When Your Back Goes Out: Some Personal Reflections

By | August 29, 2012

All I did was reach down to pick up a pair of shoes.

Nature has a way of humbling us from time to time as it did to me last Sunday when my back went out. I had just finished breakfast and was getting ready to go to the club for some practice and a round of golf, when bent down to pick up a pair of shoes. My back was suddenly seized by a sharp pain on the bottom left just about at the level of my hip. I laid myself down on the floor and the pain abated somewhat, but did not disappear. This happens to me about once every two or three years so I began to calmly take stock of the situation. There was no leg pain and the pain was in the same place that it always is, so I felt comfortable with the diagnosis an acute facet subluxation, most likely the left L5-S1 joint. I knew that the natural history of these attacks is usually severe localized back aggravated by changes in position for the first two or three days followed by a gradual period of recovery lasting between five and ten days. I also knew that sometimes these attacks would resolve themselves in a matter of hours, so I went to the club to see what I could do. A dozen or so swings at the driving range were enough to convince me that the forme fruste was not to be the case. I discovered that I could putt without any pain so I went to the practice green for an hour or so. Although I had no pain, by the end of my practice I could feel the muscles in my lower back begin to tighten so I headed off to the steam room for about ten minutes and then to the showers. The tightness in my back was better but the pain was becoming more constant. I went home and did some paper work at my desk for a couple of hours with relatively little pain until I tried to get up. My back was again seized by the same severe sharp pain that had begun the attack in the morning. I was now extremely stiff and although I could sit, stand or lie down with little or no pain, transitioning between any of these positions was invariably accompanied by a short burst of excruciating pain. While I am not a believer in the indiscriminate use of NSAIDs, I had reached the point where three aspirins were necessary to get trough dinner and off to sleep.

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