RheumaBlog

Same dragon, different day.

For all of my adult life I’ve been admonished, from one job to the next, to lift boxes, etc. properly to avoid injuring my back. And all my adult life I’ve met other adults who did hurt their backs, presumably because they foolishly ignored the warning. I’ve seen posters, illustrations in employee handbooks and fliers from safety briefings that employ stick figures or models demonstrating the safe and proper lift techniques. I’ve always taken note, and I’ve always tried to comply.

You can see where this is leading, yes?

On Thursday, as I was taking my uncle’s collapsed wheelchair from the back of his gigantic SUV, I injured my back. I didn’t notice at the time. I’ve lifted that bloody wheelchair into and out of that car dozens of times in the last year. Each time—including this one—I tried to be careful, even though the wheelchair is awkward and unwieldy.

I’ve always been a lot stronger and tougher than I look. I’ve moved furniture, hefted boxes full of household items, pitched hay, cleaned stalls and lifted heavy saddles onto the backs of tall horses. To get into the Air Force I had to dead-lift 60 pounds from the floor to over my head. I’ve generally managed to lift or move heavy stuff whether there was a man with larger muscles than mine nearby to help or not. Usually there was not. I’m used to getting an astonished “you moved that?!” from friends, family members and colleagues, after the fact. And I’ll be honest. I’ve always taken an odd sort of pride in my 5-foot-4-inch Mighty Mouse prowess.

But this time, I did myself in. Two hours after the fateful lift I started feeling some unaccustomed pain in my lower back and across my hipbones. I’ve only very rarely experienced low back pain; it’s always been mild and fleeting when I have. This time, I noted it and went on with making supper. The hip pain didn’t feel much like my usual bursitis pain, and it didn’t feel like my old nemesis, the rheuma-dragon, either. Ominous.

By the time I got home to my mom’s house, the pain was deeper and more insistent. Uh-oh, thinks I. I’ve screwed up my back. How…?… and then, of course, I remembered muscling that folded wheelchair into and out of the back of uncle’s tank-like SUV.  Just like I always do. Why did I hurt myself this time? What did I do wrong?

I’m not sure, but I bet it had something to do with straight legs, a bent back, and a quick, twisting heft. All wrong.

I slept rather poorly Thursday night. No surprise, really. I pushed myself through the day yesterday at aunt and uncle’s place again, making breakfast, grocery shopping and preparing meals for evening and the weekend. At one point in the mid-afternoon I took more pain medication and snatched a gel pack from the freezer, plopped myself into a chair, put my feet up and iced my furiously complaining back. It helped for a while. And last night, I alternated ice and heat all evening long. Naturally, by that time the bursitis had gleefully joined the chorus, and the rheuma-dragon, not to be outdone, was gnawing hard at my knuckles and wrists.

Add to all that the annoying, intensifying cold symptoms I’ve been successfully fighting off the ramparts all week, and you get a pretty good idea for how I felt last night.

And this morning? I got up this morning with the Cold From Hell having totally breached my defenses. I’m nose-clogged, weepy-eyed, tickle-eared and croaking. My head feels like it’s packed with dirty wool. And my back? Dang that hurts.

So today I’ll keep icing, take my blessed pain meds on a strict schedule, do some low-back stretching exercises (I know them from coaching Mr Wren over the years) and resting. I’ll keep drinking Airborne for the cold. I know all it has in it is vitamins and herbs, but I swear that even though it didn’t stop the virus in its tracks this time, it has several times in the past. This time around it helped my Terminator immune system to hold the CFH off for several days, long enough for me to help mom through the worst with hers and help my uncle get to his eye doctor and his appointment with the blind services lady out at the VA hospital. And I got a few meals made ahead for him and my aunt. I feel rather accomplished.

After all that, it’s almost a relief to succumb to the inevitable and let the CFH run its course. And though my back hurts, I feel sure that it’s healing. With luck and care, it should be better in another day or two. I’m just going to lean my recliner back a bit, put my feet up, keep the tissue box handy and relax for the weekend. Netflix, here I come.

26 thoughts on “It’s a lift

  1. Helen says:

    You know, as rotten as you feel, I know exactly what you mean about it being kind of a relief to have to actually stop for a while and take care of yourself. A cozy weekend with Netflix sounds lovely – I hope the back heals quickly and the cold eases, too, and that meanwhile you enjoy some very well-deserved time doing nothing.

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    1. Wren says:

      Thanks, Helen. Isn’t it odd to feel guilty because we’re sick? As if we could have prevented the illness somehow? I sure tried to prevent this cold, but in the end I got it anyway. Oh, well. Rest feels good.

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  2. Chelsea says:

    Oh boy. Sorry to hear you got a quadruple whammy! I’ve always preferred heat to ice. When back is spasming, I very awkwardly get down on the floor and lay on my back with my lower legs up on a chair for twenty to thirty minutes. Hope the CFH eases quickly.

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    1. Wren says:

      Chelsea, I’m like you regarding heat rather than ice. I simply can’t bear ice on flared joints–it’s like torture. But muscles, for me, are different. The back problem is, I think, a muscle problem. Heat seems to aggravate it, while ice actually eases the ache for a time. Thanks VERY much for the lay-on-the-floor suggestion. I’m going to do it. 🙂

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  3. awamiba says:

    Oh how awful! Take care of yourself! Netflix is always a good rest-helper. 🙂 Hope you are feeling better soon.

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    1. Wren says:

      Thanks! If nothing else, all this ill is a great excuse to make some popcorn!

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  4. Hope the movies are good and so is your recovery from all your ills!
    🙂 L

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    1. Wren says:

      Thanks, Laurie!

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  5. mary says:

    My physical therapist use to say “Heat makes things swell and spasm and ice reduces swelling”. In college the trainer use to say heat if you are going to rest the muscle and ice if you have to use it. Tough to choose. I have always found ice worked better for me.
    Hope your back settles soon and that your CFH is a short one. Such a shame to have everything hit at once. I am sure the jerking from the coughing is not helping the back pain.

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    1. Wren says:

      I’m beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t have bragged about not catching a cold for so many years, Mary. I certainly have THIS time! Thanks for the wisdom regarding heating vs. icing. It makes a lot of sense, but for me it has always come down to which I could tolerate. Thanks too for the kind wishes.

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  6. Sabine says:

    Sometimes, our body has to find a drastic way to get us to slow down. Although I know it’s too simple, but occasionally the samptoms can spell out a message and while your mind may think you should be up and doing this and that, your back ache tells you to stop moving for a while, your aching head tells you to stop thinking for a while. No reason to feel guilty, just take care of your body.

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    1. Wren says:

      You always have such wise words for me, Sabine, and I thank you. I’m definitely stopped for now, relaxing and letting myself rest.

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  7. Polly says:

    Yup, I think this is your body saying STOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!! Wonder-woman you may be, but even wonder-woman has to have a break sometimes! Mind you, you really must see if you can take a break some time when you’re well!!! (And yes, I do know how hard that can be!!)

    Hope you’re feeling tons better soon!

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    1. Wren says:

      Oh, Polly! I really WAS wonder-woman back when I worked full-time and took care of my family and my house, too. Now I’m just a part-timer–but I must bow to the ineviitable and admit that I’m older, too. And rheuma is once again playing a larger part in my life than it was. Yes. This break-down on the side of the road is telling. Thanks for the kind words. 🙂

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      1. Polly says:

        Well I think you’re still wonder-woman now! 🙂

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  8. Jules says:

    Back pain is miserable- It’s the one that I just can’t bypass. Moist heat helps a lot Wren. Tub if you can, shower if you can’t and when you get out, tiger balm in any of its forms will help. But please, please, don’t let the masking of the pain make you cocky. Back pain- most of all- takes time. Rest however you can find a comfortable position and let yourself heal.

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      1. Wren says:

        Thanks for the wise words, my friend. I had a hot shower yesterday and it DID loosen my back up for a little while. I’ll do it again today. And you’ve reminded me. I DO have some Tiger Balm in the nightstand. I’ll try it.

        Cocky? Me? 😉

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  9. Cathy says:

    I like this image of Wren as a “5-foot-4-inch Mighty Mouse prowess”. I am totally impressed with your strength. 🙂

    I hope that at the time I am writing that you are feeling better. The thought of Wren being sick and feeling pain at the same time is not a happy thought.

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  10. Wren says:

    Aw, sweet Cathy. Thank you for your kindness and empathy. I DO actually feel a little better this morning, though I think I’ve got another day or two of the CFH being miserable. However, I’ll live to tell about it. Sending a warm hug your way.

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  11. carlascorner says:

    Oh my. I hope by the time you get this (belated) comment, that you’re well on the mend. Take care of yourself.

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  12. Wren says:

    Thanks, Carla. Doing my best.

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  13. adrienne says:

    Wren, I am so sorry to hear you hurt your back! And with the CFH! I feel so bad for you. : ( I absolutely loved your animated pictures. They were the best. I hope you feel better soon.

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  14. Wren says:

    Thanks so much, Adrienne! I’m pleased to say that after several days, my back pain eased off, and it’s now gone. YAY! As for the CFH, it’s still got its claws into me, but I’m definitely over the worst and am feeling a whole lot better. I’m even more grateful than ever that I somehow avoided cold viruses like this one for so many years. It’s been an unpleasant reminder about how rotten a bad cold can make one feel. 😉

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  15. Terry says:

    Wren, so sorry to read that everything dog piled on you at once. I hope you are feeling better by now, I have been a little bit behind. You may be Mighty Mouse, but take care of your back. Give it time to heal before you go back to your mighty adventures.

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  16. Lana says:

    You sound like me on being warned and not necessarily complying. I have been admonished as well but I take pride in being able to do these things – of course, RA and fibro changed things for me. I hope you are feeling better now.

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