An Old Man Back

mareIn my mother’s later years, one of her favorite sayings was, The old gray mare ain’t what she used to be.  She certainly had more than her share of maladies to deal with as she aged.  To my mind, it is proof that God or nature (depending on your stance on spiritual matters) doesn’t dole out maladies according to virtue of the recipient, otherwise she would have had a much easier time of it.  On the other hand, I had reached 77 with virtually no major maladies.  That may prove the same premise because although I have tried my best to be a good man, I am not the saint that my medical history would seem to indicate. 

I was given, through no merit of my own, a resilient body that seemed to repel severe illness, require a minimum of care and age gracefully.   I didn’t eat healthy and engaged in sports like marathons andtriathlete triathlons without takingcare to avoid injury through exercises and stretching and my body motored on.  For years, I have lived on the edge of being diabetic (which is what eventually took my Mom) but kept it at bay with sometimes-cautious eating and medication.  The same can be said of high blood pressure and cholesterol.  I am a lucky (or blessed man) … I tend to fluctuate between crediting God and nature for my health.  The one malady that has nipped at my heels for a number of years is nerve pain (usually referred to a sciatica) in my legs.  I would sometimes have to cut back my training and feast on NSAIDS to get back on the road.  One year, I trained for the Lomg Beach Marathon running in a pool … and this body came through … I completed my 12th marathon.  Have I ever done back stretches or tried to maintain a better posture?   Only when it hurts.

Now I am 78 and for some months, I have been nagged by increasing pain in both legs.   Even though my athletic regimen has decline to walking and a stationary bike, increasingly I was unable to do it.   In the morning the pain in my hamstrings was so bad, I limped around hunched over until I could ice my lower back.   In case you didn’t know it, ice can be a miracle drug.  I went to my doc and he told me, I could send spineyou for an MRI but your insurance company will want physical therapy first.   Is that good practical medicine or a way to save the insurance companies money?   You choose.   Physical therapy helped … a lot … but not enough.   I still suffered in the morning and couldn’t keep up with my wife on our shopping trips.   I had an MRI (a truly strange experience) which returned a report filled with horrible sounding medical terms that described what is going on in my back.  Facet arthopathy with small effusions.  Severe canal stenosis and foraminal narrowing.   Yikes.  My regular doc simplified it to arthritis in my spine, the lower lumbar vertebrae. I call it an Old Man Back.

The pain management doctor I saw said, Your back is no worse than most men your age who and many of them don’t even have pain.  It’s always good to know you are just one of the guys, even if you hurt more than they do.  Last Tuesday at his recommendation, I had a spinal epidural.  If ever you are about to have one … or had one recently … keep it to yourself.   It seems as if everyone I told had a story, a friend who had acupuncture and was cured immediately or someone for whom the pain relief only lasted a few weeks, or a horror story about the shot making things worse.  I had absolutely no pain for the first two days after the shot and since, I’ve had very manageable pain in my calves. My pain doctor says it takes two weeks to really take effect so I’m enjoying the temporary relief and trying to be optimistic that the relief will be lasting.  And this time I am doing physical therapy, learning how to bend and lift properly, and maintaining a good posture.   Hopefully, it’s not too late.

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3 Comments on “An Old Man Back”

  1. Jane Fritz Says:

    I’m 2 years behind you, and I
    seem to be following a similar path. I hope things go super well for you … and for me!

  2. Meg Says:

    My sons have commented that my wheels started wobbling at about 78! I am now 83 and still chugging along with the help of physical therapy. Good luck with your back, and keep on keeping on!

  3. nudistterp Says:

    I have similar problems further up in the spine. Most are the result of the parental units choosing (for reasons I’ll never know) to label self evident physical issues as psychosomatic. One of the best treatments I’ve found is yoga. If you check YouTube you’ll find a number of beginning routines designed specifically for men. Many include adaptations for people whose bodies simply can’t do particular poses as demonstrated. Email me if you want more info. 🙂

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