Thanks to my 73 hours worked last week (no kidding!), most of which involved lifting, moving, climbing and holding many pounds of electronics, my back is now reminding me that I need to be more careful.
Many, many years ago (man, this is getting depressing already) my buddy and I used to work out on a daily basis. I was fit and lean and actually enjoying the exercise process. One day, while we were in the middle of our weight lifting sessions, I bent down to move a very light bench. Whether I was awkward with the lift or just tight from working out, I...well...there is no other way to put this...I fucked up my back.
At the time it happened, though, it was a mere 'Oh, that felt strange' and I continued on. The results of this slight twinge were in full effect when I couldn't even get out of bed the next morning. Excruciating is the only word. I was like a turtle stuck upside down on it's shell. Wifey tried to help me up, but that just made things worse. I finally had to rock myself sideways so I could get enough momentum to roll myself out of the bed. Once I was upright and showered, I felt a lot better. Just needed to loosen up, I told myself.
Riiiight. I went to work, made it about 2 hours and couldn't take it anymore. French, this is when I was working in your building and part of my commute home involved being doubled over on the State Street sidewalk while I waited for some of the worst back spasms I had ever experienced to ease up.
Anyone who has never had a back injury can't fully understand how painful and awkward it can be. Just wiping your ass is a major ordeal. As is getting off the toilet, getting out of a chair or that inhaling - exhaling process. I never knew how important your lower back muscles are to your every day existence.
On my subway ride back from work that first, horrible day I was feeling normal again (meaning I could stand upright) when the train did that herky jerky 'stop quick, then go again' thing it seems to do just to fuck with anyone not holding on to a post. This threw me off balance for a second and jerked my back which sent it into spasms again and me into a groaning grimace that literally scared one of the ladies sitting nearby.
Having never had a back injury before I tried:
- Taking a hot bath. The thinking here was the hot water would loosen some things up. Not only did it not help, but I nearly drowned trying to get out of the tub.
- One of those electronic back massage things that I turned off after about 1 minute when it jump started the spasms for me. That was fun.
- Large amounts of aspirin and alcohol. The aspirin was to take the edge off; the alcohol was just part of my daily routine.
- After all of the above failed, I finally called the doc who saw me, told me it was nothing major (tell that to my back, doc!!) and to suck it up.
I did, kept stretching things and got some good advice from my sister in law when she told me to ice it down and not heat it up. I sat on the front balcony of my apartment and iced my back down for nearly an hour. It was still stiff, but felt light years better than it had in days.
See, the reason your back muscles spasm is that one of the muscles has experience a strain or pull. That muscles swells up and starts affecting all the other muscles around it. This in turn makes them all bunch together and have a rave. Only a painful, Britney Spears is attempting another comeback, just kill me kind of rave.
Ever since that first injury, that specific spot in my back has been vulnerable. I've been taking very good care of it since I aggravated it a few years ago. I make sure I properly stretch out before exercising and lift heavy things in proper ergonomic form (with the legs! with the legs!), but there are still times I relax. One memorable time, I put myself out of commission when I picked up my one year old without breaking stride. Bad idea.
What's weird and dangerous about back injuries is it can happen when you least expect it. I've lifted over a hundred pounds and had no issue, but lifting an empty laundry hamper can immobilize you for days. Or you could move things all day and have no issue, but it sets you up for that one moment when you forget and bend down awkwardly.
These days my back gives me the warning signs. I'm not incapacitated yet, but one wrong move and I will be. Currently my back is just stiff and is telling me, 'Be very careful, douchebag, or I will make you cry like a little girl'.
Today's distraction: Brush up on the proper way to take care of your back. I try to follow all of these, but I just ain't 25 anymore. Pity.