This post is going in another direction for a moment; a slightly more personal one. Yes there will be pictures, but there almost weren’t any.
As long as I can remember I’ve had a bad back. Both upper and lower. In the upper back my rhomboids (muscles that help to articulate the scapula) spasm for no reason. Once they did it so hard and so long that they started to disarticulate ribs from my spine. When they’re on the rampage it’s painful to breathe (out more than in). No amount of relaxing or massage gets them to stand down, just muscle relaxers. My lower spine has been a mess, too and has been changing and progressing noticeably in the last couple years. It used to be that once a week or so my low back would get sore and then go back to normal. Sometimes it would go “out” and really throw me down for a while. Again, I don’t have to do anything for this to occur; it just happens (once I was walking up a hill in the snow – that’s it – walking). Last year my back started to hurt all the time. Nothing crippling, but loading the dishwasher or shoveling the cat boxes aggravated it for hours afterward when it would fall back into its usual persistent ache. I also started to experience symptoms of sciatica – pain shooting through the hips and down the legs. Not all the time, but it reared its ugly head once in a while. Joy.
About three weeks ago my lumbar spine reached a new plateau of pain. It was like the aggravated periods from before only all the time. That was the new norm. It hurts to do anything and daily doses of ibuprofen were necessary. Yeah, as if my liver wasn’t already taking a beating. Then late last week it kicked up a notch into really uncomfortable, can’t sit, can’t stand, can’t walk vigorously, ‘holy shit this is distracting’ pain. I took a muscle relaxer at bedtime and woke up much better, but over the course of the day it went right back to the new level of somewhat debilitating and restrictive pain.
On Monday the 21st came the watershed. I tried to go for my usual 5-mile walk and could only do 2. Things went downhill fast. My beloved Eames lounge chair was uncomfortable. The guy at the oil change place had to repeat things because I was too distracted by my back to really concentrate. I wished for an automatic for the first time ever because raising my leg to put in the clutch was dreadful. For the first time, lying down did not relieve the pain. It hurt so much and was so agonizing I took a leftover oxycodone (half) and a muscle relaxer at the same time. I just laid on my back where I fell onto the bed; I couldn’t raise my head, arms or shift my torso without piercing pain. When I tried feeding the cat I was literally knocked off my feet from the intensity of the spasm and nearly fell on the floor – my husband came to my rescue and found me clinging to the tabletop for dear life, tears streaming down my face.
So what the hell does this tale of woe have to do with photography? Well since none of the doctors who have X-rayed, done MRIs and physical exams could point to a reason for the pain, I figured I just had to live with increasing debilitation and would eventually lose the ability to walk or get around well. No more photography. No more hiking. No more sports car. No more motorcycle. No more skiing. No more sex. No more life. It wasn’t just the pain that made me cry.
Unexpectedly and without explanation the cycle has broken. The narcotic and the muscle relaxer are the only new elements to the show and I only took the combination one time – Monday night. My back while still twinge-y (especially the upper right now…it’s tight) it is no longer an absolute misery. I kept expecting it to grow worse yesterday as it usually does, but it didn’t. It stayed at a fairly low and familiarly manageable level of discomfort. I went out with a very light kit and did some walking and even took some photographs.
Nothing made me scream and I didn’t even have to take any ibuprofen. I don’t think it will last, but this is the most pain-free I’ve been in years. It made me really relish my time yesterday and how easy everything seemed. The clutch wasn’t an issue. Bending and twisting were uncomfortable, but not really painful (I didn’t push it though). Today I’m taking it easy to see if I can prolong this wonderful state. Wish me luck.