Get back

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, July 22, 2014 10:15 PM

We’re now on day three of the Great Back Break of 2014. Last night, it seemed like things were getting better. After he took a shower, Kevin started moving more easily. He ate dinner on the couch; he even had a little bit of wine. He was laughing and close to comfortable. When we went to bed, he felt pretty good, had no trouble getting to sleep. He was almost back to normal.

This morning, he was back to square one. The spasms were back. The achiness was back. The misery was back.

For three days now we’ve been talking about the back in general and his back particularly. We all know how important it is in the general structure of the body. It’s our main source of support. Everything seems to come off the back, and the spine. If you break it, depending on where, you can become paralyzed. If you strain it, it can simply feel as if you’ll never move again.

My mother had terrible problems with her back several years ago. She had long suffered from sciatica, though that’s a nerve issue, albeit a debilitating one when it’s acting up. When she and I drove across the country after I graduated from college, I remember her having trouble getting comfortable in the car. I can’t imagine driving 3,000 miles and being uncomfortable for the entire time.

One of my mom’s legs is slightly shorter than the other. It’s not something that’s noticeable, but it was never corrected. This affected the way her spine moved as she walked which ultimately contributed to her back problems. Eventually other issues developed, all of which led to severe spinal stenosis. Stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column that causes pressure on the spinal cord, narrowing the openings where spinal nerves leave the spinal column. It causes excruciating pain, the kind of pain where she couldn’t walk through the grocery store. My mother is constantly on the go. Running the roads, my Aunt Beryl used to call it. Not being able to be out and around was one of the things that drove her to finally have surgery.

Back surgery is a scary proposition. There are 31 pairs of nerves, 23 discs and 32 bones in the back. There are joints and ligaments, deep muscles and superficial muscles. It’s delicate; anything could go wrong. It doesn’t often. It didn’t when my mother had surgery. It took a while for her to heal but now that she is healed, she’s back to running the roads.

Kevin’s issue isn’t spinal. It’s muscular. But it doesn’t make the pain any less severe. The biggest difference, at least until we’re told otherwise, is that his problem can be fixed with rest, pain killers and muscle relaxants. Muscles heal with time. Spinal stenosis gets worse with time.

You can’t do much of anything when your back is out of whack. Getting out of bed can reduce a grown man to tears. Walking through the house can elicit a wince with each step. You can’t reach for a glass of water, can’t transfer the clothes from the washer into the dryer, can’t empty the dishwasher. You can’t put your own clothes on, can’t tie you shoes. Can’t go for a walk, can’t get in the car. Can’t turn to look, can’t bend to pick up, can’t function normally.

The back, like all of the body, is a work of art. It allows for grace of movement, strength and flexibility. We walk, run, stand because of our backs. We stand up straight and hunch, stretch and lunge. We dance.

We’re ready to take back our lives, to get back in the saddle again. This being cast into the outback with no weapons to back you up is difficult.

Roy called Kevin today and they were talking about how no matter what you do, no matter how much exercise you engage in, how well you eat, this stuff still happens. The exercise etc only prolongs the inevitable. Still, taking care also helps you to get back to normal more quickly. At least that’s what we choose to believe. That’s what we’re hoping. And that’s worth celebrating.

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