasing marketing heads to write their dreams helping them sell more products and make ‘valuable’ contribution to the company’s top and bottom line. I was hooked on to the great career jumboree for in my head I was near the summit of excellence as  I got rewarded for hard work=being on the speed dial of my boss(s), attending all the important meetings, my laptop was my best friend followed by the exec admins of my boss(s), trips overseas and yes more pounds.

The cramped back became a bad back pain. A few day’s of rest alleviated the pain. Visiting an orthopedic never occured, after all there were plenty of people in my team and outside of it who had back pain but still did 72-hour days and beyond with never a complaint. Why couldn’t I?

The pain became chronic. It would start with a dull ache in the center of my back and slowly spread to a 3 inch band. I would lie forward on my desk waiting for it to subside while surreptitiously placing the laptop, where else but on my lap. A visit to the GP after an acute case of back pain meant more anti-inflammatory and pain killers.

One fine morning of an all important trip I could not get out of bed. Sleeping on a cotton mattress had not helped and neither had a hot water bag. A SOS call and stronger pain killers prescribed. I pulled out my lumbo-sacral belt that had gathered dust (remember the beginning and the ligament tear) and wore it around  my waist. Aren’t I a trooper after all?

I finished my meeting but the day after I returned I called up a friend, who was going through something similar and I got my ears chewed out from the long distance belting.

WTF hadn’t I consulted an orthopedic?

WTF had I waited this long to cry out for medical attention?

……and so on and so forth.

New sets of x-ray and prolonged rest recommended. I was back on my feet, and very  strictly advised not to put any pressure on the lower back. ANY PRESSURE.

So I get better, and I’m back to carrying the laptop to work; slouching over the laptop for endless hours; giving the Indian yogi and the India rubberman a run for their money with my unearthly poses; no sunlight; no exercise; unhealthy diet….you get the drift.

Arghhhhhh, aaaaah, ouch, nnnnnnnnnnnghhhhhhhhhhh….one fine morning.

I message my boss : In pain, unable to get out of bed due to severe back pain.

My sympathetic boss messaged the number of his orthopedic. I was ferried to this clinic which was a 40-minute drive and I realised what hell is. Bangalore roads suck!!!

Every single crevice, pothole, speed breaker, cow on the road, kids crossing, bikers trying to cut in…I could feel all of them from my lower back down.

I gritted my teeth, cursed the Gods, cursed the poor ferrier, cursed myself and remembered all the Mumbaiya slang I had forgotten from a life past.

I hobbled to the clinic holding on to my kind ferrier BB, my nails have left marks that are visible to this day and slipped into a chair just as a eel slips into the crevice. Tears streaming down my eyes I limped into his cabin. Lie down, he says and lifts my right leg. Surprisingly I can lift it like a gymnast, supple and firm. His hand reaches out to the left leg and I wince, and an inch more and I cry out loud only stopping myself in the nick of time from cursing him to kingdom come (Good upbringing tells, or didn’t you know).

Bed rest prescribed and this time it meant the only time I could get out was to have a wash and attend to the daily ablutions. Nothing else. A week later when the pain subsided, the MRI was taken. (Another post on this…).

What you have is a surgical disc, he says. Huh, what?!

So essentially, years of bad posture and heavy weight lifting and being indifferent to my poor spine has resulted in the discs between L3,L4,L5 bulging out and putting pressure on the sciatic nerve endings that go to my left leg. I could either opt for surgery or opt for prolonged bed rest and physio. It usually takes between 6 weeks-3 months for normalcy of any sort to return.

As of now my dear readers, for those who care I have opted for the latter. You see, my threshold of pain is rather high and though my left leg is numb with pain caused by the sciatic nerve I still have 2.5 weeks to go before the pain frame runs its course.

Here’s how I’m coping:

  1. PATIENCE (more than enough to cope with churlish remarks about laziness or boorish remarks about being a cripple)
  2. Lying down on my side with my knees slightly curled
  3. Omron Heating Pad, Moov Heating Pad
  4. LS Belt when I walk
  5. Cushioned flipflops/chappals
  6. Quick Meals
  7. Anti-inflammatory
  8. FAITH

No getting up unless it is to the loo

Tried the cotton mattress on a hard floor but getting up put pressure on my leg, so struck it out

On good days: bathe

I have good days now when I can move about and walk around for a bit and even sit for ten minutes or so before I ease into the bed. But at nights, when I lay awake feeling this ceaseless throbbing pain travel down my left glute, hamstring, the knee, calf and finally forming a thorny band around my ankles. Nights when I would like to take an axe to my calf and just lop the leg down because my feet burns and the pain increases to new intensities I never imagined it could touch. At times like these I’m almost tempted to give in and opt for surgery.

But hey, I’m a trooper remember, and so I’m waiting it out!!

4 thoughts on “Coping with Back Pain

  1. Welcome to the middle age, mademoiselle, and with it off course, the back pain. I too am right now on bed with lumbar lordosis — same reason bad posture, and thanks to my abnormal height (by Indian standard, that is what the bloody doctor said) of 6 feet 2 inch added too my maladies. Reading, catching up on old movies and playing with my trigger(dog) and kiku(tomcat) and bugging my niece is what i do now a days for the past 15 days apart from the 2 hrs of pysho every day — so am not complaining. Life is perfect, wish it would go on forever… :D

    • My dear Jose, you always make me feel better :D

      Indeed, tis the middle aged malady!

      Am on way to recovery now, and like you I have books, movies, loving family and friends helping me cope.

      My reason for writing was to create awareness about how we chose a rotten lifestyle over health everytime. For shame!

      Only grouse to make life perfect, well a dog!

      Get well soon dear friend!

      • Real life is when you do what you like despite been wrong and then live to suffer and tell the tales …

        So dear Friend, enjoy your well earned rest with the adoration of your loved ones, especially the lick of your dog, the purr of your cat and the sweet giggles of your niece (if you have one).

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