This month I have decided to write about something that I happen to know intimately. Some of you may be painfully familiar with the subject matter expressed here, and for those of you who are not, well, God Bless you! I am speaking about, of course, back pain!

Ah yes dreaded back pain, a discussion that I am unfortunately very familiar with, much to my chagrin and dismay. There are many different types of back pain and in the interest of boredom (and the lack of 23 terabytes of storage space) I will try to limit the article down to a select chosen few.

Let’s start out at the base of the spine, L5 and S1, which as it turns out is the most common type of back pain/injury to have. This is the type of lower back pain that can bring a grown man to his knees gasping for air like a dolphin on a Japanese “fishing” trolley. If you are so inclined you can learn about this level of torture by reading Dante’s “Divine Comedy”. As I was saying there are two different types of Lumbar pain: the first is the ever popular “Knife-In-The-Back” pain, and the second is the “Muscle-Spasm-Contraction-Oh-Lord-When-Will-It-Stop” pain.

The Knife in the Back Pain is probably the easier of the two to take; it feels just like it sounds. Picture a really big scary man standing behind you with a hunting knife that resembles a Round Table Knight’s fighting saber. He slowly pushes and turns this lovely piece of hardware right into the bone at the base of your spine. The best part about this is that the stabbing pains can either be in short bursts, or the too often seen sustained stabbing, you just never know! And because God obviously does have a sense of humor it is usually the sustained stabbing pain that comes around for a nocturnal visit. Surprisingly this pain can go as quickly as it came, which is about the only positive thing I can say about this.

The Muscle Spasm on the other hand is an entirely different beast. You would think a muscle spasm over a knife stab would be less painful, trust me it is not! The spasm pain is like someone grabbing the muscles that run along side your spine and running a 220-Volt (“225, whatever it takes”) line directly into the muscle. Or picture this, you are at the top of a 50 foot slide made of razor wire, all along the sides are misters spraying rubbing alcohol on you as you slide by. Once you reach the bottom you drop into a vat of lemon juice and citric acid, this might come close to the sensation of a true back muscle spasm.

It really is something to witness. Standing there not bothering anyone whistling a happy tune when out of the blue it hits you like a metal studded baseball bat to the kidneys. You drop to the floor writhe around in a futile attempt to find a position that will alleviate this incredible pain. Alas there is nothing you can do except ride the pain wave all the way to the coral encrusted shore.

Once the initial spasm stops and you can see the room again- through your blood encrusted eyes, you are suddenly aware of the shooting pain down your right leg. And to further exasperate matters you can’t quite feel your own foot, but you really don’t have to time to ponder this new ingredient of pain, because the next wave of spasms is starting to hit like bad sushi at a $5.99 buffet special! And down you go again, that is if you were actually able to move off the floor from the first attack wave. It’s at this point that you know down deep in your heart that you would do whatever it takes to rid yourself of this pain. I mean anything, give up cursing, cheating, lying, stealing, baby selling, arms dealing, cat juggling, eating, breathing, I mean anything! It’s like the same deal you make with God when you have had just a wee bit too much to drink, and your only friend is the cool ceramic bowl that for some odd reason suddenly doesn’t seem to be so dirty. There convulsing on the floor like a piece of bacon on Elvis Presley’s stove is where you actually start to believe the lies your mind is telling you, “yeah, I think you are right the pain does feel like it’s subsiding”. Oh no don’t try this approach, I think it actually pisses your back off more thus causing the next iteration of mind-numbing pain to trumpet its rapid approach.

Let’s move up to the thoracic region of your spine. Usually these types are compression (well mine is so that’s what I know) injuries to the spine. Let’s say, for instance you have a compressed fracture in the thoracic region of your spine. Where you can actually feel the disc being compressed by the weight of your own torso, which in turn makes the muscles surrounding it constrict and convulse trying to counter balance the vertebrae damage. This is when the fun starts because now you get to feel every nuance of the bone/disc interaction, like sand in a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Oh sure it’s like having your own private internal war to watch, unfortunately our bodies are the battlefields and relief is on R&R in a Saigon massage parlor.

Next is the cervical region of your spine, from your neck to ~1/3 of the way down your spine. Here is where most stressed out people carry their tension like a warm comfortable stuffed bear from days gone by. It really is an efficient way of storing all the stress from the mind numbing tedium of debugging code. Oh sure you can keep packing it down, and packing it down, the tension of work, relationships, money, global warming, the disgusting look of a rat tail, and of course the ever present paparazzi. But one day it will break out like a dike in New Orleans (and not the good kind).

So if you like me suffer from one, and hopefully just one, of the aforementioned trips to the fourth level of hell I feel for you. I really do. Take whatever drugs you can to alleviate the pain, do any stretches, pray to whatever god you believe in, you may even want to make a deal with Beelzebub to avoid this little treat from the black book of Pinhead himself!

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