Struggling to be me with chronic pain
Everyday Life With Chronic Back Pain
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As many of you who have been reading this blog for some time know, I live with sacroiliac joint pain and have for more than twenty years. Those particular joints are the two upon which you place your derriere, hold your two lower cheeks together and keep your legs from falling off. The pain from them often extends into the pubic area,the hips, and the lumbar spine and down the legs. Pain in these regions can have an affect on your bowel and bladder habits as well. Recently, the inflammation of those large joints has, for me, been worse than ever. I share this with you to explain why I have low back pain on the brain today, as well as on my backside.
Since I have a brain that tickles easily, I have been remembering an event of many years ago when I was in nursing school. One of my nursing instructors was a lovely, sedate Mormon woman. We all loved her. When we were moving into an instructional segment on bowel and bladder, the other instructors presented her with a dare. We, the entire class, almost fell off our chairs when she walked up to the podium one morning and said, “Shit, shit, shit and piss, piss, piss.” She then said, “Okay, I did it; now let’s get on with class.” I will never forget that.
Today, I’d like to share some tactics, some ideas and even some laughable moments with all of you. I’m certain many of you will have some other helpful ideas and experiences to share and as always, I welcome them and look forward to your feedback.
- When you have pain in the sitter or low back, you find yourself becoming familiar with words like tush, rear end, rump, ass, derriere, buttocks, and my personal favorite, po po. I have my granddaughter’s ballet teacher to thank for that one when she tells the children to “tuck in your po po.” Such a cluster of cute, tiny po po’s in their lavender leotards and white tights.
- Once you’ve received an accurate diagnosis, you need to “take back” your life. Remind yourself you still matter. You’re the same person with the same personality, gifts and blessings. It’s okay to hate what’s happened to you but do not hate or blame yourself. There are hundreds of causes including accidents, DNA and dire disease. If you can find out the cause, do. If you can’t, get started on the treatment.
- I found it helpful to read about the condition, to open my “traditionally trained” nursing brain to alternative treatments and to embrace and inform myself about every treatment possible. I’ve read everything written byDr. Andrew Weil.
- Learn that alternative treatments are your friends. Medications are often needed but even there you need to be informed and knowledgeable about your own reactions and let your doctor know how you feel. Physical therapy, deep therapeutic massage and chiropractics, to name only a few can help you immensely. Give them a try.
- Your bed, a feather pillow or a large or small eggcrate purchased at the medical supply store can become your best friend. Some of us like the air mattresses; others head toward the memory foam or the rubber foam core. The last thing you need is to lose sleep so “try on” a new mattress set before you buy it. Sure, you feel silly but this is your life we’re talking about. It’s also your money. The salesman won’t mind if he knows he can make his commission and a good-hearted one will want you to be happy with your purchase; so bounce away, if you can bounce; if not just lie down for a few minutes. . I would be remiss if I didn’t share with all of you how the old Fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea always plays in my mind at those moments.
- Everyday life will present new challenges. I have often found it difficult to put on my panties and jeans or for you fellas, briefs. Like everything we learn to do, it’s one foot at a time. Sometimes it helps to lie down if you can lift your legs. Socks can be a challenge. There is a special apparatus for that at the medical supply store but I can usually manage with much groaning. Here in Oregon I wear socks almost everyday. I choose socks without any slippery quality to them, for instance nylon can send you on a needless trip across the floor. Neither of us needs to do that. Shoes should always have a good instep and support because, remember, the foot bones connected to the knee bone, etc. You get it. You need a sound foundation and a safe one. Non-skid soles are a must. I find brushing my teeth can be a real challenge if I can’t lean over the sink so I’ve developed a better long distance spit. Hey, a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Getting in and out of a car needs to be done cautiously and dear Lord, give me an old boring “fuddy, duddy” car every time. Love those big heavy suspension systems and those comfortable seats. There are a couple of streets in our old town I avoid because the paving is still made of brick. Much too bumpy, those bricks. When it comes to the kitchen, I’ve given away all my heavy pots and pans. Bags of groceries can more easily be carried in small cloth bags with wider handles. Keep an eye on the bag-out person and tell them not to put three half-gallons of milk into one bag. I often use the grandchildren’s dishes because they are lighter than mine. Shhh. Don’t tell them, okay?
- Find out what works for you. I eat dinner lying down every night. My husband has a big comfortable chair and a tray upstairs in our bedroom and adjusted to it long ago. He’s a dear man. I do sit up to eat when we go out to dinner, which is seldom. I find most of the restaurant floors too dirty to lie down on and the owners kind of frown on it, anyway.
- If you have SI pain or low back pain you must learn how to keep what you have as strong and functioning as possible. I do stretches daily as well aslifting small, light weights. If you don’t have weights, use a can of soup and lift it as many times as you can and build up your arms. They have work to do. The stretches for the low back are also vital to your function, your alignment ( that’s how straight your stance is) and to forestall further malformation.
- When you’re lifting light or moderately heavy objects, keep them close to your body and bend your knees if possible. Do not lift anything heavy. At our house we have learned to use and love the Moving Men. They are available at the hardware stores or on line and once they’re under heavy objects or furniture you can slide it around. You all know how much I love the Roomba portable robot vacuums thanks to hearing about them from one of my dear, regular readers. I have one upstairs and one down; just like maids. If you overdo, remember ice or heat, depending on which works for you. Sometimes it helps to alternate them. Some of us find comfort and help from a TENS unit. See if your insurance will pay for one. My first one cost 0 but now they are very inexpensive. When you get out of bed, it's best to do the log roll. This is accomplished by pushing up on your elbow and coming up on your side instead of sitting straight up. The same applies for getting into bed.
- Keep life simple. I find so much of the superfluous has flown out of my life. I am a new person everyday and that’s a good thing. My Mom always said things would look better in the morning. She was usually comforting me about algebra but it applies to all things. The poet Marcus Aurelius said, eons ago, “Very little is needed to make a happy life. It is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.” The universal truths have not changed just because your body has.
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