A Back for the Future

Some of you may know I suffer with chronic back pain. I’m at the point where eight years into this progressively worsening condition, it’s getting more and more difficult to see hope for a pain-free future – I dragged Sweet along to my most recent doctor’s appointment to step up and ask the big questions: “What’s the long term plan here? She can barely sit through a movie without being in pain. Is she ever going to be able to carry a child?” I try not to think about things that aren’t in my immediate future, but as much as a fight it, it’s my natural tendency to plan and prepare. We’re getting married next year, and hopefully a few years down the line we’ll want to start having kids. If it hurts me to sit at a desk and I can’t carry the shopping in – how the heck am I going to get through pregnancy?

But that’s something to think about at a later date. Maybe. My doctor tells me to take it one step at a time, but I’ve been taking steps for years now, and it’s getting worse. I want to find something that’s going to work now so I’m physically in a good place when I really need to be. I’ve been referred to countless massage therapists, chiropractors, physiotherapists, X-ray clinics, even neurologists (at the latter of which I promptly burst into a hopeless and rather embarrassing fit of tears), none of whom have any idea as to what to do.

It’s easy to give up and resign yourself to dealing with it; a handful of drugs in the morning, a heat pack through the day, and evenings filled with lotions, mini massages (<3), pillows and inactivity. But I want to be able to live properly. I want to be able to help around the house and do the ironing to feel like I’m contributing. I want to be able to go to the cinema without being in agony and sitting with two fists behind my back. I want to be able to walk outside without feeling like there’s a series of knives sticking out of me, and I want to be able to be hugged without my entire upper right side going into spasm. So I’m ready to try something new.

Last week, I went to see an athletic therapist; a friend of Sweet’s who’d worked with him in the CFL last year. After spending an hour with him, I had a new set of activities – gone was everything I’d ever been told about stretching, strengthening, and exercising. I had a new set of evening-only instructions, a new base of knowledge (who knew how the way you get up from a chair could say so much!), and a new hope that I’m on the right track.

Then today, I came home from my first appointment with the new doc in town, a specialist in Chronic Myofascial Pain who does all sorts of dry needling and trigger point injections.  He did an exam, went through everything I’d tried, and told me there were three ways of dealing with this kind of pain.  1: Physical manipulation.  Stretching, physio, massage etc.  Hasn’t worked.  2: Drugs!! All sorts of pills that could potentially damage the stomach; not great for daily pain.  And 3: Injections.  There’s various kinds: dry needling (wiggling needles around inside the trigger points), injections of local anaesthetic into the sorest spots, and injections of steroids or botox.  I went with the middle one.  The idea was that if the worst areas could be numbed temporarily, it would stop the nerves sending pain signals to the brain and allow me to actually work on strengthening and stretching without pain.  The nerves are apparently “hypersensitive” – when pain signals are sent constantly, it gradually makes the muscles hypersensitive meaning pain at the slightest touch.  Which is exactly my case!


I was in tears.  I was a total baby; it hurt more than anything ever had and was just over and over and over again.  He couldn’t even get to my lower back, so I had all the needles in my shoulder down to my mid back; we got a couple in the lower back but my face at this point resembled a member of a KISS tribute band who’d gone swimming in full makeup.  I was embarrassed, in pain, and I left to go back to work in total shock.  I didn’t realise it until I got back and couldn’t stop convulsing and feeling absolutely freezing, so my dear coworkers bundled me up, fed me some applesauce and sent me straight back home.

Right now I’m still a little shaky.  My shoulder kind of feels numb but my lower back is even more intense, and I can’t lift my right arm up because it suddenly weights a hundred pounds.  I’m going to go bundle up, lie down, and pray this is somehow going to help.

And dread what Sweet’s therapist friend has to say when I go back tomorrow and tell him that instead of exercises, I had a dozen needles stuck in my back and went into shock for an hour.


  1. Wow, I’d heard about Kyla’s chronic back pain before, but I kind of always thought it was a one-off thing! You are so amazing for dealing with this kind of pain everyday! Hope you find someway of dealing with it

  2. Oh wow. That is awful. I feel so bad for you guys. I totally take the fact that I live pain-free for granted. 😦 You poor things!

    And how did I not know you lived so close to Kyla? That’s awesome! I think you live near the Winnepeg area maybe? If Kyle comes down to Minneapolis in 2010, you should come with so we can all meet up! 🙂

    1. Oh I’d LOVE that!! If I can get across the border – I’m not officially a Canadian citizen yet so I’ll look into the requirements of coming over by land – fingers crossed! 🙂

  3. You poor thing. That is not cool. I am desperate to go to the chiropractor just because my muscles get so tight in my shoulders. I’m waiting until the new year starts because I haven’t my deductible this year. I already have my appointment set for January 2nd. 🙂 Hope something works for you!

  4. One of the most frustrating things in the world is feeling pain that disrupts your life on a daily basis, and not one doctor can pinpoint what it is. I’m not feeling pain as intense as yours, but it’s certainly frustrating nonetheless, so I understand that aspect of how you must feel. As for the needles in your back, you’re so strong for being able to make it through that! I hope you keep finding that strength and determination – through Kyla and through your fiance and all those you love – because even though it may take some time, I think you’ll find something that helps. You’ll be in my thoughts!

  5. When I heard about what you went through I just….like…..unsettled wasn’t the word for it Em. Hearing about it was so deeply upsetting to me, and reading about it here is the same. I’m glad that you’re looking into all these new things and that you’ve found an amazing new physio guy, but this sounds so scary.

    I’m glad that now the shock has worn off you’re not in pain- I’m interested for you to post about this again in a week and to see if you would go through it again. Maybe with the anesthetic in your back it wouldn’t be so bad?

    Oof. Feel better, in all senses Em.

    ps – I work down the street from you and can PICK YOU UP when this kind of thing happens *serious face* I have flexibility on this stuff okay? For real.

    1. Thank you!!! It will be interesting to see next week – I remember when I first dived off the highest board at the swimming pool I just ran right off, and then when I KNEW how scary it was, it took me way longer to actually get to where I could do it again – I’m hoping it won’t be the case with this, and that I can remember the total numbness (and no pain!) that I felt last night and that’ll override the pain of actually getting it done… although I can kind of already feel it wearing off this morning 😦

  6. Hay Emily,

    Since my car accident I spent years just getting worse and worse and everything you have put yourself through and done to yourself, I have done. Nothing you have written about the people you have seen in particular the “main stream” surprises me, I have no time for my Doctor anymore. I’ve had people say it’s all in your head or the body doesn’t work like that, had MRI scans, spinal taps, been in so much pain I pass out and had needles stuck everywhere, all while I continue to surpass my threshold of pain at an alarming rate. Like you it became a whole body thing and when it’s everywhere it’s hard to switch off.

    Fortunately after many years of searching I now have Jenny – my Osteopath. She is my angel, she’s an older lady with decades of experience. She suits my type of problems and I trust her with anything health related. She got me down from seeing her once a week, where now I see her like my dentist, every 6 months. She’s told me enough about my problems for me to know when it’s time to come and see her. Prevention rather than cure is my philosophy, that’s for sure.

    All I can say is continue to pursue with it, there definately is a way forward and you will find it. You just need to find someone who suits you and be patient.

    Don’t give up yet!


    1. Jayde, I was going to say that! I am fortunate to not live with chronic pain, but I have two friends who do: My friend Neeka was 19 when she was in a severe car accident that left her with a broken pelvis and a month-long stay in the hospital. A dancer, she was pretty depressed because she couldn’t sit or stand for long periods without her lower back just murdering her. My friend Jamie, who is a firefighter and amazing triathelete, was diagnosed with early onset RA when she turned 23.

      Both went through drug therapy, various exercises (Jamie was a PT assistant prior to firefighting), you name it. They both turned to Osteopathic methods/a DO and are insanely better and manage their pain and symptoms now in a way that allows them normal life again! ❤

      PS I didn't realize Kyla and Emily were BFFs who lived that close! That's so freaking cute, that's my "AWW" moment for today!!! LOL

  7. Oh thank you – yeah I had often thought of osteopaths but the worst thing is in Winnipeg THEY DON’T EXIST!! Is she in Stevenage? Maybe I can see her when I come and visit next year.

    Thank you so much for the support & encouragement, everybody xoxo

    1. I was aware the US doesn’t have Osteopaths but there must be something similar.

      No she’s in London, but I promise to introduce you to her while your in England. My treat. Trust me she’s worth the hassle!

      I’ve introduced her to half a dozen people at my work and I’m like “you need to see Jenny” and when they finally get around to it, the response by all is “isn’t Jenny just amazing”.

      Speaking of which I must order her a bunch of flowers for Christmas. I do this every year and hopefully they still have Christmas Eve still available…..

      Speak soon


  8. Ok, tentative plans right now are to come over in August – I’ll let you know when things are booked and hopefully it can be part of our London day – museums, musicals and osteopaths!! 🙂

    They honestly don’t have anything similar – it’s so bizarre. Everyone just has their own speciality – my understanding is an osteopath looks at how bones and muscles and everything works WITH each other, but here it’s either a masseuse, a physiotherapist, a chiropractor – nobody who really looks at the whole picture.

    Maybe I should start a trend…

  9. Sounds like a super career move! I love Jenny because of her holistic approach I must admit she does rock.

    Oh about the Christmas Card, seriously I’m a E-Card fan, the carbon footprint is far lower Emily.

    Loving the snow flakes falling on the screen by the way, great choice!


  10. Oh another thing while I’m enjoying a good natter – how do I get the blog to use a picture of me? Do I need to be someone who blogs?


    1. I think I just freaked out because I was expecting a consultation, not a tonne of injections! Maybe if I’d been mentally prepared I wouldn’t have had such a bad reaction – thank goodness for coworkers who care so much! Now I just have to prep myself for the same thing next week…

  11. Hahaha yes I know, okay I will send you an e-card instead 🙂

    I think you do need to have an account – or if you go to OpenID.net you might be able to do it through there – I think everyone else has a picture because everyone else has a blog too 🙂

    But email me pictures! I haven’t seen you in years!

    1. Christophe took some nice ones of me in Toulouse. I actually really like them, I know isn’t that strange, must mean they really are good hay? I even got them printed and frame for my parents as their presents for Christmas. Have you fallen off your chair yet?!

      I’ll send them through, they are massive so I may very well upload them to my hotmail account. It has the same username as my ntlworld email, which I’m looking to get rid of sometime during next year. I’ll send you an invitation!


  12. Ouch!! That sounds very painful!! I know I’m late commenting. So, I hope you it helped. It is something like acupuncture? I’ve never heard of that type of therapy!

    Oh…and when you described yourself, you kinda sound like a pisces…LOL!


    1. Really? lol I’m a Gemini! I love reading about different personality types, signs, all that stuff though – v. interesting 🙂 Are you a Pisces?

      From what I understood acupuncture just kind of keeps a needle there for 10-15 minutes without moving it; dry needling is kind of like that but wiggling the needles around (sounded AWFUL) and this actually injects stuff in to either numb the pain, or if I went with cortisone or botox (!) it would force the muscle to relax. It’s a horrible experience having any sort of needles shoved in but at this point I’m willing to try anything!

      1. I can safely say that is one thing I’ve never had done, you’re braver than I am. Seriously it sounds horrendous.

        Quick suggestion, get yourself some Arnica from a homopathy place, this stuff is great for muscles and if you get the powder version works straight away. It’s a plant so no harm for the stomach or liver, I take it whenever things are getting a little too much.


    1. Hmmm I’m not expert as my Osteopath orders it for me. I have Arnica 250 (the 250 just means strongest available) in powder and I also have a cream which is pretty good.

      Looking at the top of the website it says:

      Why Arnica Gel?
      Arnica Montana – homeopathic anti-inflammatory
      Arnica Cream – for traumatic injury, bruises, muscles
      Arnica 30 – reduce pain & bleeding after surgery
      Arnica Oil – relieve irritations from trauma, arthritis

      Top two sound good. I suggest going to a homopathy chemistic, it’s so common you’ll be able to get what you need.

      Let me know how you get on.


  13. Oh dear, that sounds horrid. I’m sorry you had such a negative experience. I hope that you can find a longterm resolution that isn’t so … disturbing.

  14. I can’t even imagine going through something like this. You are one tough, brave girl. And I find that incredibly admirable. 🙂 I’ll be sending happy thoughts your way and hope that you feel better soon, soon, soon.


  15. Oh, man. That really sounds awful! I am SUCH a baby when it comes to pain. And I couldn’t imagine knowing the pain it causes and still have to do it again! You are amazing. And very brave!

  16. I can’t even imagine pain like this, so my hat’s off to you, and I’m not going to try. Firstly, I hope you don’t feel any guilt over any of this, it is not your fault, it’s completely natural to feel pain, we can’t be superhumans! Secondly, and more importantly, I genuinely am sending you my thoughts and hope you find a way to better cope with this!

  17. My gosh that has got to be so hard when there is no definitive answer and you are asking for help from so many sources who feel they all have the answer but no real proof. Good luck I hope you find the answer for you.

  18. Oh, my dear friend! How terrible that sounds. I can’t imagine having that many needles shoved into any part of my body, much less my back! you’re such a trooper for giving it a try and i sincerely hope that they can find a treatment that works for you!

    rest up and good luck with the treatments!

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