So, I don’t usually say much about my back pain here because it is such a pervasive thing in my life that I hardly find it noteworthy. Some days are good, some days not so good. For a couple years there, I rotated between modalities, getting either rolfing, chiropractic, or deep tissue massage once a week. It was serious, time consuming work and it got to be an expensive experiment with very little pay off. I’d feel great directly afterwards and then a few hours later or the next morning, the pattern would creep in again. I’ve had multiple ergonomic evaluations at work and have a fancy, split keyboard and special, Swedish chair. I alternate between sitting on the Swede and sitting on my balance ball. I mostly eat organic and vegatarian and try to minimize the bad stuff that can go into a body (although I could stand to cut back on the sugar). I try to drink lots of water every day. I’ve done movement classes (a lightweight combo of yoga and dance).
And, after all of this, the things that have helped the most are yoga and tango. Here’s my theory about the root of the problem … in case you didn’t know, I was born without hip sockets. In short, the piece of bone that wraps around the outside of the hip socket was still cartilege when I was born, and so my legs could twist backwards like Barbie’s. To deal with it, my legs were locked in a brace for most of the first couple of years of my life in order to hold them in position while the cartilege turned to bone. I have no memory of this except that I’ve noticed that when I get tense, the band of muscles around where the brace went (around the top of my hips and my abdomen)lock up, and then my top half feels disconnected from my bottom half. Anyway, the outcome is that, although I now have hip sockets, I’m still quick flexible in my hips–so flexible that my trouble is really with balance and using my core muscles. My pattern is instead to push outward against something (like an imaginary brace) in order to hold up my own body weight. Sitting for more than say 10 minutes in chairs less comfy than say a plush arm chair are always problematic for me. I squirm and lean and eventually can only get comfortable by bending a knee up towards my chest and wedging my foot up on my chair next to my hip. And this only keeps me comfortable for a time.
Well, lately two things have happened: I haven’t been dancing as much because I’ve been spending more time with Hermes and I haven’t been sitting upright in a chair all day, having to support my own weight since I’ve been on a 5 week sabbatical from work. I’ve been on the laptop sure, but I’ve been reclined on a couch with the weight of my arms support by the furniture and not my core muscles. First, with the decreased dancing and yoga, the back problems started to creep in again. But not seriously so. But then I went back to work and right away everything locked up again. Now, I’m back to calling a massage therapist in desperation about once a week to help unlock my quadratus lumborum (the core, big, rectangular muscles on either side of the spine that go from about the sacrum to about the bra line). (Yes, I’ve dealt with this problem for so long, I actually know the names of the affected araes.) Sometimes, the problem even cascades up into my neck or down into my hips (gluts and piriformis and TCF). Often, it’s due to chronically tight psoas and iliacus muscles (which are probably patterned to be shortened due to being locked in the sitting position for two years). (Ever had your psoas massaged? That’s an experience worth paying for but only with someone you trust a lot.)
In my singing days, the situation would get so bad that I couldn’t sing well because the tightness prevented me from breathing from my diaphragm. I remember one concert where I had gotten a fantastic massage just hours before and I couldn’t believe how beautiful and free my voice sounded. It was like I had never even heard that voice before. Lately, the pain has been waking me up at night. Even pigeon pose isn’t getting to all of the stuck spots (and that always used to do the trick). The tension is making its way into legs and I’m getting tingling down my left leg where the muscles are constricting the sciatic nerve. It has been very frustrating.
Now, I’m sure you are all thinking, “Well, girl, then go back to yoga and dancing!” And you have a point. I would not disagree with you. But please understand … it is hard to think about logistically adding much else into my life without going insane. So, there’s my first problem to solve. Since I can’t take that time away from the thing that gives me the most discomfort (work), I’ll have to take it away from the things that give me the most mirth and emotional stability. What do I give up in order to do this? (The non-working hours classes at the yoga studio that I once loved are so full that they make me claustrophobic now. So, add on the need to find a new yoga studio that has good teachers but isn’t jam packed. In Boulder, yeah, good luck. Oh, yeah, I do some self-massage at home, but my cat has now hidden the tennis ball I use. Add new tennis balls to list.)
The second deal is that this pain wears on me emotionally. It makes me more sensitive and more easily frustrated. On top of this, physical stuff causes me emotional unease. I don’t know how to explain this but doing something that makes me feel uncoordinated usually makes me cry like a cry baby. It is just weird and inexplicable. I don’t know where it comes from, but it’s from some place really early. And then I just feel humiliated. I always avoided sports as a kid. The only things I liked were things I could do by myself (bicycling and swimming). I loathed ski lessons. Later, when, on my own initiative, I learned to snowboard as an adult and even I got pretty damn good, I was SO proud of myself. It isn’t like I am a fancy rider or a hot shit racer, but still I can go and have a lot of fun because I’m doing something well and it feels easy now. This may not seem like a big deal to most people (especially to the Snowboarding Snobs of Colorado), but it has been a HUGE deal for me.
Anyway, here am I. Back to having problems again. I’m at work, typing this while lying on pillows under my desk. Hermes is being supportive of me taking time out of our schedule to do what I need for myself. I’ve put in a request for a new ergo eval at work (although I don’t think that anything shy of getting a couch in my cube is going to help). And I’ve made an appointment with an Osteopath that just helped my friend out of worse back pain than I have. So, we’ll see.
P.S. BTW, I don’t want your advice. Especially if you want me to go to Pilates. You would be about the zillionth person to insist that I try Pilates. I will go. Eventually. But see previous pararaphs for the delay. I know people mean well. But I’ve already got more advice than I know what to do with. And their obvious frustration with my condition only triggers that space in me where I feel blamed for my pain because I’m not doing the most obvious (to them) things that should fix it and so I have no right to whine. I’m already hard enough on myself as it is; I don’t need anyone else’s help. Mostly, what I need is loving empathy and the kind of support that can get me past emotional blocks so that I can take care of the physical part without much ado.