Saturday, April 01, 2006

O My Aching Back!

You do it to yourself, You do, And that's why it really hurts.
You do it to yourself, Just you, You and no-one else
You do it to yourself.
-- Radiohead, "Just"
I have a bad lower back. It started acting up when I was a teenager, and at various times over the past two decades, it has caused me varying degrees of pain. Fortunately, my back has only gone out on me once, when I was in law school and we were moving furniture around so we could steam clean our apartment's carpets (which left Ex the unenviable task of performing all the steam cleaning, and moving all the furniture back in place afterwards -- she was steaming and I was miserable). After two days I was able to climb out of bed and within a week, time and a chiropractor's assistance got me functioning again.

One advantage of having had a bad back all these years is that despite the aches that accompany it, I know how to take care of it. I shouldn't sit at a desk for hours without standing up and moving around every once in a while. I should perform basic stretching exercises that can be completed in less than ten minutes, every day. I should perform additional exercises designed to strengthen my back muscles at least every other day. When I do all these things, my back is fine. If I don't do #3 but do the other two, I'm still usually fine. Especially if I get a massage every once in a while.

That being said, I'm not usually very good about doing any back care or maintenance, and my failure to take care of myself inevitably catches up with me. Wednesday morning I noticed my back was sore so I did the stretching, but it was too late -- by noon, I was in serious pain, and I had trouble standing up straight. I somehow made it through the workday, came home, and plopped myself on the heating pad. (Side note -- I'm glad I'm in a family where I can strip to an undershirt and boxers in front of my visiting mother-in-law).

In the time since then, I avoided sitting at my desk for long, I did my stretches, and twice Kathy pulled out the massager and worked my back over (not as nice as a manual massage, but it still helps significantly). By yesterday my pain had given way to soreness, and today the soreness is mild.

Over the next few days, I'll undoubtedly continue the stretches, and be careful with how long I sit at a desk. But if history is any guide, then, with no soreness to remind me, I'll start to slip, maybe sitting at my desk for a couple of hours one morning, and not doing the stretches one day. And before long, any semblance of commitment to a sensible regimen for back maintenance will fall by the wayside.

Maybe this time will be different. Maybe this time, whenever I think of Kathy being pregnant, I'll think of the consequences -- I'll want to be able to pick up our child, not just at birth, but when s/he's 20+ pounds and wants to be carried. The idea of having to tell little Esmerelda or Cletus* that Daddy can't pick you up right now because he didn't care enough about you to take care of himself is pretty sobering. And if that's not enough incentive, the vision of Kathy pushing a stroller in one hand and a wheelchair in the other should spur me to behave.

* The actual girl's and boy's names have not been chosen, these are merely finalists.