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!
SO IF THE WEIGHT OF A QUARTER = PAIN AND INSTANT SPASM, IMAGINE WHAT HAPPENED WHEN I HAD 15 NEEDLES INJECTED INTO MY BACK.
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.