Aug 05

Back Pain. Also, I'm Back. And a Pain.

Commonly known as Rosie the Riveter, this is actually called “We Can Do It!” It was created by the graphic artist J. Howard Miller and was not used for recruiting but rather—eh, go read about it here. (Do it. It’s interesting.) ANYWAY … I like it because to me it symbolizes a determination to do something we might not have thought we could do.

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been having back pain lately that was impacting my busy life. I decided to make fixing that a priority, and I’m happy to report that much progress has occurred. My morning back pain is nearly gone. Huzzah! BUT all that focus and attention, plus some other craziness going on in my life right now, has meant ignoring you, my fine readers. I KNOW. I’M SORRY.

By way of making it up to you, and knowing I can’t be the only desk jockey who’s gone through this, I’ll go over what I’ve been doing to fix the issue. Who knows, maybe it will help one of you.

First step: Admitting you have—no, wait, that’s different

First of all, as I mentioned last time, I made an appointment with a chiropractic clinic I knew of by word of mouth. (If anyone in my area wants to know which clinic, let me know in the comments, and I’ll email you.) Why did I do that rather than make an appointment with my doctor? Well, I was reasonably sure that the cause of my pain was too many hours in front of my PC, and frankly, I didn’t want to walk away from a doctor’s appointment with a Motrin (or scarier) prescription and nothing else. I knew going into this that any real fix would have to come from lifestyle changes.

On my initial visit, which was about four weeks ago, I filled out a long, detailed form about where I hurt and how much and when, etc. Then I had a back X-ray and exam. Then a very mild spinal adjustment, along with a wee lecturette with this main takeaway: I’m not a kid anymore, and the next decade can be awesome, or it can be THE SUCK, depending on me.

And the test results are … <drumroll>

The next morning, my back felt great. What had consistently been a 6 on the infamous 1 (happy face) to 10 (blood squirting from your eyeballs) pain scale now was a 1, if that. Yay! Of course, I knew the effects were temporary, but ahhh they were good while they lasted. Which, as it turns out, was a day. The second morning after my initial appointment, the pain was a 3. Better than 6, but still. I had my follow-up scheduled that day, though, so I wasn’t too concerned.

Yeah, about that … I got to the office and was quickly ushered into the treatment room. As I suspected, the main issue was too many hours sitting, either working or writing or following internet rabbit trails. I knew that’s what they’d tell me, but to actually see the way that my pelvis had shifted from where it should be (apparently there these things called “abdominal muscles” that your body needs to be totally functional) on X-ray was disconcerting. Dr. Chris, the chiropractor, was quick to assure me that this was totally fixable.

My treatment plan was to consist of three visits a week for a while (ended up being three weeks total), during each of which I would complete some physical therapy with the lovely Tami and also have a spinal adjustment. Then, ideally, they’d push me out of the nest to fly on my own.

What does PT look like when you are having lower back pain? For me, it was recumbent bike, crunches (emphasis on proper form), and this thing, which I love for how much it works your back (and thigh) muscles without causing pain. If anyone reading this wants to send me that 45 degree hyperextension—I know there are no sensible nouns in there; it bugs me too, but that’s what the thing is called—just let me know. I’ll give you my address. Unless you seem stalkerish. I WILL KNOW IF YOU ARE STALKER MATERIAL.

Just as we started out slowly with the PT, they gently eased me into talking about lifestyle changes. But they couldn’t hold out on me forever, and eventually they spilled the beans. I was/am supposed to:

  • Start walking. Every day. No matter what weather. Tami specifically said “even in August when it’s 107,” which at the time seemed sadistic, but which I can see now was just tough love.
  • In addition, park in the Siberia section of every parking lot. (It’s lonely out there, guys. Even on the busiest days.)
  • Eventual exercise goal: one hour of “hard exercise” a day, six days a week, including 75 crunches a day. Sounds … sweaty.
  • Drink a lot of water. This has always been tricky for me, but Tami gave me a brilliant suggestion, which I now graciously will pass on to you. If you work sitting at a desk, buy a 2-quart insulated pitcher. Fill it with ice water in the morning. Empty it by the time you go home, and boom, that’s most of your water right there. GENIUS. (Also I use those little Mio things because I tend to drink much more when doing so.)
  • Finally, I’m to lose 22 pounds by the end of the year. (I have well over 22 pounds of fluff, but this chiropractor’s office is frog-boiling sneaky in the way that they slowly ease you into goals. I am onto them, however. They’re getting nothing past me. <knowing nod>)
  • To support the weight loss goal, I will need to change the way I eat. There was even scandalous talk of cutting out sugar and white flour. I KNOW. I was shocked too.

Being a grownup

In the past I have not been great at the grownup thing. If you want a further explanation, this is better than anything I could come up with. But somehow, this time, something clicked. Maybe it was the pain every morning for two months straight. Maybe it was the gentle-yet-firm lectures and the boiling frog approach. Maybe it was the vaguely Jenga-esqueness of the back X-ray. Whatever it was, it seems I am taking this seriously: working out several times a week, taking breaks from my computer, eating right … Fine. I’m not completely eating as healthily as I should. I’m working on it. I bought kale, people. KALE. WHICH I DEPLOYED IN A SMOOTHIE. Anyway, chocolate contains antioxidants. WHAT. IT DOES.

In addition to general healthiness, I’m proactively doing a few other healthy things as well. (I’ve got additional goals; this is just to start.) The first is this: I’m transitioning to a standing desk. Sitting is the devil. Well. A minor demon with mostly clerical duties, at least. So I’ve ordered a drafting chair, which is like a chair but taller, and when it gets here, I’m going to prop up my desk legs on cinder blocks. Because standing desks are expensive, guys. Somehow that extra bit of material quadruples the cost. (Note: A standing desk in and of itself won’t cure bad habits like crappy posture. I highly recommend watching this video. Yes, I know it’s ridiculously long. Watch it anyway.)

Finally, just to remind myself to keep moving, keep going, keep on keepin’ on, this weekend I made the below … thingy. Pinterest calls these types of pieces subway art. I haven’t been on too many subways, but I suspect that might not be an accurate descriptor. Nevertheless, here is my first attempt at subway art. One of these is going in my bathroom—WHAT? I want to see it frequently—and one in the office. Sharing here because it’s cool.

Motivational subway art

I hope you have enjoyed this rambly post. I’m not used to my health taking over large chunks of my life—I’ve been really fortunate that way—and I think this wake-up call came at a good time for me. If I could do it over, I’d not have needed it, I think, but as Arthur Ashe wisely said, “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”


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  1. Libby

    I think it would be FABULOUS if you would share your “secret” recipes on this site. For example: BROWNIES!!! Casserola….Mujadarra….hint, hint…..

    1. Evelyn Stice

      LOL … I was considering sharing them as I do book reviews. Like “This is what I was eating while I was reading this book.”

      1. Libby

        Perfect! Just make sure it’s the brownie recipe first. (wink, wink)

  2. Libby

    Oh, and here’s another tip to sneak in the dreaded “e” word:

    when you get to Siberia where your car is parked, walk around it several times before getting in. If you think you look strange, pretend to be looking at the ground like you’ve dropped something.

    1. Evelyn Stice

      When has looking strange ever bothered me? 😛

      1. Libby

        Um…..never? (I’m thinking of a certain outfit – black jumpsuit (shorts) with high top patent leather Doc-ish boots…..lol)

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