Completely Threw Out My Back!!!

OK, this is actually my first blog post 🙂 I’ve been meaning to set up a wordpress blog at some point. I figure what better time than now, since I am on my 3rd day of very limited mobility due to throwing out my back. I’m actually on day 3, since prior to that I probably wouldn’t have been able to position myself to type this post…

Generally, I have limited experience with back issues or pain. Over the years I have occasionally tweaked my back from time to time where I would have a twinge of pain for a few days. However nothing like this. This time my back was completely thrown out to where I could not walk (unassisted), go from laying to sitting, or even re-position my body in bed without a lengthy and painful process.

Obvious Disclaimer – I am not a medical professional, you shouldn’t use any advice without consulting a doctor. Just sharing my experience in case it is helpful for others, make sure to see a doctor for an assessment and treatment plan.

Background:

Like Many 40 year old idiots, I don’t exercise and carry too much weight. However, I was generally capable of physical activity such as skiing, hiking, lifting objects, moderate house work. Of course, I approach all these activities as if I were 20 years younger. This being a big wake up call that I need to drop weight and keep in shape so that this never happens again…

More specific to the injury, in the lead up I had been working at home for the previous two and a half days. Since my wife was also working at home those days, I had set up a make shift office in our kids play room. The key error in the setup was the chair. I picked a big cushey comfy high top chair, with no lumbar (lower back) support. As a result, I spent these days hunched over with my spine in a curve. After researching online, I believe this prolonged bad posture resulted in “priming” my back for injury.

Day 1:

Normal busy weekday morning at my house, parents and kids getting ready for work/school. As mentioned I was working from home this week, so once the kids were on the bus I planned to do some picking up, since our house cleaners were coming, and then would start work.

During the pickup, I had been hauling some laundry up the stairs. I noticed it was a bit heavy, but nothing painful, so I muscled them up the stairs. Once in my room, i noticed a random bin of stuff on the floor, that needed to get stashed in the closet. As bent down pick up the bin, I felt a pop in my lower back with sharp pain, as my back gave out and I fell to the floor!

I spent a few minutes on the ground, just getting my bearings. Yep, seemed like any attempt to move or re-position resulted in further sharp pain. No way to get up off the floor. Eventually, I was able to crawl to a nearby window seal and slowy/painfully pull myself up right.

Now on my feet, attempting to walk proved possible but incredibly painful. Every step of two, I was arrested by sharp pain in my lower back. Each time i would experience the pain, my body would freeze and my legs would feel like they would give out. These, as I later learned are called back spasm, its a defense mechanism your body employs when it believes your muscles are no longer capable of supporting your back and you are at risk of risking your spine.

Being unsure what to think of the injury, or what to do next. I figured i would make my way to my home office (the one with the better office chair) and try to work a bit and let my body rest. I proceeded to work the majority of the day in that position, getting up 3 times to hobble for food and bathroom.

By about 2pm, I concluded this was not getting better so I called my doctor, and scheduled a 4:30 visit. by that time my kids where home and were able to dig up some adjustable height walking sticks. These have been super helpful for both walking and transferring from sitting and standing positions.

After making into my car, an to the doctors office. I hobbled my way in for the assessment. After explaining the whole situation, she concluded that at this point its difficult to determine whether its a classic muscle tissue issue or something more structural like disc damage. So she proscribed me rest, light stretching, ibuprofen, extra strength tylonal, topical pain lotion. She also offered pain killers, which i declined (not messing with opiods unless absolutely necessary). She also gave me a referral to physical therapy for later, and asked me to report back after the weekend if not improving.

Arriving home, I was really ready to crash. I made my way strait up to bed. Of course to learn that just getting in to be was a terrible challenge. I needed help getting my jeans off, and had my family help set me up with an ipad, airpods, and a charger cord. I could get relatively comfortable on my side with two pillows between my legs. flipping sides or shifting my body was almost impossible.

Getting out of bed to and using the bathroom was a real challenge. I pulled myself to a sitting position (learned a better technique later, see below), which was very painful. Once it front of the toilet, the challenge was lifting the lids. It would have been impossible without help, except that I had my walking sticks, which where also useful for pushing the flusher!

Highlight of the night was the bologna sandwich I had for dinner.

Day 2:

By the time I woke the next day, armed with my ipad I had learned a few helpful thing.

  1. While my injury feels extreme, I am not alone. Many people have this and panic thinking they need to go to the ER. While there is certainly the possibility of a deeper spine or disc injury, the immediate symptoms and inability to walk/move are likely due to back spasms, which can be treated with rest, ibuprofen, ice, heat, etc.
  2. Mobility during this period is possible, while painful. a few techniques and stretches make things much better.
  3. It’s important to have something to help stabilize you such as a walker. In my case adjustable height walking sticks did the trick.
  4. In addition to rest, its important to slowly start moving to progress your recovery and avoid your muscles locking down into a tight state and prolonging your recovery…

That said, I woke up in mostly the same state as I was when I went to bed. So mostly spent the day watching TV on the ipad, doing some work emails on my phone, and panic searching the internet. I was able to make my way down stairs for about a half hour for lunch, and an hour around dinner time.

Day 3:

OK, at this point I am feeling a solid click better. I woke up and noticed that in bed my back felt OK, and i could move around within the bed a lot better. I still experience the sharp muscle spasm pain every few steps when walking, but I am a tiny bit faster, and was even able to carry a cup of coffee.

All that said, It’s mid-afternoon and I have been typing for at the couch for a while (with lumbar support), so its time to get some movement and then get back in bed. I’ll keep posting and let you know how my recovery goes, and if i discover any deeper injuries.

Some Helpful Resources:

Helpful gentle stretches that helped me shortly after injury

Following video has a few good tidbits…

  • Beginning: Good explanation of how you can prime your back for injury with bad ergonomics
  • 8:00 “AIM”, what to do when your back is thrown out,
    • A= Anti-inflamatory / Ibuprofin
    • I = Ice
    • M = Movement
  • 10:15 “Log Rolling” technique for getting in and out of bed