Thursday, June 3, 2010

Well, I've always wanted "Buns of Steel"...

Hi. My name is Happy Fun Pants. I have chronic back pain.

The back pain that I have is outrageous at times. It's mostly on my left side where the bra line is going horizontally across my back. The pain is acute - and when it hurts, it hurts badly and NO position makes the pain go away. At night, it's like a toothache - it never really goes away and some movements actually make the zing of pain even worse.

The funny thing is, when I get up and move around, the pain is gone. My back doesn't hurt during the day...but it hurts so badly at night.

At first, when this popped up about three years ago, I thought I had just tweaked a muscle in a bad place. It would hurt for a few days a month (never at the same time during the month) and then go away for a few months.

Unfortunately, it started hurting so badly for weeks at a time. A few years ago, it got so bad that I'd resist going to bed - because I knew that once I laid down to go to sleep I could sleep for an hour or so and then the horrible pain would be back.

Then, as mysteriously as it arrived, it would go away.

I eventually decided that my weight had something to do with it. I lost 35 pounds but the pain still hadn't subsided on a regular basis.

So I bought a new bed. A new Sleep Number $3600 bed. According to the salesperson, the new bed was supposed to solve all of my back problems. It would be like sleeping on the pelts of unicorns! The new bed would follow me all during my life - through any change that my body might go through - pregnancy, amputation, or old age. The new bed would make it easier to get laid and might even make IBS issues resolve themselves! The new bed could run for president! The new bed was the answer to my prayers! So I bought into the hype. I figured that it would allow me to make the bed more soft or hard and since I didn't know what would help, a bed that could do both seemed like the best solution. I paid for the bed and prayed that my car wouldn't break down so that I wouldn't have to call my boss and say "So I can't come into work today because my car broke down...but hey! I got a good night's sleep on my Sleep Number bed!"

For a long time it worked most of the time. I even dropped another 15 pounds. But it got bad again.

At the beginning of the year, I went to go see my doctor about it. She thought that the pain was due to muscles between my ribs (aggravated by a recent snowshoeing trip - or more accurately a recent snowshoeing fall) and prescribed me muscle relaxers to take the pain away. I'm not sure if you've ever been on muscle relaxers, but WOW do they knock me out. Like, one night on it and it occurred to me that I should start sleeping in adult diapers because if I had to pee, I was pretty sure I wouldn't wake up (go to bed in fear of ensuing back pain and wetting the bed - yay!). They mostly stopped the pain but I would have to take them each night. And being addicted to muscle relaxers wasn't on my list of New Year's Resolutions. I stopped taking the pills.

As great as it's been to live at Joe's, the back pain has gotten worse.

So I made a few appointments to see a chiropractor (who had the worst case of coffee breath EVER) that my co-worker recommended. He took X-rays, cracked my back and told me that it was due to bad posture. But when I described the pain (which again, goes away during the waking hours so it's hard to do), I didn't get the feeling that he GOT what was wrong. When I said that I wasn't interested in seeing him at a $50 co-pay three times a week for 8-12 weeks, he got huffy (which again made me want to puke due to the horrendous coffee breath) and pissy (which made me wonder if HE should be wearing adult diapers).

So I saw my doctor again who said that some people just had this type of pain and suggested that maybe I should just rest it a lot.

I've tried heat and I've tried ice (now all I can think of are the lyrics "I've seen fire and I've seen rain") all to no avail.

The thing is, every night the pain would get worse and worse.

Randomly, I talked to my co-worker about it who said that he had had the exact same pain and that he saw a physical therapist for his pain.

Grasping at straws, I saw the physical therapist that he recommended and found out the ugly truth: I have buns of steel.

Basically, what's happened is this. I don't stretch before or after I run. I don't stretch during the day while I'm sitting at my desk at prison work. So the muscles in my butt and my hips are tight that they pull on my back muscles - which get fatigued and sore from being pulled on all day long. So at night? They rebel. They siphon liquor from the liquor cabinet, replace it with water, and then go steal a neighbor's moped to ride around on for hours without calling you to let them know that they are safe. At night my poor back muscles quit and throw a fit and refuse to hold up my own body.

'Member those insults that we threw around as kids? Stuff like "Yo' momma is so fat that she needs her own zip code!" and "Yo' momma is so fat when she walks, she causes the sidewalk to crack!" Well, that's how I feel about this part of the post.

My butt muscles are so tight that they cause me to wake up in pain night after night. My butt muscles are so tight that it takes a masseuse over half an hour to get them from "OMG this is tight!" to "Wow this is kind of tight."

So I'm seeing a physical therapist on a weekly basis. I do exercises with resistance bands at home to try to get other muscles stronger so they can help take the load off of my back muscles. I get monthly massages, which sounds nice until you realize that they are less relaxing and more like "Lady, if you dig any deeper into that muscle, I'll punch you in the face." I'm also supposed to stretch out both at work and at home several times a day. The main areas I stretch are my glutes, my upper hamstrings, and my hip flexors.

The good news is that I can sleep now without pain most nights.

The mornings that I wake up in pain (like this morning) are because I didn't stretch the night before.

My hope is that someone else who is suffering from this chronic and horrible band of pain in their back will somehow stumble upon this blog and find out that physical therapy can help. Stretching your butt and hips can help. Strengthening the muscles around that your back can help.

And as a last resort, consider stocking up on muscle relaxers and adult diapers, just in case. I'm just saying.


Traci said...

Thank you!!! I am sooo going to try to stretch more during the day to hopefully get off these muscle relaxers.

Katy said...

The adult diapers thing made me laugh...a stifeled laugh cause I'm at work/prison. This was a really funny post. Really funny. I was on muscle relaxers once for my back too and took one one night and was knocked out for like a full 24 hrs. Never again. I was like the sister on 16 candles.

Ana said...

I love this post!! I would totally vote for your sleep number bed if it ran for president!

When I hurt my knee I went straight to a Doctor that specialized in Sports Medicine. They seem to want to fix the problem, not just mask it with drugs. It seems like chiropractors are just a quick fix too.

Lesia said...

Wow...great post I hope you have the answer to finally stop the pain. I take sleeping pills and I still have to pee at 2 am every night. It is pretty scary to get up and make it to the potty when your sleeping pills are still working. I might have to get me some of those diapers...LOL

Misspudding said...

Actually, since last summer, when I slept on the couch (my hubby snores) and my pillow fell out from under my head, I've had stupid neck/upper back pain. I think, in my case, it's a herniated cervical disc. :(

In my reading on how to fix it without seeing the doctor (I'm unemployed...weeeeeeee), I've come across information about running and how if you've been a runner for a long time (long enough to call yourself a runner) your hamstrings - and I guess your butt muscles, too - get so strong that they over power your back. And of course, our backs are totally weak because we sit in chairs all day looking at the computer.

Also, we herniate our back discs more often between the ages of 30-50 because that's when they're still filled with gel but not as much as they used to. Once you're over 50 they get totally dried out and brittle...yay!

Um, also, back problems seem to preferentially affect those of us who are 5'8" and taller. :(

But yes, thank you for the info! And I hope you feel better!

Anonymous said...

But the muscle relaxants are so goooood...not. I’m not a fan of being knocked out (although I am a big fan of sleep!)

Great post--good reminder. I never stretch and have been feeling some back/shoulder pain…at night…ugh!

Back to stretching I go!

Becca said...

It is so crazy you wrote all that, that is almost exactly what I have!!!! I have been struggling on and off with the exact same pain. Mine is a little lower in my back. I've been the to doctor, the massage therapy, acupuncture, chrio, physical therapy, the list goes on and on. Nothing has really fixed the entire problem.

I quit it all after awhile, because it just doesn't seem to go away completely. I'm find during the day, most of the time, but at night and in the mornings it's a pain. (Literally and otherwise)

I was stretching constantly on the advise of my physical therapist. Morning, after work, during the day on occasions, and a couple hours before bed. It helped a bit, for awhile. Then it only seemed to make things worse, and I stopped.

Things got better for awhile.
I still struggle with it, and what to do about the back pain.. sometimes it's fine, sometimes not.. just how it's gunna be I guess..

The Babe said...

Dude! I told you we were separated at birth! That's my problem too. It started as low back pain, then hit my sciatic nerve, and since the surgery it has gotten worse and I have numb toes. I think I told you that the CNA bathing me after surgery had me turn around to dry off and all she said was, "Whoah." I may have weight about 350, but I had the buttocks fit for a Beyonce back-up dancer. When we get together you'll have to show me your stretches so I can do them too. :-)

Joy said...

Great post - I hope this works for you! Hugs!

Amanda said...

I have never heard of this and will definitely be filing it away for possible future use. I'm just on the taller side of average (you have me by a full inch) but I have had a lot of issues with my back as well.

I hope those stretches work for you! What a long road to get answers. :(

Results Not Typical Girl said...

I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but reading about your pain made me want to tell you about Egoscue because it has helped SOO many of my friends - including many who were researching surgery for their pain treatment. It's about stretches that help you fall into your natural alignment. It's incredible. The webpage I just found to show you is super cheezy but I'd see if you can find someone in your area that you can hire to show you an hour's worth of these e-cises. Sorry for the volunteer spokesman routine, but check it out; I promise it will totally change your life.