My Back

I’ve been told that my lower back, sacrum to be specific, has been ‘deteriorating’ for a number of years. My inner reply has been, “yeah, so?” Symptoms have been changing for a few years. Mostly the occasional painful twang when leaning over the bathroom sink while washing hands or brushing teeth. Usually a first thing in the morning happening. The last year has seen some remarkable, activity driven, changes.

At its worst the pain had me moving ridiculously carefully for most of a week last spring. Light Duty I think it’s called. Last summer a CT, taken to confirm diverticulitis at the Island hospital (that I had diagnosed because I’ve been having fun with that illness for over 20-years 🙄) remarked on the ‘sacral deterioration’. This is never a word one wants to hear used about a body part. The pain, by this point had become 100% activity driven… Or better said, if I over extended myself, I hurt, but also the pain was moving. Sometimes to my hip, and other times down the outside of my left thigh and calf. When my chiropractor asked me to ‘please let’s get some images’ I agreed.

Diagnosis: bad arthritis/deterioration that has reduced the spacing in between 3 of my lumbar vertebrae, L3-L5, one of them severely, and one of my sacral vertebrae, S1. There is also deterioration in both sacroiliac joints. The pain down my leg, not sciatica (thank Gawd) is caused by nerves being pinched by my L5 vertebrae. My tail bone is also cocky-wobble. While its curve is in the correct direction, it’s hiked out posteriorally. We pondered if that was from breaking my tailbone when I was 13. Don’t get to know, tho my doc is going to sift through my prior doc’s x-rays (yes, not filed) and see if he’d taken lumbar pics. It was 23-years ago, and all I know is he took thoracic x-rays. Anyways, if there are pics available from the prior doc, they might tell us something.

Cause? Genetics and doing shit for year and years and years that I shouldn’t have done: carrying mortar and stone up flights of stairs to build fireplace facings, hauling heavy band gear because I’m one of the team, digging ginormous pits in the ground as a kid because… I was a kid, cleaning up storm damage for the last 23-years, the almost incalculable number of times moving/packing of furniture/belongings and books of my parents between 2017 and 2020, moving impressively full ‘banker boxes’ since I was 19, splitting and stacking firewood all my life, the packing up and redistribution of our own house before and after the remodel (plus all the literal heavy lifting I did during the project), and during the prior round of remodeling in 2016/17, replacing 2-60# batteries in Stella, pushing Luna into her parking place, hauling 1-2 cubic foot sacks of soil amendment around my garden, landscaping professionally… These are a just a few of the big categories; then there are the day-to-day activities I did because I could 🙄… I’ve been given an interim weight restriction of 10 pounds. I can barely think of anything under ten pounds that I carry… Mail, the tea kettle, a step stool, the cat…

Treatment? Three appointments a week for three months (minus my doc’s and my time away) in traction and adjustments to recreate space in the affected vertebrae. We can’t recreate the disk that’s been squished out of place. The treatment, along with weight limitations, ice and exercises, should reduce the inflammation that’s currently acting on my compressed nerves, and therefore reduce the radiant pain that meanders down my left side. 🤞

So far… As long as I don’t exceed/over-do the doc’s parameters, I’m doing OK. This is a big wakeup call. Sure, there have always been repercussions for over-extending myself. This is different. Now, hopefully only for a while, I’lI have to rein in what I do in order to stay fluidly mobile. This is my first real encounter with aging in the face of my own physicality. It sucks.

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