Uh Oh

Uh Oh

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Say Goodbye to Back Pain!

Uh Oh

Bounce! Bounce! Bounce! It was the summer of 1968. I was bouncing on the large trampolines at the Asbury Park boardwalk. The sea air was blowing in from the Atlantic Ocean just a few hundred yards away and the smell of popcorn and cotton candy permeated the air. Ahhhh… summer time! The world was perfect on this first day of summer vacation! That is until I was flat on my back with a terrible wrench, the worst pain I had experienced in my ten years.

Back at the rental cottage Mom gave me a couple of aspirin to ease the pain and I drifted off into slumber. The next morning I was told there was no lazing around in bed even if I was sore, so I slowly, painfully donned my new bathing suit and moved very deliberately as we made our way to the beach. Once there I planted my feet in the sand where the waves were crashing at mid-chest level in order to feel the rhythmic push and pull which seemed to loosen the pinched nerves and muscles. Once tired of standing in the water I lay down on the hot sand, which soothed the aches.

Before our vacation was complete ten days later I was back to running and playing with the other kids. I could now look back on that evening at the trampolines thinking how silly I must have looked flailing around like a fish out of water while trying to make my legs work and crying through tears of pain. What a humiliating memory, but little did I know there was more in store.

Fast forward to my rambunctious and rebellious late teenage years in Provo, Utah. One, two, twist, bend down, then up, untwist and repeat on the other side. I was doing windmill toe touches as part of my morning exercise routine when I sneezed and ended up on the floor unable to move, home alone and with a phone clear across the room. My legs wouldn’t move and I was once again helpless as shooting stars were blazing in front of my eyes from the pain. The memory of the trampoline came flooding back to me! It took six weeks for me to get back to normal after that incident.

Once again jump forward. I was the single parent of a three-year-old, living in New York City. It was a cold, wet March day as we made our way home on the A train to upper Manhattan from midtown. The train was full and there were no seats so I grasped my son’s little hand firmly while hanging on to the overhead strap with the other hand. We were rhythmically swaying with the movement of the train when once again — ouch! I would have fallen right then but there was nowhere to fall since there were bodies pressed tightly all around me.

As the train car emptied a little more at each stop I found myself sinking to my knees. No one offered assistance or even asked if there was anything wrong. When we got to our station I crawled out of the train car onto the platform, desperately clutching my son’s hand. He didn’t understand what had happened and thought we were playing a game so he crawled along next to me. Thank God for the innocence of children.

The platform and the long tunnel we had to exit from the 191st Street station were wet, muddy and filthy. Leaving the tunnel we still had three blocks to go before reaching our apartment. The rain was now a downpour, so the sidewalks and streets we had to cross were even wetter, muddier and filthier than the tunnel. Luckily my son was adventurous and the tears streaming down my face from the pain were mingling with the rain so he didn’t realize our predicament. My stockings were torn to shreds, our hands and knees were filthy, our clothes were drenched from the rain and tears were still streaming down my face. A kindly neighbor held the main door for us and then held the elevator and assisted us to our apartment on the third floor. She unlocked the door for us and then helped me to undress and get into the tub. She fed my son, put him to bed and even brought me a plate of food. I soaked in the tub until the pain subsided enough that I could stand up and go to bed. It took me a few months to recover from that one.

Two years later I was riding in an elevator when the power went out and the elevator abruptly jolted to a stop. Again, it took a few months to recover.

Over the years I have had continued episodes of intense pain and debilitating muscle spasms. I’ve learned that I will eventually recover from each flare-up. I live a full life these days in a small, rural Idaho town. I enjoy hunting, fishing, hiking, horseback riding and gardening, but I am always aware of anything that sets off a twitch or pain in my lower back. I offer daily prayers of gratitude to the doctors and therapists who have helped me relieve my pain over the years and also those who have taught me techniques such as visualization, meditation and guided imagery to assist me in my desire to refrain from using prescription painkillers. My back problems are something that I have learned to accept and manage, and I go on with a full life despite them.

~ Laura D. Hollingshead ~

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