I still am unsure what triggered things exactly, but a very unpleasant feeling in my upper back and arms started to make itself known one Sunday evening a few weeks ago. The best comparison is that it felt like a severe muscle cramp: but unlike a leg cramp this one was impossible to relieve. Over the next few days, the cramping made itself at home in a variety of bi-lateral muscle groups in my upper body.
After several worried visits to health-care pros of various flavors, resulting in CT scans, Doppler Ultra-sound investigations, blood work and lab tests, plus Chiropractic manipulation (ongoing), I am back to a point where I can sit at a keyboard and do what passes for work. But being analytical by nature (my family put the stress on the first syllable), now is the time for serious reflection: What happened, Why, and How can it be prevented from happening again?
Like many of you, I kid myself that my daily activities include enough stretching and flexing to keep my back in top shape. Again, like many of you and especially during the winter months, the bulk of my every-day chores revolve around sitting at a desk, tapping away at a computer, dialing a phone or standing at a whiteboard talking. The opportunities to bend, reach, twist and generally counter the effects of spending hours relatively motionless are few and far between. My principle non-sedentary work-related activity revolves around heaving equipment onto my back and lugging it to the water’s edge and falling in… or efforts to that effect. These underwater episodes are usually bracketed by long drives.
All in all, not the recipe for a happy back. In fact a very good recipe — perhaps prescription is a better word — for a very bad back, and that is what I’ve got.
But to look on the bright side, the events of my past few weeks have served as a graphic warning and compelling reason not to let this sort of thing happen again. I will be revisiting the frequency and intensity of my personal back-care program, and while it does look as though my chiropractor and I are going to be seeing a lot of each other, I can also see a yoga class in my future.
My best guess for the cause of all the trauma and pain and resorting to bottles of pain-killing meds is complacency. Over the past few months my workout schedule has sucked. And I am reaping the results. Mea Culpa.
Please learn from my example… stand up right now and stretch.
And by the way, my resistance to hard-core opiates such as percocet is low. They send me into a soft-edged landscape populated by characters out of a Robert Crumb cartoon with Jimi Hendrix playing the theme music. Only trouble with this seemingly ideal cop-out, it that to an outside observer I appear normal… according to my wife, more lucid than normal. And apparently at various points in the first week of this “back episode”, I engaged in long and detailed conversations with people in person and on the phone, and via email. I can remember nothing. At least the emails I can read, but if we spoke during the second week of April, do us both a favor and call me back!
Take care and dive safe… and exercise that back!