Pain Management…

I’ve had lower back pain since my mid to late twenties.

Everything to do with over flexibility, high arabesques, dazzling contretemps, amazingly flat turn outs and a lot of peer pressure to keep my place on company; to be the best.

For almost two decades my body gave its all and then the creaking and stiffness redolent of old age began.

Daughts will suffer too, she was much braver than I and flew through the air heedless of the possibilities of injury from awkward, knee twisting landings.

My grandmother had told me that she went to bed one night and awoke the next morning with arthritis in her back.

It literally happened to me too!

One morning…I awoke and crawled out of bed, my back refusing to straighten out…I felt as though I’d been hefting furniture, which I may have been, thought little of it and gave it a few days to subside.

But it didn’t.  My grandmother was well into her 60’s, I was only 30 so I shrugged off the warning memory and waited convinced I didn’t have arthritis.

I made a few modifications to my dancing and athletic life, I isolated and strengthened muscles on either side of my lower spine and maintained my flexibility and gave my children a run for their money.

Then, about a dozen years ago I noticed pain in my right inner thigh as I was walking.  I was in London at the time carting my shopping home up the hill of Albermarle Road in Beckenham.  I put it down to my hip flexor and made sure I regularly incorporated hamstring stretches before, during and after I walked and gave it no further thought.

When the stop-for-a-quick-stretch and a photo or two, ceased to do the trick a handful of years later,

When the very thought stepping over a tree root or up a couple of steps had me bracing myself, I made the difficult decision to seek help.

I turned to my blue-eyed cowboy and quipped,

“There’s something going on here,” trying to make it sound trite, “like arthur-ritis in my hip.”

“Does it shoot pain or burn?” he asked as if I was talking about an incendiary.

I shook my head and fobbed it off for another couple of years waiting for the tell-tale burn.  All I got was a creeping inability to fold my body into the complex yoga moves I’d been doing for years.  No shooting pain just a wall I could no longer scale.

Last year I finally decided that my back or my hip had somehow given out quietly and gently without a fanfare of excruciating pain.

Since I couldn’t just go to the orthopaedic specialist and ask if he would replace my hip I had to follow the protocols.

Off I went for X-rays which didn’t show enough deterioration to warrant a hip replacement…just yet…although there was arthritis but he didn’t think it was critical enough to cause the pain, the dull ache, that I was describing.

Off I went for an MRI to see what was going on in my back.

Never having had an MRI I was intrigued.

I lay down on the bed, my head positioned for entry into a cylindrical cavern.

As I was moved in position I was very relaxed, but then the walls started to close in around me and I felt claustrophobic.

I have a fear of being caught in a tunnel with no way to turn around.  Here I was, fully conscious, being slowly lured into my nightmare.

I began to pray,

that I didn’t sneeze,

or get a tickle in my throat,

or an itch on my nose,

or a cramp in my neck,

or black out.

I closed my eyes and said Hail Marys for 15 minutes.

Off I went back to the doctor to hear him read my results.

He told me my last two vertebrae had a window of opportunity between them for some kind of block or steroid treatment; he was pretty confident that based on my description of what I was feeling my pain was probably radiating from my lower back to my right hip.

He referred me to a pain management doctor who talked me through my MRI, poked and prodded my lower back and offending hip in an attempt to assess exactly where the pain was coming from and then ordered a couple of injections into my sacroiliac joint.

I took both injections without anaesthesia.

My doctor was very good, explaining everything he was doing throughout the procedure as he manipulated the needle, with the help of an X-ray machine, to the exact spot.

The first shot was an anaesthetic combined with a steroid.  This made me feel better, walk faster and regain some of the flexibility in my right hip.

The second injection, six weeks later, was just the anaesthetic which would numb the sacroiliac area and render me pain free for 3 hours thus confirming the problem spot.

Except it didn’t render me pain free for 3 hours.

He wrote me a prescription for PT.

And I went on a walk to get some doggie wisdom from my buddy Moose; his look confirmed that even if PT didn’t work I could still bring him biscuits in exchange for wet nose nuzzles and,

‘Oops, don’t tell Mum I killed one of her chickens!’

I decided to comply and stuck with my therapist for 4 weeks with no improvement and a lot of negative comments about

how weak my right side was,

how I needed to build strength,

how yoga was only a stretching activity (try some of my classes I thought),

and walking was just a cardio vascular activity (engaging my quads and calf muscles I thought).

Apparently everything I’d been doing was considered useless.

I signed off and made an appointment with another orthopaedic doctor.

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