On being a (temporary) cripple

OUR BACKBONES are ticklish things. Sometimes they go out, as mine did last Monday morning while I was sitting right here at my desktop computer near the crack of dawn. Here’s what happened:

I coughed. It was a bush-league cough, a cough so trivial that it would have registered minus-5 on the Richter Scale. But that little cough combined in some weird way with how my torso was situated in the chair.


I knew exactly and instantly what it was because I’m no stranger to my spine going south. Oh, nooooo, I moaned to myself.

I tried to stand up. Jesus, Joseph and Mary! I did not get far. I slowly returned to the chair. And I’ve been mostly home-bound ever since.

I’m no stranger to this, but it’s been fairly rare in recent years. In my 40s, the last decade of my previous marriage, I had this problem often. It coincided with the gradual collapse of said matrimony, indicating there’s occasionally a psychological element to the issue. The same is thought by some to be true with rheumatoid arthritis.

I do not have rheumatoid arthritis. Knock on wood.

On getting divorced from my last wife, the back attacks ended abruptly, and I went years without a recurrence. I still occasionally have the problem. Maybe once every two or so years. I don’t think there’s a psychological element now because I’m a happy boy.

941cdfc49a1d5bab536a76e38eb102c5It invariably starts with a funny twist that I do out of inattention. A cough or sneeze can also nail me.

Doctors say that if it lasts less than three months, it’s acute. If more than three months, it’s chronic. Mine have always lasted 4-5 days with one exception when it lasted two weeks. That was decades ago in New Orleans.

As I write this, last evening, I’m winding up my fifth day, and I’m feeling better but not home free by any means.

One aid I’ve enjoyed this time that I never had before is one of those girdle-type things that weight-lifters and warehouse guys wear. It’s is very helpful. My child bride bought it last year for gym use.

The internet says that 90 percent of the time, these things cure themselves with no medical assistance. That’s always been my experience, and I hope it continues, but my advancing age could complicate things.

It hasn’t so far. I’d like to say this is a pain in the ass, but it’s actually a pain in the back. If you’ve never had this problem, you’re one lucky person. It hurts!

24 thoughts on “On being a (temporary) cripple

  1. I get that working in the kitchen standing at the sink for long(er) stints of time. Usually in preparation of a family feast. I think, though, mine are more muscle spasms from the position I’m standing in but it can also happen if I don’t position myself properly when lifting something from the floor. It’s my body’s way of saying “don’t do that.”


  2. I feel your pain, señor, and I mean that literally. Leaned over to turn on the TV many years ago (before we had remote controls) and couldn’t stand up straight for a week. I know what caused mine, and I know what made it worse. Too much heavy lifting improperly done and an unhappy marriage. It has gotten better and more infrequent as I’ve aged, but is still around. Best to you, sir, recover quickly, live well.


    1. Ricardo: Thanks for the empathy. It will be a full week tomorrow for me. It’s considerably better, but I’m still sporting the girdle. I want this to go away!!! There’s always the worry that, due to age, it won’t, but I remain optimistic, especially since it is improving.

      I want to start jogging around the plaza again … or something like that. I have been walking around the plaza most of the week. That’s supposed to be good. For years, medical advice on this problem was to lie down and stay put as much as possible till it improves. But the docs have flipped 180 degrees now, and exercise/movement is recommended.


  3. It may be no consolation, but I’m experiencing the exact same thing since I reached for a. bag of groceries about a week ago. Everybody I know suggests a remedy. I’m going to pick up my corset today. Hope yours is gone by Christmas, I can’t imagine a better present than just feeling normal again.


    1. Bliss: The girdle, which I had never used before with this issue, really, really helps. Hope you got yours. As for my being back to normal before Christmas, I am optimistic. I wish you a speedy recovery.


  4. Whats missing in Patzcuaro is a decent chiropractor. I get that condition once in a while and the cure was to get the back realigned which would normally take care of it. I have gone to a few people but their cure was to use a vibrator sort of like a orbital sander on the back and collect 200 pesos. The one I used in California retired 15 years ago. He always immediately got to the issue without multiple visits which they like you to sign up for.

    The back will realign quickly. The residual pain is from the irritation to the nerve which will take a while to clear up, depending on how bad you irritated it. Take it easy, and you will be almost back to normal.


    1. Tancho: Never thought of a chiropractor. I went to a chiropractor for something or other decades back. Might have been this same problem. I don’t recall that it helped at all, which is why I gave up on chiropractors. But this issue does sound like it would lend itself to chiropractic. The orbital sander does not appeal. As for taking it easy, I really haven’t had any other option. I’m taking it easy big-time.


  5. Ouch. I get a similar thing from time to time. It’s usually after doing something trivial like putting my socks on. 3-5 days to recover. Wishing you a speedy recovery.


    1. Thanks, Brent: Yep the most trivial thing imaginable can trigger this. For that reason, it’s rather hard to consciously avoid. And yes, my experience has been about 3-5 days with the one exception years back when it lasted two weeks. Today is Day 7 this go-around. It’s much better, but still. It could be another two-weeker. Such is life.


  6. Marijuana oil. Not the stuff you get in front of the Basilicia, mixed with peyote and containing neither. Hot packs. Stretching exercises. Finally, do not allow angry thoughts to seek refuge in your body. Don’t hold back; tell everyone exactly what you think. Wait, I think you’ve already been doing the latter all along. But get hold of some of that marijuana oil, because it’s incredibly curative.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Too bad you’re not in Vancouver. You could walk a block away to the ‘drug’ store (no kidding) and buy one of many MJ products available. There are dozens of these stores operating in the open since MJ is supposed to be legalized next Canada day (July 1st.) And if your back is too sore to walk a block there are dozens of suppliers that deliver. It’s becoming looney tune land up here (actually it has been for quite some time.)


        1. Brent: If I’d had any pot on hand over the last week, I’d be as stoned as Mount Rushmore. No kidding. Sometimes — not often — Canadian life sounds pretty good.


  7. So sorry to hear of your trouble. I had back surgery a couple of years ago, and it helped tremendously. Problem is, I have a nerve pinched in my back, and my left foot and leg is giving me a lot of pain for a week constantly. It has been off and on for a while, but it is constant. Probably need another MRI.


    1. Yipes, Beverly. Sounds like you’re worse off than I am. At least today, not last week. I’ve never had call to get an MRI. Or back surgery either.

      I wish you a speedy return to good health.


  8. A few years ago I got Sciatica, a pinched nerve, which typically affects one side of the body and can cause pain in the back of the right or left hip — the pain from sciatica can start in your lower back. The pain didn’t go away completely until my doctor gave me a steroid shot about five months later.

    In a way, it really changed my life. I vowed if the pain went away I was going to start living my life to the max once again regardless of my age.


  9. My sympathies, sir. I have a similar problem in my lower neck. I might have it two times in a year, then I might go two years without it happening. Like you, it always hits me with a simple little movement that normally wouldn’t cause a problem.

    Once mine “goes out” I have to “wear it out” (meds don’t help).
    I hope you are better soon.


    1. Ray: Sympathies appreciated. Lower neck, eh? Never heard of that one. As for wearing it out, that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing for a week now. And I’m about worn out. One must embrace patience.


  10. Sorry to hear about your duff back. Totally sympathize with you. I’ve had L1-L4 compressed disc issues after an ungodly tumble off a ladder a decade ago. Ever thought of “playing a bat”? It’s amazing what hanging upside down does to relieve the issues I get. An inversion table works wonders to relieve compression pain, and relaxes kinked muscles.

    Aspirin and a couple of brandys also do wonders when matched with Bengay and a heating pad! LOL! All the best for a swift recovery!


    1. Dan: I’ve read about those upside-down things. If I had one, I’d try it. As it is, I’m just raising the value of Tylenol shares this week, and wishing I had some pot.

      Thanks for the good vibes. I feel I will be back to normal in a couple more days, the Goddess willing.


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