As you all know, I have had some ongoing back pain recently that stubbornly refuses to heal (although it has seemed a bit better in the past week or so). After talking with some friends who are fans of the practice, and reading up about it online, I decided to try a little inversion therapy. After checking out all the pros and cons of the various types, I settled on this fairly inexpensive thing-a-ma-bob (and really, what can’t you order on Amazon these days?):
It was kind of a pain to assemble, but with a little help (thanks cousin and uncle!) it is put together and I had my first, er, inversion session. I hung upside down (well, at about 70 degrees anyway) for about 5 minutes. I felt a little light headed at first, but pretty good right now. I plan to do this a couple of times a day over the next week or two, and I will let you know how the experiment works out. If it turns out to be useless as a back pain relief tool, I suppose the mechanics of the thing do suggest numerous other possible uses (use your imagination here and try not to blush.)
And I am not just talking about the weather, although the last few days have been a mix of fog and rain and periods of glorious sunshine. I went to see the sports medicine specialist a few days ago about my back and he prescribed a round of prednisone which has really impeded my ability to concentrate the last few days. This drug is pretty toxic, they actually use the same on transplant patients to lower their immune system response to prevent rejection. It has made me weak and confused, and I am glad to be almost done with it. And although I think it has made my back pain a little better, mostly it has just changed the character of it somewhat from “pinchy” to “achey” if I had to describe the difference. And yesterday, I went to have an MRI for my lumbar area, and the doctor called later in the afternoon with the preliminary results. He told me there does seem to be a “disc issue” in the lower back between the 4th and 5th vertebrae. So I will go back to him next week for follow up. I like this guy, he is very upfront and it was nice that he called me to discuss the results in advance, but even he told me last week that if you took an MRI of any 10 people and looked at them, you would probably see problem areas or abnormalities, whether or not they were complaining of any pain. So it could be that my 4th and 5th vertebrae always looked like that, who knows. This naturally leads me to a question I always have vis a vis pain. Namely, if pain is a signal from your body to you that something is wrong, should you not fix it? Or does it really matter if you can simply get rid of the pain? Let’s say my vertebrae are screwed up or out of alignment from some perfect or “normal” state. So what if I am not experiencing any pain or discomfort because of it? One can also think of tons of examples where people are in pain, but there is no underlying problem to “fix”. The scientist/engineer/programmer in me can’t help but want to fix bugs and problems, but if there is no outward manifestation of these problems, and the body/machine/program is working, why bother chasing an underlying perfection? There are often times in my own work where (especially examining code that I wrote years ago) I see how something could have been built in a much more efficient or better way. I may cringe at design decisions I made at the time that I would never make today. But if the site or project continues to work just fine for the client, so what? Seeking perfection for its own sake is foolish, as it does not exist.
So, as everyone within earshot knows, my lower back has been fucked up (that’s the technical term btw) for over a month. In that time, while traveling, I have seen two massage therapists, one osteopath, and a doctor (who at least prescribed me pain meds and told me to get a scan when I got home). But let’s face it, it is hard to deal with a problem like this when one is on the move every couple of days, often in a very bumpy vehicle. Add to that the constant lifting of bags and the full Goldilocks array of bed types and hotels, and it isn’t too surprising that I haven’t exactly been able to follow a rigid treatment plan. I have an appointment with a specialist tomorrow, but today I went to see an acupuncturist that my cousin highly recommended and that I had made an appointment with two weeks ago from the road while in a moment of exasperation. When you are in constant pain, you are willing to try anything to alleviate it. My past experiences with acupuncture have not exactly made me a huge fan, but neither have they been super negative. The woman I went to see today seemed a better practitioner than the last one I went to, and she seemed to really understand what was causing my pain anyway. She stuck all kinds of needles into my front and back sides, and I jerked and jumped quite a few times as they were going in. I can’t really say that this healed my back, but it certainly didn’t make it any worse, and I at least left feeling pretty relaxed. I may go back and see her in about 10 days time, or I may not, depending on what I hear from the other doc tomorrow and how my back feels over the next couple of days.