Tuesday, June 3, 2008

My Poor Back

I don't talk about my back much. At least I don't on this site. My family hears about it (and sees it) pretty much on a daily basis. The truth of the matter is I live with chronic back pain. I don't take many drugs to help me out with this as I prefer to stay clear headed. Instead, I meet the pain head on and do stretches, yoga exercises and when really bad, I go to my chiropractor.

There are two women who run the chiropractic office I go to. Both are good and have different ways of getting the job done. It's Dr. Maria I dread seeing when I drop in unscheduled, but she will stretch the living daylights out of me. This deep stretching business, beyond what I can do by myself, is what helps the most. Deep heat and electrical stimulation are beneficial as well.

This past weekend, my patient workload was 557 pounds (divide by 2.) One was on a continually rotating bed which was a Godsend, the other required frequent manual turns. Patients like these are the reason I can't do my job anymore. I am 100% convinced that this backbreaking workload and chronic pain have worn my psyche to the core. In one article I read in the American Journal of Critical Care, according to OSHA recommendations, I shouldn't be lifting so much by myself. In fact, 46 pounds should be my limit. OSHA also says the following to try to prevent back injury:

"A reduction in the size or weight of the object lifted. The parameters include maximum allowable weights for a given set of task requirements; the compactness of a package; the presence of handles, and the stability of the package being handled."

I've never had a patient come complete with handles (we aren't talking love handles here) or conveniently weighing only 46 pounds. I don't work in peds but I don't think they come with handles either. Although other areas of the hospital have lifts, our ICU does not. The lifts in our unit are human. My, but isn't this patient pictured here cooperative? Not reality.

Yesterday wasn't a bad day for my back but today, I could hardly roll out of bed. I couldn't do it without stretching first and then I had to apply my tens unit (I obviously need to see Dr. Maria today.) This seems to be how it goes for me. After a couple of days of work, on my second day off, I will be brought low by excruciating pain. I measure the injury by where I feel the pain. If it's centrally located in the middle of my lumbar back, I've overdone it a wee bit. If I feel aching deep in my left gluteus most maximus, I'm heading toward trouble. If I feel it behind my left knee, I've been an idiot.

Nothing, nothing was like the initial few weeks of this insult 3 years ago. I felt pain in my toes. It was weeks before I had the MRI that diagnosed my problem: herniation of L4 to L5 and L5 to S1 and piriformis syndrome. This explained why I had a throbbing toothache-like pain in my toes. It was weeks before I could sit on a soft surface. I would work a full shift and never sit down (since I was training a new nurse, all I did was teach and supervise; she did the backbreaking work.) When at home, I sat on the hardwood floor or had family drag a kitchen chair in front of the television for me. It was a celebratory day when I could finally place my ass on a balance ball and sit there. It was even better when I could once again do a back-bend over said ball.

Nowadays, I try very hard to listen to my back when it starts squawking at me. It's a bit hard to listen when I'm at work and responsible for lifting, turning and repositioning objects that weigh more than 46 pounds and have no handles. Five more shifts and this will end.


Wendy said...

I have the same injuries as you, plus one other. Oh, I wonder if I could ever, ever do that on a ball!

Rudee said...

With time and conditioning, you probably will. PT will help you get there. My own trick with the ball was to squat in front while someone else stabilized it and roll back from a squat. Eventually, once I could sit on soft surfaces, I didn't need a helper.

Marlina said...

Relate to your post about back & disc issues. Early January, I didn't get an MRI but all symptoms pointed to C5-6. On a pain scale 1-5, I reached 4.75 several times in the 8-week period following that Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu class (a martial art and combat sport that focuses on grappling and especially ground fighting). First time visitors should never be asked to pair up a 5.1, 115 pound Filipina (me) with a 6+, 220 pound dude (a long-time member of the studio) with arms the same circumference has her legs. Yah, right? My team of Chiropractors, rehab guy, massage therapist, and acupuncturist all told me to "take it easy", "take time off of work", "pull back from training/workouts"...How was I supposed to do that when I had the Rock-N-Roll half marathon in June! My first half ever. Ghurrrr! Tear-jerking, crawl-to-the-bathroom PAIN...that's how! Yikes. My biceps tendon went out of the groove, I had "zingers" with manual adjustments in my upper spine so we had to go to the little clicker and activator method for a little while until the inflammation calmed down enough for Palmer. Lying in bed with ice-packs for several days was not the best way to train for a half marathon but rest turned things around in my healing path. In those entire 8-weeks, no pain-killers, no muscle relaxants, no drugs of any kind, no hospitals, all plant-based regenerative nutrition, and lots of prayers! April 11th, I ran in the Seahawks 12K race and did 10 min-miles. Better than I thought. I missed the Rock-N-Roll half June 26th due to knee injuries but now on track for Seattle half this November 28th. Being confined to bed-rest gave me time to think about my passions in life. I decided to start working on my skill set as an athletic trainer and in the process of completing a few more certifications. My specialty is in working with those who are "joint-challenged" but want to improve or maintain their fitness levels without exacerbating their injuries. I applaud your approach, praise your courage and appreciate your blog. I ran a crossed your post when I was looking for backbend over the ball photo for my blog and Facebook post on www.movetobefit.com or http://movetobefit.blogspot.com, and FB http://www.facebook.com/pages/MOVE-To-Be-Fit/131738443508450. Cheers to your continued path toward healing. Be sure to connect with me on FB or blogs. Marlina

Marlina said...

Hi Rudee - Please check out my comment for your post. It was too long and required pictures so I created a post on my blog. Enjoy the read! M~