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.
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 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.