Well… just as I thought I had healed my back, I’ve only gone and ‘popped’ a disc again.Continue reading Back again
Well, I think I can safely say that 2012 hasn’t been the greatest year for my health.
After a recurrence in May of the same lower back pain that disabled me for nearly a month last autumn, I managed to trap a couple of nerves in my neck (cervical vertebrae C6 and C7, I am told) about a month ago.
It started as a really sore right shoulder and neck; to the point that I couldn’t move it. I now realise that this was swelling, to allow my body to protect the nerves. This lasted about 1-2 weeks… after which my right arm started to go numb.
I phoned NHS 24. “That sounds like a nerve problem, see your doctor tomorrow.”
I got an appointment with a GP the next morning. “That sounds like a trapped nerve, take painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication and it should settle down in about 6 weeks or more.”
The next day my left arm started to go numb too.
A friend of mine, Andrew, at the University of St Andrews, recommended that I see Clayton Hardisty at the St Andrews Physiotherapy Practice.
He has been excellent. The numbness/pain has now been reduced to just my right thumb now, and occasionally my arm starts to go numb again but dropping my arms to my sides seems to help. Which makes it feel awkward to type but otherwise I’m getting by.
This week I even managed to get back to cycling, and set a personal best on the Home – Kilrenny – B9131 – Home circuit. And that was me taking it easy! But it may have had something to do with my posture.
I’ve never thought about my posture so much since I sang in the National Youth Choir of Great Britain and we were introduced to elements of the Alexander Technique. At the time I foolishly dismissed it as being irrelevant to me because I wasn’t going into professional singing or drama.
I’ve noticed how often I slouch. I’ve noticed how often I sit (or cycle) with my shoulders pushed up and my head pulled down into it like a tortoise.
And occasionally, ever so occasionally, I get a glimpse of life before this, with no odd sensations. That’s what I’m aiming for…
On Saturday 24 September, over two weeks ago, I did something to my back that left me barely able to stand let alone walk. I am still on the mend.
I suspect that a number of factors contributed to the intense back spasms that left me immobile that day, including sleeping badly in the spare room bed while on Isaac-watch, carrying both toddlers at the same time, an increase in the amount of cycling I’ve been doing and cutting the grass at the back of the house, that fateful Saturday afternoon, was probably the erm… straw that broke the camel’s back, so to speak.
With the grass cut Isaac came out to sit on on a rug in the middle of the lawn at watch me while I pottered around finishing off tidying up the edges and trimming a couple of bushes; Reuben and Joshua both insisted on ‘helping’ me with the secateurs. Those were a nervous few minutes while I encouraged them to not accidentally chop their own fingers off.
Within a couple of minutes the boys had ran off to help Jane round the front of the house where she was now cutting the grass. I sat down on the rug and chatted with Isaac for a moment.
When I got up: I couldn’t.
Stubbornly, I put the garden tools away in the shed using the Dutch hoe as a support. I ate dinner and then, encouraged by Jane, went to lie down in bed to rest my back.
I’ve had back twinges before which have gradually eased over the course of the week with applications of a heat rub ointment, a little massage, a hot-water bottle over the stiff area and painkillers. So at that point I wasn’t overly concerned.
After a short sleep I got up to go to the loo. Only I couldn’t move; at all. My lower back went into the most excruciating spasms, whenever I tried, that felt like my back was trying to snap me in two.
It then took me the next 25-30 minutes to literally crawl to the en suite bathroom. A distance of about six metres.
Jane phoned NHS 24 (0845 4 24 24 24), Scotland’s health information and self-care advice line, for advice. Their advisers were busy but would phone us back within three hours; it was about 19:45 at this point.
At 11:15 they phoned back, and said that they would send out a doctor to my bedside straight away.
The doctor arrived at 01:15. Five-and-a-half hours after we’d phoned; that’s quite a long time to be lying, immobile in pain. The doctor apologised saying that the message had only been passed on from NHS 24 to the St Andrews Community Hospital shortly after midnight.
Voltarol and morphine
I have to say that the doctor was lovely. I’d seen him before at the out of hours service, that time for what turned out to be a chronic prostate infection. He listened, was gentle, sympathetic and gave me a whacking great injection of Voltarol in my bottom to address both the pain and inflammation.
When he left I drifted off into a drug- and exhaustion-induced sleep.
Only to wake about two hours later; I was desperately needing another wee. This time though I only managed to get as far as standing next to my bed. I couldn’t move any further without inducing the most horrific pain. I ended up weeing into a bucket that Jane kindly balanced on my bedside chair!
With me back in bed she called NHS 24 again, around 03:15. The same on-call GP, Dr Bird, turned up around 05:15 and this time gave me a shot of morphine into my bottom.
It didn’t really touch the pain but it did allow me to relax enough to fall into a longer sleep. I came to around 10:00 on Sunday morning. Thankfully I wasn’t scheduled to conduct any services.
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday
On Sunday afternoon, one of Jane’s friends who is an osteopath visited and spent around two hours with my back, gently converting me from a plank of wood into an old man.
Over the next few days I rested, alternately applied ice packs and hot-water bottles to my lower back, stumbled around and generally tried to follow the advice I’d been given by the doctor and osteopath.
I obviously over did it on Wednesday because by 17:00 I was lying on my bed once again screaming in pain as my back went into spasms.
I was screaming so loudly that Jane had to close our bedroom window in case passers-by or neighbours thought that I was being murdered! I was also aware that I was frightening Reuben and Joshua who, bless them, despite their fear wanted to stay around and “help daddy”.
Jane phoned NHS 24—with me screaming in the background! They said that they would call back within three hours.
I couldn’t wait that long.
“Help me!” I pleaded with Jane. Knowing, actually, that there was little she could do to instantly relieve me of this pain.
Jane grabbed an ice pack from the freezer, and that coupled with an electric, ‘buzzy’ back massager that Jane had bought for my Christmas years before brought the spasms under control.
Jane called NHS 24 back, nearly two hours after calling them, to cancel the request to phone us back.
I got an emergency appointment on Thursday (29 September) morning with one of the practice GPs; I rarely get to see my own these days.
He offered me Tramadol. I gently declined as it gives me hallucinations; and not the happy kind.
I walked away with a prescription for Co-codamol 30 mg/500 mg (that’s codeine and paracetamol) and Diazepam 2 mg (1 or 2 to be taken three times a day), and the advice that. despite my kidney condition, I could also take Ibuprofen for a short period if I needed it.
They’re not called patients for nothing…
And so I wait.
No lifting, no bending, no stretching, no sitting for extended periods of time. I just need to find a balance between rest and activity and gently allow my back to heal.
Jane’s osteopath friend returned on Thursday (6 October) and spent about an hour with me, which again really helped.
I do feel my back getting slightly stronger each day but the slow progress is frustrating.
I want to get back to work but I’m still feeling quite spaced out from the Diazepam and when I tried to do a full day yesterday, Sunday, getting up around 07:30 and not returning to bed for a rest until after 18:00 I was absolutely exhausted. I fell asleep on the sofa around 19:00!
I just need to be a patient patient.