Friday, November 2, 2012

My Neck, My Back, Lick... Nope, That's Not Right

With the move now behind us, and the new house full of boxes for me to unpack, my sanity isn't the only thing screaming for help.

My effing back is being a pain again... or is in pain... or both.

Before I go into the roller coaster that is the journey of my back pain (which started over 16 years ago), there's one thing y'all need to know up front that will come into play later in the story-

I hate needles...

(says the woman covered in tattoos and has had almost every piercable part of her body pierced at one point or another in her life). I can't stand them. I hate having my blood taken or getting shots. There's a difference between tattoo needles and syringe needles, just as there is a difference between piercing needles and syringe needles. I think it's the mental stigma that medical needles are for putting stuff in my body that isn't there to begin with, or taking something out of my body that's supposed to be there. That thought freaks me out. And, when it's all said and done, you aren't left with a cute piece of jewelry or a work of art.

It doesn't make the most sense, so yes, you can laugh now. It's just another one of my weird things (like feet).

Now that we have that out of the way, my back problems started when I was 15. I had some hella lower back spasms that were interfering with my track to becoming a female sports goddess (I was playing basketball, volleyball and soccer that year), so my parents took me to the doctor. The first diagnosis on this roller coaster came back as excess fluid in the joints of my lower back. The doctor gave me a month's worth of pills to take and told me if they didn't work, I'd have to return and have the fluid manually removed.

Manually removed? I was an intelligent 15 year old, so I started thinking about how he would manually remove fluid from inside my lower back joints. I asked the question I dreaded the answer to, and the doc
pulled out what I thought was a gag needle for playing a trick on someone. This syringe was bigger than my arm. (Okay, so my memory may have exaggerated the size of the needle over the years, but nonetheless it was huge, and remember the tidbit of info from above?)

A month later I was still in pain but when the doc asked me at my follow up appointment how the pills had worked for me, I gave him a thumbs up sign and a huge smile. There was no way he was sticking that huge needle in my lower back... we weren't even dating or anything.

First little bump in the roller coaster, and you have to fast forward 8 years for the next turn in the track.

I was 23 and scheduled to be induced to give birth to The Ginger. Pitocin is a mother effer, so once the contractions really started, I requested my epidural. The anesthesiologist came in, numbed my back, and started inserting the tube for the epidural in my lower back. Oops. Hit bone. Let's try again. Oops. Hit bone again. Finally he got it set and walked away. Yeah, it only worked on 1/2 of my body. When he returned to check up on me and found me cursing him, his mother, his mother's mother and so on, he decided we needed to re-insert the epidural tube. Oops. Hit bone again. Finally the dumb ass got it right, and left me to pass into a mini coma, with my spine throbbing through the numbing stuff. To this day you can feel the scar tissue around my spine where my epidural went. Roller coaster big hill- did y'all feel the wind on that one?

Fast forward 3 years and for whatever reason I decided that becoming a tattoo artist would be awesome! I did put a lot of time and thinking into making this decision, but there were 3 things I did not cover when trying to make up my mind:

  1. Having to shave people
  2. Feet
  3. Being hunched over people all day
The pain that had always been centered in my lower back now ran from my neck, down my spine, and exploded in my lower back. I had some disposable cash at that time, so I went to see a chiropractor. After the initial x-rays, his professional opinion was that I had level 3 spinal damage (out of 5 levels) which he had never seen in patients younger than their late 40s. I was 27. 

Call me a fish, because I took that bait, hook, line and sinker. 

I continued the chiropractor visits for a few months until my follow-up x-rays were due, and unlike the first ones (which were free to get you in the door), these were $400, not covered by insurance. So, I backed away from the chiropractor and headed to the doc on base. Same x-rays taken, they looked the same as the ones the chiropractor took, but the last diagnosis came through as my muscles were so tense that they weren't letting my spine relax into its normal position, and that was causing the pain from my neck to my ass.

Wait, no spinal damage? No possible wheel chair by the age of 35 if I didn't get it in check quickly, like the chiropractor told me? I don't even have spinal issues, it's muscular? Son of a... yep.

Now hold here one second. I'm not completely saying the chiropractor was a quack. I loved my visits. I slept better, was in less pain and relaxed a heck of a lot more while I was going to him. I would love to be able to go back to a chiropractor, but money doesn't allow it at the moment. I did thoroughly enjoy my visits, though, and yes, they did help me.

I started with physical therapy to loosen up the muscles, and the doc had given me some muscle relaxers to help (or, what I like to call my Happy Pills). Physical therapy soon became too boring for me (seriously, I was at a go-go-go point in my life, and the hour session 3 times a week was not welcomed), so I downed the muscle relaxers and kept on trucking.

Now, at 31, everyday tasks suck. If I get a day of shopping out and about, I'm almost crippled by the time I get home at night. This move, with carrying boxes up and down stairs, has just about killed me. My shoulder muscles are so tight that hubby has asked if he could try and bounce quarters off of them, and my lower back gets so locked up that I can't even twist and pop it to gain instant relief. I almost live on the muscle relaxers and pain pills the doctor I saw when I first got here gave me. And yet, over the last 16 years, I have found one thing that works... 


Yep, the huge time gap of no pain from when I was a teenager until The Ginger was born, I was doing yoga on a regular basis (well, from about age 19 until 23). 4-5 days a week I'd do a 45 minute yoga routine, and on the days I didn't do a full routine, I'd at least get out of bed and do a sun salutation to start my day. With the exception of lower back pain associated with carrying a child in your abdomen during pregnancy, my back pain was pretty much non-existent.

So go ahead, ask it. "Then why don't you go back to doing yoga, Tatted Mom?"

Because I'm a dumb ass? That's about the only answer I have. I have tried here and there to get back into it, but my back is so screwed up right now that yoga actually hurts me. I know that I just have to keep up with it and the pain will subside while the yoga is strengthening my back to prevent further pain from occurring, but I can't get through the pain right now. It's just easier, with everything going on, to pop a pill (or 4) and go about my day. 

I know, I know. I shouldn't complain about something that I know how to fix but just don't put forth the effort to do so. I've had some emails asking what's wrong with my back (since I'm always posting about Happy Pill Time on facebook), and some readers trying to help me, so I wanted to fully tell the story. I guess this is my way of holding myself accountable, too. By telling the masses my story and how I can fix it, I look like an idiot if I don't follow through with it. I'm not fond of looking like an idiot. It doesn't go with my hair color.

So there you go: A 16 year roller coaster that has taken me from fluid in my joints to level 3 spinal damage to needing to effing relax. Since no 2 providers have ever agreed on anything about my back, I really have no idea what's actually wrong with it. No worries, I have the solution, and with just having signed up for Hulu Plus (we got rid of cable), which has the Gaiam channel, I can yoga-it-up every morning with Rodney Yee (my favorite yoga instructor- his voice is so calming, and he doesn't make me do crazy things like trying to lick my elbows or stick my feet behind my head). I'm super excited about that.

Here's to ending the longest roller coaster of my life. Hell, Hubby and I even figured our shit out in 3 years, and I never thought that would happen.

I will miss my Happy Pills, though. Not only do they kill the pain in my back, they make my Don't-Give-a-Fuck Meter bounce on high. It's fun.

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  1. keep your happy pills. do more (hot) yoga. chiropractors frequently adjust muscles just as they do bones. lots of chiropractors are bone-heads.
    My advice to you and anyone who suffers from incredible muscle pain on the reg...
    Take more Epsom Salt Baths. MOST people (especially people who live more than 50 miles from the ocean) have magnesium sulfate deficiencies..what is mag sulfate? its EPSOM SALT!! It's one of the few minerals our bodies can absorb topically without any ingestion. Epsom salt is proven to help muscles relax. The deficiency is what causes muscle pain!! Now, there's a good way to bathe and bad way to bathe in these salts. Good way: hottest water you can stand, 2-3 cups mag. sulfate, soak for 15-20 minutes. NOT to exceed 20 mins bc you're body will start to re-absorb what toxins have been pulled out by the salts and are in the bath water waiting for the drain.
    You will start to sweat your ass off in the tub. Take some ice cold water with you.
    Add some essential oils to your bath for extra feel-goodness! I use lavender.
    Om Shanti Shanti Shanti sending energetic vibes of relaxations to your lower lumbars and muscles <3

    1. =) Amazing advice. Thank you! (Now picking up epsom salts at Target today...)

  2. I totally know what you mean about the needles, dude. My arms are covered, and whenever I have to get blood drawn or an IV started, I'm looking away, cringing, "oh god I hate needles!" as they search for a vein through the blue ink on my arm... Heh.

    I also have chronic full body pain, and peripheral neuropathy. Haven't yet gotten a diagnosis other than that. I have to take pills, pills, and more pills. I'm trying some vitamin supplements to see if they help, but I haven't found anything yet. I hate being so young, having SO much to do with kids and work and what have you, and I'm a damn ass cripple.


    1. OMG, I am the SAME way when it comes to having blood taken. The techs always look at me and roll their eyes when I ask if they can use the baby needles on me, lol.