Paris Goodnight: Bad backs nothing to sneeze at

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 30, 2023

The dull ache of a bad back might not start with the kind of pain that’s so severe you can’t see straight, but if you keep pushing it, sooner or later you’ll realize something’s got to give. And it will likely be you, not your injured back.

My dad used to warn us when we were younger to protect our backs, because as he said, “If you hurt your back, you won’t ever be able to play no ball.”

He was right, even if maybe his grammar wasn’t always the best. He didn’t know and probably wouldn’t care that English teachers would frown upon ending a headline with a preposition, like at the top of this column.

I can’t imagine trying to swing a bat or a golf club with the way my lower back is feeling these days.

So we took his advice to heart and tried to stay away from any back-breaking activities — or any other kind of hard work that we could sneak away from too I imagine.

I don’t know exactly what it was that got my current back thrown out of whack, but it was likely bending over to work in the garden or maybe lifting the ladder to use in cleaning the gutters. Whatever it was, it wasn’t something I noticed being a problem right away. But it surely became an issue as it kicked into high gear over the course of one afternoon.

Then the trouble began with trying to sit in the office job where most of the day is spent without a lot of movement out of the chair as the hours drag on. It wasn’t so much that it hurt while sitting, but when I tried to stand up or even get out of the car after driving some short distance, the pain let me know I better take it slow and easy.

I’ve started thinking maybe it was payback for chuckling a little too loudly when someone else in the office was going through back issues and was vocal about it when getting up out of a chair. That goes to show you, don’t revel in someone else’s woes because you never know what’s just around the bend to snare you. Now I don’t even think about bending.

When I dropped a dog’s leash while walking with a neighbor, I had to request his assistance in picking it up. And I can’t begin to describe the feeling of the first sneeze while my back was out.

Walking is no problem, even if I do it a little gingerly these days. And I’m taking it easy on any such activity while letting all other exercise go on pause for awhile.

Trying to lift anything of much weight also sends that shiver of pain up and down my back and legs, so I stay away from that too. The clean dishes will have to stay where they are for a little while longer and the dirty ones in the sink aren’t going anywhere either.

Twisting the wrong way  while getting up is another story, and that pain can shoot right up and into where I think I can feel it in my teeth. That’s when you know there’s a real monkey wrench thrown into the back equation.

I’ve suffered through such strains before and they seem to me to always be a sign of just getting old. That’s my real worry too that it will take longer to heal up each time something like this happens. We’ll see.

But the radishes and strawberries are ready to be picked, and though it’s no fun being down on both knees harvesting them, I can’t imagine just letting them go.

So like a lot of other things, I’m going to figure out the path of least resistance — and least pain — and try to keep doing what I can until this little bout heals up.

I had gone so long without anything really hurting, except for that sharp piece of peach tree limb that got stuck in my eye, that I got complacent. So when I heal up this time — if I ever do — maybe I’ll start stretching or exercising more to do what I can to fight off the next round of pain. But then again when nothing is hurting, it’s so easy to put off until tomorrow what you don’t want to do today.

Again, we’ll see.

But then it will likely be something else that falls apart, so let’s hope it’s not something I have to actually break down and go see a doctor about. That would just be too painful.

Paris Goodnight is editor of the Post.