If you exist somewhere outside my immediate sphere of influence, you probably haven’t heard that I have back problems. I hurt myself in the lower end of the spine, and it’s been a downhill slide since. After dealing with a low level of pain consistently since February, I decided to take care of it. I recently had an MRI, and it revealed what I feared most: I have two herniated discs at the bottom of my spine. The injury is treatable but the treatment is long-term.
Back in ’90, when I was the cocksure age of 18, I made a daredevil jump down a 10-foot ledge onto concrete. Lacking the experience with jumps, the kind that teaches you how to “tuck and roll”, I slid off the edge and stuck the landing straight-legged and flat-footed. The sting of my feet overshadowed the shock of impact that traveled up my body. After a few weeks, the back pain began, and would manifest when I laid down for bed, requiring me to scrunch up as I laid down and slowly release to decompress my spine. After a few years, that too faded and I was normal again.
My health turned for the worse when I took my current job. Having a sedentary work environment, plus the means and social motivation to eat out every day at lunch, are a bad combination; my previous job, at the printshop, paid me just enough to make sandwiches to eat when I took a break from the physical labor. The extra weight gain with the lack of exercise set the stage for my core muscles to lose strength and go slack, which is exactly what they did in March ’09. One slack moment was all it took to tweak my discs while I was seated. I’ve been riding on this rollercoaster ever since.
Essentially, a disc herniation is where the disc, made of a mass of squishy gel surrounded by concentric fibrous rings to hold everything in, gets ripped open and blown out sideways due to physical shock. It’s like popping a stress ball. The gel insides begin to squish out over time and can press against the nerve bundles that run out of the spine. Eventually, with the right treatment, the section of the rings sticking out of the vertebrae dissolve and rebuild. There are several treatments for this, but the most obvious is to change my lifestyle and get more exercise. Walking is the most appropriate form, the more aerobic the better; the bouncing of a normal gait aids in increasing bloodflow which allows it to heal. The exercise also helps strengthen the core muscles allowing me to move without reinjury.
My initial session of physical therapy was two days ago, and the first of four training sessions is Monday. I hope I can turn my life around and put myself back on the mend. I healed after the ’90 incident because I was young and physically active through walking all over the college campus. But not so much exercise now, so healing after this incident will require all the help and lifestyle change I can muster.