Sharp spasms of pain travel through my body, navigating down my back to my legs and coming around to my chest. My breathing has turned into rhythmic grunts where I forget to inhale for a few seconds in between gasps of oxygen. I’m starting to sweat and my mind has been screaming at me to forget the whole effort.
I’ve been trying to turn from my left side to my right as I lie in bed. My acute lower back pain makes this a herculean effort that may take up to 5 minutes. Five minutes just to turn around in bed. Two minutes to convince myself and to allay my fears, one to two minutes to actually turn while trying to bear the pain, and a minute to curse at myself for letting this happen to me.
I finally manage to turn, sweaty and tearful, and I know deep down inside that I’m the only one to blame for all the pain I’m enduring. My lower back pain is caused by a disc in my spine that bulges every now and then and that paralyzes me for several days or weeks.
And that bulge first appeared 6 years ago after a decade of lifestyle mistakes that are epitomized by a single personal characteristic: laziness.
It goes away after weeks of resting, doctor’s visits, lots of money spent at my physiotherapist, not being able to work or to take my kid to school, and feelings of agony and despair.
Every time it goes away I swear to myself that this will be the last time I allow this pain to visit me, but after a year or so I forget. I let down my guard and I feel cocky again. The pain lurks in the shadows, like Voldemort, half dead, half alive, surviving. It’s always lurking, like an addiction that is ready to pounce on you the moment your confidence outgrows your judgment.
And very soon that moment comes and that damned tiny anatomical creature strikes again, incapacitating me.
The pain is not the worst of it although it can be excruciating and protracted. What really wears me down is the feeling of helplessness and weakness; of being flawed, a shadow of my previous self. The thoughts gnaw at me constantly while the chimp in my mind mocks me, telling me what a loser I am for allowing this to happen again. To ever have allowed it to happen.
I hate that chimp, he’s always right, in a very sly Loki-ish way.
But I promise myself, once again, that I will do everything in my power to defeat this demon, this bulging disc in my spine, who was formed to protect and to support me, but who becomes a Judas and beats me into submission. So how can you fight an enemy that is part of your body?
It’s simple. You just need to accept that the hypocrite here is you and that you are the one who has broken down a skeletal system that is so complex and vigorous that it can work seamlessly for decades with just a little routine maintenance.
In the paragraphs that follow I will point to causes and solutions for lower back pain and to how easy it is to maintain a healthy spinal system. Before I do so I need to point out something obvious, which is repeatedly dismissed from our minds and which is a critical rule to abide by in every facet of our life:
Never allow your life to depend on a single point of failure (SPOF). If you do, be assured that it will undoubtedly fail you at the worst possible moment.Murphy’s Law revisited
If your ankles hurt when you walk and you’re 75 pounds overweight, your single point of failure is your diet. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, your single point of failure is your mindset. And if you’re so depressed all the time that you can’t even get out of bed, your single point of failure is probably your refusal to ask for help.
I regularly observe people who are encountering adversity in life, and who continue suffering from whatever is causing their torment simply because they refuse to identify what the cause of their problem is and also because they would rather put up with a never-ending daily torment than to endure the distress of getting out of their comfort zone.
I’m guilty of the same.
This is one reason I wrote this article: to remind myself of the importance of remembering to take care of my body. To regularly check my routine so that a small disc the size of a cashew nut cannot bring my whole mobility to a halt.
Now that I’ve bored you to death with my advice, let’s get back to our lower back pain issue. I’ll start first by analyzing the causes behind the chronic back pain that visits me every so often. (Please be informed that I’m only talking about my own experience here and if you decide to adopt any of these techniques you should speak to a professional doctor before doing so).
I will inevitably experience some signs a few days before the full-on attack. Sometimes it’s a feeling of weakness in my back when I pick up things or get into the car, and sometimes it’s even a sharp pain that creeps up when I’m resting in my bed or working at my desk.
Do not ignore these signs. Every time I have ignored them I have been seized with crippling pain shortly after and have been confined to my bed for a miserable amount of time.
Every now and then I let a minuscule part of my body dictate my life. This is a part of my body that is supposed to support me and to make me stronger but because of past mistakes and wrong behaviors, it has become a part that takes its revenge on me periodically.
I know what should be done but I become lazy and lethargic. I lose control and I become a weaker version of myself.
A lot of our health issues stem from the fact that we’re too lazy to maintain our body and mind correctly. Either we’re not taught during our youth or we tend to omit this critical task when we start to work or to have a family.
Your spine is an intricate and beautiful mechanism and whoever or whatever designed it, be it god, nature, evolution, or luck, is a pure genius. It holds and guards some of the most important organs in your body, hence the importance of keeping it safe, healthy, and robust.
One of the first steps to having a meaningful and happy life is to have a healthy body that will allow you the freedom to think and to act. You cannot think when you are experiencing pangs of pain. A simple daily routine of 15 to 60 minutes, depending on your time, can be life-saving and can prepare you for a life of joy and bliss.