I don't know how many of you know this, but for the last 11 years I have suffered from slowly escalating chronic back pain.
From the age of about 12 to 23 I broke, bred, and trained horses in a variety of disciplines. I rode multiple horses pretty much all day. When a horse was particularly bad tempered or prone to bucking, I was the one that wound up on it's back.
When I was pregnant, I took a fall that effectively ended my career as an equestrian. I came off and landed on a rock squarely on the back of my hips. It took almost three months before I wasn't in incredible pain.
After I had my daughter I started riding again, every once in a while I'd have a day when I hurt really bad and couldn't manage it. Then the days when I was in pain started to multiply, until riding and doing barn chores simply hurt to much and I had to stop.
So I walked instead, hiked in the park across from the house we moved into on Athens. A low level of pain became the new norm, sometimes getting really bad but usually tolerable.
We moved again, close to downtown. The base level of pain started to increase, I had some days when it was barely there, but many days when I was hurting really badly. If I woke up on my back I wouldn't be able to move. But still, I walked, even though it hurt.
I finally went to a doctor, who gave me two weeks worth of painkillers. She said for anything more she'd have to send me to a pain clinic and-not having insurance-that was just flat out of the question. Suddenly, I realized how much pain I'd actually been in and how crappy my life had become because of it. Then they were gone, and the reality of my miserable life crashed back in on me, and it was the straw that broke the camel's back. I wound up in a mental health clinic, where they decided my pain was all in my head and the result of a mental illness. They decided that I was manic depressive- because I'm depressed when I'm in incredible pain and very happy to be alive when it's below a certain level.
We moved back to my family property.
Of course the meds didn't do a damn thing for my pain, and since I was still experiencing a steady increase in my pain level, didn't help the depression either. They started throwing meds at me for everything they could think of, and some of them would manage to make it so I didn't care so much that I was in pain-or anything else, for that matter. Everything I was put on had at least one side effect I'd realize I just couldn't live with.
On the slightly better days I could force myself to work in glass or at least hang around in the studio.
Many days I had to wear a back support, and more than a few times I was confined to the antique wheelchair (circa 1932) we have at the studio.
The pain I was in prevented me from eating very much, I dropped from a fairly healthy 120-125 lbs to about 106, or often less.
About six months ago, the even mildly good days-the tolerable days- went away. It got to the point where getting out of bed was incredibly painful, laying in bed hurt but not quite as much. To add insult to injury, the meds I was on had squashed my creativity and emotions. I couldn't write, I couldn't draw, and I was dead inside. I could stand up for 2-5 minutes before the pain became unbearable, and after 15-20 minutes on my feet I was nauseous. Doing anything at all-even walking to the bathroom-required a long pep talk. Cooking, feeding my animals, daily life became near impossible.
Through all of this, for the last 7 or 8 years, I'd been doing streatching and physical therapy at home for at least an hour a day, though it eventually stopped helping the pain at all.
I decided enough was enough, this isn't a mental problem, it's a physical one. So I said goodbye to the mental health meds. Pain or no pain, I needed to at least care about something.
We finally got insurance and I went to a doctor. First she gave me muscle relaxants and anti-inflamatories. Then she gave me tramadol. None of that did any good. I got x-rays and an mri, which were 'normal'. Of course she wouldn't give me anything stronger for pain, but she did refer me to an ostiopathic surgeon who-she said-would do diagnostic injections in my spine and figure out what the problem was.
At this point, I feel I need to say that medical people in general are trained that fractures, slipped/bulging/herniated disks, malformed vertebre, nerve problems and lesions cause spine pain. And that's it. The spine doesn't need to be straight, the vertebre don't need to stack, neat and centered, on top of eachother. There isn't a connection between the spine being out of alignment and pain. Which is the reason, by the way, that they find back pain so hard to treat, and are frankly beastly at it.
When I got to the ostiopathic surgeons office, they looked at my x-rays and mris and said everything was perfectly normal. I was given anti-inflamatories and muscle relaxants-again- and told to do six physical therapy sessions, and if that didn't help then THEY would refer me to someone who could possibly, maybe, help me.
At this point I'd been pretty much confined to bed for over six months. I couldn't stand up, much less walk. I knew PT wouldn't help, all the moving around in the world didn't help.
I cried for a long time that night.
Then something occurred to me-if this wasn't a problem with the disks, or the nerves, or the soft tissue, it was a problem with the bones. I didn't need injections or PT or narcotic painkillers, what I needed was a chiropracter. Not one of the do-nothing and take your money ones that have popped up everywhere, I needed someone who would fix me fast and not bankrupt us.
I needed the chiropracter that worked on me when I was 18 and constantly being thrown off of horses.
So I typed his name into Google and got an amazing surprise-he'd moved and is now less than 10 minutes from my house. I had no idea how much he charged, we don't have much extra money, but my mother said she could pay for a visit, no matter how much it turned out to be, the following week.
So I called him up and found that he charges $35 for an adjustment. Which I happened to have on me, in cash. Fifteen minutes later I was in his office.
I told him what was going on. He laid me down and looked at my feet: one of my legs appeared to be an inch and three quarters shorter than the other one. A difference of a quarter inch is generally enough to cause extreme pain.
He explained that the muscles and tendons on the back of the hip area are designed to automatically engage and disengage as the legs move, locking and relaxing to allow movement with fairly little effort, like the clutch in a vehicle. When I landed on that rock all those years ago, I had effectively knocked my clutch out. All of that movement had to be provided and compensated for by the rest of my body, which is NOT designed to do that. No wonder I was in so much pain!
He adjusted me and told me to give it about a week for my muscles to get used to their new positions, then to come back in. He estimated about four to six adjustments-one a week- should see the soft tissue developed correctly enough to hold my spine in place, the pain should be gone, and I'd only need to come back in if I felt something go out and it didn't naturally go back in after a couple days.
I went home and took a three hour nap. Then something amazing happened. I got up and I made dinner. REAL dinner, baked chicken, cornbread, the whole deal. And then something even more amazing happened...Not only was I not nauseous from the pain, I was really, really hungry. I wolfed down everything on my plate. Then I took my dog for a walk. This was a huge accomplishment.
The next day we worked on getting the house, which hadn't been cleaned in over a year, picked up. Instead of spending fifteen minutes painfully dragging around, followed by four hours of laying in bed wanting to die, I spent the day on my feet.
The next few days after that saw my muscles become stiff and a bit sore from being pulled around, and doing actual work. Going back to stretching made the discomfort managable, and the level of pain slowly decreased over the week. I wasn't pain free, but the baseline was so much lower I could tolerate it fairly well.
I went back on Tuesday of this week. As expected, I'd slipped out of alignment a bit, but this time my feet were about a half inch different. Big improvement overall.
A couple days ago I got into the hot shop and made some paperweights.
I am not pain free, that's going to take another week or two. And it's going to be awhile before I have the strength and stamina to take ten mile walks.
But I can stand up. I can make breakfast, lunch and dinner and eat it. I can wash dishes. I can take my dog for a walk around the block. I can pick up a mess and vaccuum the house. My memory and cognative functions are returning.
Some days are better than others, but the better days are starting to get more frequent. And soon it will be mostly good days, and then there won't be bad days at all. This nightmare will be over.
So if you've seen me, if I've seemed bad-tempered and unfriendly and exausted, if I seem to be avoiding social situations, it's because every bit of energy I have has been going into simply existing. If I have visited you, been to a party, hung out with you at our studio, it has been an incredible effort for me that likely cost me several days of recovery time.
If you know me online, and are wondering why I dropped off the face of the internet, know that it is because all of my energy has gone into simply breathing.
But things are getting better. I'm not fully functional yet, but I'm getting there. For the first time in many years, I know that things are going to be OK.