While I was wrapping gifts yesterday, I felt something in my back move. Nothing agonizing, just a sharp pain that very clearly said: “You REALLY don’t want to do that.”
My body talks to me. I’ve not had any major sports related injuries (fencing is surprisingly safe as long as you’re not an idiot) but I have endured tendinitis, sprains, pulled muscles and assorted foot issues. I have a pretty good idea by now of when my body is saying, “HEY, cut it out!”
This pain was endurable, I could have ignored it, but it was saying to be very careful. So I experimented. Carefully. I found that I could bend at the waist with only a little pain as long as I supported myself entirely with my arms and moved slowy. Standing upright didn’t hurt at all but I couldn’t sit down.
Fortunately, it was already 11 at that point, so I just gave up gift wrapping and went to bed, with Matt trailing after me carrying all the things I couldn’t bend over to pick up.
I can’t sleep on my back. Mostly I sleep on my stomach, which as any doctor will tell you is, for back health, the worst possible way to sleep. I moved around trying to find a satisfactory position and I think at one point while I was on my side (which hurt) something moved back to where it came from.
This morning my back was both better and worse. I can sit, which is good since I’ll be spending 4 hours tomorrow stuck in a car and I think we’d get some funny looks if I tried standing up the whole way. On the other hand, last night the pain was very localized, there was just one spot that hurt only when I moved in a certain way. Now, it’s sore all the time, and the area all around it has tightened up. I can feel the effects of it from my neck all the way down to my ankle: the name of the game when it comes to backs. It’s no longer a “You’d better not!” pain though, more of a nervous, “Oh, oh, I don’t know…”
The doctor says it’s a pulled muscle, so it’s good that it’s nothing serious. Still not sure how I pulled a muscle hardly moving. She told me to load up on Motrin and apply heat, get backrubs from Matt (seriously!), and not to expect it to be completely better for a week or two because back injuries are like that. This will make finishing the gift wrapping difficult, but since the pain really isn’t that horrible, it’s mostly just annoying. The real reason I’m glad I went to see the doctor is that she gave me the most fantastic informational sheet on caring for your back.
The information sheet is photocopied poorly so there are places where I can’t read the whole thing, but mostly it’s common sense advice like: Lift with your knees! and Don’t sleep on your stomach! (whoops) At the end though, there’s a little box of Rules to Live By – From Now On. The first column is more of the same. The second column I’ll just have to share:
Chiefly for women
- Wear shoes with moderate heels, at about the same height. (huh?) Avoid changing from high to low heels.
- Put a footrail under your husband’s desk, and a footrest under the crib.
- Diaper the baby sitting next to him on the bed.
- Don’t stoop and stretch to hang the wash; raise the clothesbasket and lower the washline.
- Beg or buy a rocking chair. Rocking rests the back by changing the muscle groups used.
- Train yourself vigorously to use your abdominal muscles to flatten your lower abdomen. In time, this muscle contraction will become habitual, making you the envied possessor of an attractively feminine body-profile!
- Wherever you are, let a man open doors and raise windows. Men have greater natural forearm strength, well adapted for these movements.
Love the use of “well adapted” here, as though evolution factored in things like doors and windows. I couldn’t make out enough of the last bullet point to make any sense of it (not that all of these make sense anyway) but there was definitely something in there about “nature’s corset.” I wish some of these had a bit more explanation. I can accept that a helpful info sheet that MUST come from the sixties would assume household chores and at least one baby, but why does putting a foot rail beneath the hubby’s desk help a woman’s back pain? I guess I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt here and assume there is a sound medical reason for strengthening abdominal muscles beyond, you know, the figure.
The doctor probably shouldn’t have given the sheet to me: I’m not sure that laughing is really the best thing for my back right now. Just to be sure though, I’ll ask my husband when he gets home. My brain is a little overheated from all this reading, so I guess a Man’s opinion is needed.