A Mom’s Back Pain Plight

A Mom’s Back Pain Plight

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

A Mom’s Back Pain Plight

Since having children, I had severe back pain. Doctors told me it was probably from lifting babies and toddlers and carrying them around on one hip. I knew it initially stemmed from an old water-skiing accident, but lifting and carrying young children certainly exacerbated the problem. I had seen many doctors, been prescribed heavy-duty meds, and been in and out of physical therapy. What was worse is that I was told it was a chronic condition and I would have to learn to live with the back pain.

I finally found a doctor who specialized in lower back pain and seemed to understand my plight, not just as a back pain sufferer, but also as a mommy. While looking over my MRI, she paused for a moment and made a funny noise, almost like a woodpecker pecking at an old tree. Then she turned to me and said, “You have the spine of an eighty-year-old woman.”

“But I’m only thirty!” I screeched. “What does that mean?”

She pointed to the lower vertebrae on my MRI. “These are vertebrae L5, L4 and even L3. See how thin they are compared to your other vertebrae?”

I nodded.

“They should be thicker and spongy, but yours look worn down, like an old lady’s spine. Probably from a previous injury.”

My mind raced back to the water skiing incident when I was a teenager. “So what will I be like when I’m eighty?” I asked, sort of joking but not really. Visions of walkers and wheelchairs now flashed in my head.

“You will probably need surgery at some point, to fuse the vertebrae. That often helps.”

The doctor continued to examine me. My back was out of line as well and one hip was higher than the other. “Often carrying children around on one side and lifting children can cause back pain,” she said.

I nodded again. I could see that being a problem. I had been lifting babies for three years now.

“You could also lose some weight. Excess weight means more pressure on your body, your feet and of course, your spine.”

I nodded again. I knew that was a problem. After my second child, getting the baby weight off was hard, if not impossible. I had little time to take care of my family, let alone take care of me. I let out a long, deep sigh.

“I’ll send you to a physical therapist and in the meantime, exercise at home, take this prescription, use ice packs and by all means, stop carrying your kids around!” She smiled, knowing that often it was hard to refuse a two-year-old who wanted nothing more than to be picked up by Mommy. I scoffed at the medicine she prescribed and waved the prescription in the air. “These make me so tired,” I said. “I can’t function as a mom!”

“I know — take them at night when you’ll be asleep anyway. They will help.”

I followed the regimen as well as I could and my back soon got better. I was careful about bending over and picking things up, especially little ones. I let my husband Jeff help out more and encouraged nightly back rubs. He also helped me with my exercises.

Things were going well until the kids, my husband and I scrambled into my brother’s pick-up truck for a fun outing at the beach. We were on vacation and Jon had a beach pass. The only problem was that we had to four-wheel-drive on a rocky road to get to the beach. We bounced and rocked and were jostled about to the beach and then four hours later, back. About halfway home I felt a dull ache in my lower back but ignored it. When we got home, hot and sandy and sunburned, and I slid out of the pick-up truck, an excruciating pain shot through my back and down my leg. It was so painful I let out a cry and fell to the ground. My brother and husband rushed over and picked me up but I could not stand on my own.

The muscles spasms in my back felt like a knife was continually being plunged in and out. My brother and Jeff carried me into the house and lay me down on my bed. Jeff sort of knew the drill, even though I had never had back pain this bad. He got me the ibuprofen, ice and started to massage my lower back while Jon watched the kids.

The next morning I could not get up. I could hardly move. I lay in bed and listened while I heard the laughter and conversation of my family enjoying their vacation. My children visited me throughout the day, showing me things they collected on the beach, kissing me with peanut butter and jelly-smeared faces and even sitting on the bed pretending to read me a story. Jeff continued to give me back rubs, helped me with the exercises my physical therapist suggested, cooked, cleaned, entertained, and played the role of both mom and dad. I hated it! I hated being catered to. I was not an invalid! I wanted to live life, not just watch it pass me by and although I rather liked not cooking or cleaning, I would have given anything to be able to do those things.

“You really need to get up and try to walk around,” Jeff said. “Remember, moving is good, not bad.”

Despite how much it hurt, I got up every few hours and shuffled around the room. After three days, my back was better and although it ached continually, the sharp pains subsided. I could walk and sit for short periods. I was sort of back in vacation mode, but severely restricted in what I could do.

When I got home, I resumed physical therapy and I resumed life, but from a different perspective. I realized that I could play an active role in my family’s life, but I just could not do things I might have taken for granted before. Now, I never lift, push or pull heavy objects. I always ask for help. I don’t ride horses, roller coasters that jerk the body suddenly or go four-wheeling. I don’t rake leaves or shovel snow. I avoid any motion that might cause my back to go out or be strained. I buy shoes that support my feet, remember to have good posture and try to walk a lot. Moving, including swimming, has helped to strengthen my back and I’ve lost some weight too.

Sometimes there is a lot to remember and sometimes I strain my back. When it happens, I grab the ice, the ibuprofen and my husband. I take care of the problem before it does me in. I’ve realized that in order for me to take care of others, I need to take care of myself first. I’m not sacrificing anything either. It was hard at first to realize I just couldn’t do things I always loved, like ride horses, but that was a sacrifice I was willing to make.

I’m sure I’ll always have chronic back issues and that my spine is still like that of an elderly woman, but I’ve been back-pain-free for almost ten years. I’ve not seen a physical therapist in that time and the strongest medication I’ve needed is ibuprofen. I probably won’t bungee jump like my seventy-year-old father-in-law, but I have no doubt I will be enjoying life.

~ Jennifer Bond Reed ~

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