I could barely open the door to leave my car.
A middle-eastern family nearby saw my slow, frail movements on Union Tpke and helped me open the door to the Green Olive Kosher Pizza place.
In utter agony, I peered at a menu above, smells of lamb and tahini passed my nose, and I then ordered one of these best falafel (to-go) I’ve ever had in my life.
The same family helped me open the restaurant door again. Their faces looked as if they saw a pallid corpse who came back to life stealing a few extra breaths.
I got back to my car, my car door felt like 1000 lbs. I used the tips of my fingers to pry it open, but every force I gave ricocheted back into my spine, little lightning bolts shooting up like fireworks up from my lower back.
I sat in my car, tears of fear rolled down my face. Something was terribly, terribly wrong.
[1 day earlier]
My phone lit up from my friends group chat:
“Anybody down to ball tomorrow at Yes We Can?”
Basketball was my release after starting my 1st corporate job.
So naturally I looked at my boring NYU Langone cubicle and thought…
“HELL YESS LET’S PLAY BALL”
For the past few months I had been feeling a creeping pain on my lower back.
But played it off and chocked it to my shift into a sedentary lifestyle (cubicle).
So I thought it would be best to keep active as best as I could.
At the Yes We Can Fitness Center in Westbury, my friends and I were playing a typical game of pick up ball.
My back as usual was feeling tight but I stretched a bit and played through it.
But this time… something felt different.
After a few games, I couldn’t run as fast, I couldn’t accelerate.
“He can barely walk… Should we get a sub for Albert?”
I didn’t know what to do.
One of my friends said, “Yo Albert Stop being a little bitch.”
“I’ll play” I said.
5 minutes later I exited the game and laid flat on the floor.
This was the most excruciating pain I had ever felt in my life.
I could barely walk. I got in my car and decided to go home, maybe get a falafel from this place on Union I read about on Yelp.
Fast forward past the kindness of a sweet middle-eastern family helping.
I sat at home. Crying while eating one of the best falafels I’ve ever had in my life.
2 days later I saw a doctor named Jenny who advocated a program to strengthen my core
She said an MRI would be useless. But I needed to get one for my own sanity.
The first radiology technician told me it would take weeks to get an MRI.
I called up every facility in NYU and got one the next day.
With my NYU health insurance, the MRI was also free.
Within days, results were forwarded to my doctor and as she so smugly wrote in her email..
“Albert, as I expected, you have an L5-L6 herniated disc, and as we discussed before, this does not change the recommended treatment plan; I recommend a core strengthening program via physical therapy”
Thanks doc !
I proceeded to do Physical Therapy 2x a week. I would go on my lunch breaks at NYU. We had 1 hr. Sessions were 40 min each. So…I had 20 minutes to run back and forth from my job, buy a sandwich at Pret a Manger, and scarf down a sandwich with crumbs on my chin so I could be back at my desk and do my work.
My boss was chill about my PT but I always felt judged. I didn’t do PT for pleasure like a workout. I was doing PT so I could continue working. Big difference with intention. Whatever. That’s another story.
This next section I’m going to list all the treatments I’ve done so far. I am planning on doing a full write-up on each of these, the efficacy of each, and my results to every one.
Treatments I’ve done so far:
- ESI – Epidural Steroid Injections (4)
- Physical Therapy
- BetterBack (kickstarter product)
- Acupuncture (Yao Shen Cai)
- Foam rolling
- Muscle Injections (Local anesthetic)
- PRP – Platelet Enriched Plasma injections (worst pain I have ever felt in my life)
- Electrical Stimulation
- Chiropractor (cracking)
- Limber 11 stretches aided with a Lacrosse Ball
- Floatation Tank (sensory deprivation)
- Neuromuscular Center
I felt my best when running.
I would run every morning only for a mile or so, and my PT Kara loved how my muscles felt during our sessions.
Also didn’t hurt that my skin was GLOWING lol 😀
Unfortunately, my doctor didn’t advocate running because over time, the force of running would decompress the fluid sac (fluid between the discs) – logically that made sense. But illogically, I also felt better. I agreed to compromise by running on padded tracks instead of cement alleviated this. In the beginning, my PT would also recommend the elliptical as an alternative (less force on the spine).
But I felt great running. Even if I tightened up post-workout, I could stretch.
These days my back pain isn’t as bad, but it’s because I’ve become so numb to it. After prolonged pain, your brain just starts to ignore it.
I honestly can’t remember the last time I didn’t have pain in my back.
Every day things that cause me pain include:
- tying my shoes
- getting out of bed
- having sex
- slightly jogging to my car if it starts raining
- twisting (think golf swing, reversing when driving)
- Sitting for too long
- standing for too long
- walking for too long
- anytime I’m slightly hunched over
- like filling up gas
- or a bad coughing bout..
- or bending down to pick up… anything
- or deadlifting anything > than 90lbs 😦
- airplane seats <—— WORST physically
- playing with my nieces and nephews <——- WORST emotionally
Amongst those everyday pains, a new devil has emerged… Tight hip flexors.
This is most likely from sitting all day – something that plagues over 80% of Americans on a daily basis.
How do I keep my back and hips in check? I _______________ .
- Sunrise stretch (immediately upon waking up)
- Stretch every day (back, core, and hip flexors)
- Hot shower in morning if my back is tight
- Use foam roller (before and after any physical activity)
- Use a lacrosse ball on my glutes to alleviate the pull tension on my hips
- A daily 10 minute walk – this does WONDERS (the natural gait and cadence of your walking style just unlocks your hips and promotes bloodflow between your upper and lower regions)
- See highly specialized back experts
- have perfected my sleeping positions through strategic pillow placement 😀
- will be signing up for swimming soon !
- heating pad and light stretching at night
6 Lessons to help You today
- Stretch before anything – super important.
- Prevention is always better than emergency (eg. be mindful about your sugar consumption now – it’s way better than dealing with insulin injections for the rest of your life)
- Don’t rely on WebMD and articles – get real medical help.
- Get a good mattress OR replace your current one (recommended you change every 7 years)
- Don’t be ashamed about speaking up about your conditions. Trust me, you’re not the only one. We’re in this together – let’s start helping each other.
- Learn proper lifting form. https://www.ghalllaw.com/blog/2017/08/safe-lifting-techniques-for-ups-and-fedex-employees.shtml
MY FINAL WORDS
Some days are better than others. I am still learning every day! I really want to start swimming soon so I can still be physically active (something that challenges me cardio-wise but also strengthens me) but also being mindfully conscious about applying the least amount of strain to my back.
NOTE – I am not a doctor. Please consult a real doctor or get real medical attention via 911 if you need it.
I sincerely hope my own journey has provided some insight for you or a loved one that is effected by back pain. I’ll be writing more in-depth about each of my treatments and my perspective on them in the near future. Please reach out if you have any questions, I am more than happy to answer them 🙂