An Unwelcome Development


This morning I awoke, had to have help getting dressed, and immediately sat on the couch with heating pads on my lower back and across my shoulders. The pain in my back eventually faded to the point of tolerance, but the pain in my shoulders and neck remains.

I’m used to pain in my left shoulder. If I overuse it, it can hurt for days or even weeks afterward. But the tightness in my right shoulder is new. Turning my head is a slow process; tilting my head from side to side is even worse.

I’ve been in bed most of the day sleeping my way through a muscle relaxer, and now that I’m awake the pain in my shoulder is still there. I’m not sure if I slept through its efficacy or it just bounced right off without effect, but either way I’m back to putting the heating pad across my shoulders.

This started yesterday morning, and I didn’t think much about it, chalking it up to that old favorite, “sleeping on it wrong.” (What does that even mean, anyway? Does that mean that I’m going to have points taken off my grade for sleeping when I die? When are midterms? It would be nice to know when the final is, at least. Anyway …) But it was worse this morning so under the heating pad I went. Tylenol isn’t doing it much good either.

The end result is that I’m basically useless around the house today, which I dislike. I normally can’t do a LOT of stuff, but at least I keep house well, and today I can’t really even do that.

Maybe this should be chalked up to the mileage I’ve put on this body. I’m not a young man, by any stretch. But then again, neither am I old, although I think sometimes I’m closer to old than young. I haven’t really taken very good care of myself and I’ve come up with every excuse under the sun to avoid devoting the time to self-care that I should.

So I think later tonight there might be a walk around the complex to try and loosen up these stiff old bones. Besides, there’s Pokémon out there, and I’m not old yet.

Back to Chronic Pain


I am convinced my back is in bad shape.

I’m used to chronic pain, to some extent. For a period of about two years, I had a headache more often than I didn’t, and multiple MRIs and CT scans could uncover no physiological reason why I was getting them. I still get headaches now and again, and they can sometimes be severe, but nothing like I was experiencing about five years ago.

One time at about 6:30 in the morning, I awakened my wife by screaming. My headache had gone full cluster, and by the time the pain had subsided I could give you a full inventory of everything in the apartment that was potentially lethal. I could also tell you that I dismissed every one of them for being too slow. Fortunately I’ve not had anything that bad since, but there are times, rare though they are, that I come close.

Head pain I can deal with. I know what movements aggravate the pain and what movements I can do without making things worse.

But this chronic back pain is nothing like I’ve ever experienced.

Back in something like 2002 or 2003 I was involved in a car accident. My wife was driving down a hill on a three-lane one-way road in the rain, and a dump truck pulled out into the center lane in front of us. We had the choice of sideswiping the car to our immediate left, sideswiping the car to our immediate right, or ramming into the back of the truck. My wife figured that the truck would be the least likely to be uninsured, so we slammed on the brakes and hoped for the best. The collision broke three of the engine mounts and pushed everything forward of the firewall back about three inches. The bumper of the dump truck, which was what we hit, showed no damage whatsoever.

The end result of that accident was that it totaled the Chevy S10 we were driving, tore the disc between L5 and S1 in my wife’s back, and herniated the same disc in me.

And now, I fear that the herniation has progressed over time to something much worse.

I can sit for hours at a time. Moving around isn’t a problem for me at all. But lying down for more than about 45 minutes at a time causes my lower back to begin to seize up. If I’m in bed the entire night, I have to have help getting out of bed the following morning, so I generally wake sometime in the middle of the night and go sit with a heating pad on the area. (I haven’t iced it since I don’t have an easy way of icing my back on my own in the middle of the night; it also doesn’t help that our icemaker is lethargic and coughs up a fresh batch of ice about once every four hours or so, and we’re chronically low on ice. Besides, the heat helps every time, so there’s that.) Tonight I’m going to try and sleep sitting up in our rocking chair with my feet propped up and see if spending the entire night upright will help.

Fortunately, I have a doctor’s appointment Monday morning to get this looked at, as well as my blood pressure medications. It’s just a matter of surviving until then.

Here’s hoping there’s a better fix than replacing the mattress. That’s going to be an expensive and very unwieldy remedy.