logo image

The Back Pain Saga

Over the course of roughly the last 11 years I’ve lived with chronic back and shoulder pain. From time to time I would mention it to my doctor, and go for an x-ray, but the pain never really reached a level so bad that a little dose of over the counter medicine couldn’t handle.

Until about 7 weeks ago.

One Friday morning, while getting ready for an early meeting at work, I noticed that the pain had intensified overnight. At first, I thought that maybe I had slept in a strange position and that surely the pain would dissipate after a hot shower and a little stretching.

Unfortunately, neither the shower nor the stretching helped, but I struggled through the process of getting dressed (trying to put on pants was extremely painful and the movement felt like someone was trying to tear my arm off of my body), and headed to work.

I learned that by holding my arm a certain way and not making any sudden movements, the pain could be held at bay and was at least almost bearable.

During the course of the hour-long meeting, the stabbing sensation only intensified, and had finally reached such an intense level that one of my bosses suggested I go home, call my doctor, and have it checked out.

As expected, my doctor sent me for yet another x-ray, and suggested I up the dosage of the pain medicine I was taking while we waited for the results (at this point, it was around 11 AM and I’d already had 2 aleve and 4¬†ibuprofen, which masked the pain, but made me wonder what kind of damage so much medication would have on my body).

While waiting for a diagnosis from the x-ray, and for my doctor to develop a treatment plan, the pain finally started to go away. In the past, I’d be relieved that the pain was gone and just let the issue drop, hoping that it wouldn’t come back.

This time, I decided that 11 years was long enough, and that something needed to be done. After the x-rays were examined and my doctor didn’t see any glaring abnormalities in my spine to cause such pain, I happily accepted the recommendation to see a physical therapist.

By the time I was able to make an appointment and start treatment, the pain was pretty much gone, but I was able to pinpoint the locations that always flare up well enough that my therapist was able to determine the source and a treatment plan.

Since I can’t remember ever being injured in that area, the best guess we could come up with is that my color guard days in high school somehow caused my shoulder muscles to develop abnormally, and has only continued to get worse over time. My therapist was surprised when the initial strength and mobility tests came back with me being very weak (not a surprise to me at all), but that my range of movement was more in line with that of a baseball/softball pitcher (apparently twirling flags and spinning sabers did more damage than I’d expected).

While I’d love to say that physical therapy has been all sunshine and roses, most of the time it’s quite the opposite. My therapist has been really great at pushing me to my limits, and I try really hard to not whine while there, since I know that he’s only trying to help, and that retraining muscles to work properly isn’t something that happens easily or without work.

I’ve learned a lot of cool new tricks to make my shoulder/arm function normally, and have developed a heightened sense of awareness for that part of my body. I’m not 100% “fixed” yet, but I know I’m at least heading in the right direction now.

At times, I wish that I’d made the decision to fix my pain problem a long time ago, but figure better late than never works in this situation. The whole physical therapy process has been a learning experience for me, and a wake up call of sorts, where I’ve learned that letting things fester and remain untreated will only make them worse, and while it’s not always fun or easy, sometimes you have to suck it up and deal with hard things to make them better.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: