Monday, July 7, 2008

Manic Monday - "Stripe"

Our host of Manic Monday, Morgen at It's a Blog Eat Blog World, declared this week's Manic Monday word to be "stripe". My guess is that it was in keeping with the 4th of July holiday and the stars and stripes that decorate our beloved American flag. As a matter of fact, I was kicking around the idea of doing a post about the flag and its origins but then a new idea for a post struck me ... literally ... right in the middle of my lower back.

See those blue stripes over there in that picture? The little black arrow is pointing to one of them. Those are called spinal discs (or intervertebral discs if you want to be technical) and those are what keep your vertebrae from rubbing together and causing all kinds of pain. Someone once described a spinal disc to me as a jelly donut and said that they work great when the jelly stays inside the donut but when a disc becomes herniated then the jelly (or nucleus pulposus) slips out and back pain incurs at the point of herniation when the protruding discs presses on a spinal nerve. In other words, if the jelly donut gets squeezed too tightly then the jelly all seeps out the sides making a horrible mess!

I have two of those herniated discs in the L4-L5 (lumbar) region of my back - i.e., my lower back. In addition to that I have a genetic narrowing of the spine (stenosis) and, just to make things even more interesting, some arthritis has decided to get into the act, too. Oh lucky me! In August of 2005 (the 17th to be exact), I underwent surgery after missing two months of work because I could barely move from Paint A to Point B as the herniation in my back had gotten to the point where it was causing major sciatic pain from the bulging disc that was sitting on my sciatic nerve.

During that very long two months I wanted to amputate my own leg at times as the pain was so bad I could hardly stand it but as my doctor explained it to me, even if I cut my leg off the pain would still be there as even though the pain was being felt in my leg, it wasn't in my leg but was from the affected nerve in my back which ran down my leg. Wherever it was, it was the worst pain I have ever had in my life and I wouldn't have wished it on anyone - including either of my ex-husbands!

After three trips to the emergency room in the back of one of the ambulances I normally dispatch to other people, my doctor was finally able to get the pain down to a dull roar with a combination of three different medications. Those kept me sane until surgery at which time my doctor performed what is called a "laminectomy", a procedure that surgically removes a portion of the lamina (part of the spinal canal's bony roof) to take pressure off of the nerve root. It didn't fix my herniated discs but it helped me to feel a lot better - most of the time.

I still battle back pain off and on and have learned that I definitely have physical limitations. Standing for long periods of time is not considered a very good idea, lifting heavy objects is out of the question, and if you want to know if it's going to rain or if there's a major snowstorm moving into the area I can be just as accurate as any of the weather forecasters on our local news channels. Sometimes I don't have to do anything at all out of the ordinary to get that electrical jolt down my back which indicates that I am going to be hobbling around like Quasimodo for at least several days while a stripe of pain runs across my lower back and down one or both of my legs.

And that's exactly what happened early Sunday afternoon and became the inspiration for this post - one that I could have happily done without! I had gone to the grocery store to get some much-needed groceries as I was doing Mother Hubbard proud but the girls were not handling the lack of food in the house very well. When I got home I was putting the groceries away and knelt down in front of the refrigerator to stack up yogurt containers and as I went to stand up I felt that old familiar pain across my back and knew right then that I was in trouble. Again.

After numerous muttered curses, I popped a couple of Aleve and hobbled upstairs to lie down until it was time to take Darci to the train station for her return to New Jersey. Following that I limped into work and did my best not to aggravate things overly much there though it was painful every time I had to reach to switch radio frequencies or answer the phone. As much as I would have loved to stay home and babied my back until I felt human again, I work for a company that isn't overly generous with sick time (we get 3 days a year) and I simply can't afford to take any unpaid time off. The worst thing is I have to work a 16-hour shift today and I'm not any too sure how well that's going to go as no doubt the stripe of pain across my lower back caused by the herniation of that other little stripe shown above is going to get wider as the day goes on. Needless to say, I'm not looking forward to it.

So while I'm sitting at work and cringing every time I have to move, I'm sure there are lots of posts out there with less painful versions of "stripe" so don't forget to check out Mo's Manic Monday Meme.

I'll try to limp around to everyone else's blogs soon but in the meantime ... ouch!


  1. Anonymous8:50 AM EDT

    Ouch! I know how painful L4 & L5 issues can be. Hubby broke his L4 & L5 in the Navy.

    He was out shoveling snow in a snowstorm. He was incapacitated for 8 hours before someone found him. He nearly died out there.

    One of my condo neighbor ladies has spinal stenosis... The burning and searing pain is just awful. I had to rescue her once in the hallway.

    Hope you feel better soon...hugs!

  2. Oh Honey, I am sorry the stripe is back in your life. Damn thing. Pop your aleve or whatever today. Hugs to you.... Dang
    Love Ya

  3. Sorry 'bout that Miss Linda

  4. I just saw a show on cable yesterday about alternative medicine, and it was about this boy who had crippling groin pain - and the doctors couldn't figure out what was wrong.
    Turns out he had a herniated disk that was pinching the nerve.
    They used magnet therapy - adhering really strong magnets to the skin above the disk.
    After 3 months of excruciating pain, the teen had relief in 30 minutes!
    He wore these magnets for about 3 months, to allow the disk to heal.
    I thought it was a very interesting theory - the magnets stop the ions in the nerves from reaching the brain, so you don't register the pain.
    Now before you go duct-taping refrigerator magnets to your back, these were some high-powered medical magnets that they used.
    Hope your back feels better soon!
    ~manic mo

  5. Oh Linda, hang in there. Sending you hugs and a little massage to make it better :o)

  6. Back pain can be excruciating, I know from experience. Hope it eases soon honey. x

  7. Feel better Linda. I so hate it when my back in hurting. Have a great MM. :)

  8. That sounds so painful, Linda.

  9. Anonymous4:58 PM EDT

    That's scary. I sometimes (not very often) get pain that starts in my lower back and then the top of my legs hurt really badly (sitting feels like complete agony as I just want to keep my legs completely straight). Perhaps when I get medical insurance again (hopefully in three months) I should get it checked out.

  10. I would hope that there is something / anything you can do short of pain meds. Like stretching exercises or whatever. In my walking days, I had fallen numerous times and hit my coccyx...and felt the pain for days. I agree, back pain is the worst. Get better, or at least pain free, please!

  11. I am sooo sorry to hear this. If there is anything I can do to help you, let me know.

  12. I don't have any herniated disc, but I do get back pain. Mine comes mostly from favoring my left knee and my hip.

    Hang in there.

  13. Anonymous10:04 PM EDT

    OUCH! I can only imagine your pain, for I have constant pain from this child 'o mine that I'm carrying around. Fortunately mine will go away soon.

  14. I wanted to leave a nice comment. The post was much longer than I could concentrate on, however. Something about polka dots I think. So I just looked at your fireworks pictures. They were really nice. And if I could just say hello, also, ok? I guarantee* I will be back tomorrow to read the thing about the stripes.

    *Not to be taken as an actual real guarantee.

  15. Does your back hurt? Is that what the post is about? I'm sorry, Linda. I know how terrible that can be. I would suggest you try and sit more at work instead of always working out between calls. And plenty of good quality weed for the pain, if they will allow that. Hope you get better soon.

  16. Yep - I can empathize totally with your situation there -had two herniated or bulging discs five years ago this summer and two years ago, it was a massive infection someplace in my intestine that was putting pressure on my sciatic nerve. (Took a colostomy to correct that last one -the first time around, I went through six months of physical therapy, another four-five months then of pain management shots of some kid.) And yes, I can generally forecast lots of rain -or snow, depending on the season -by the degree of discomfort in my lower back and legs thanks to the arthritis factors that set in now too! Pain in the behind ain't it?

  17. Anonymous2:13 AM EDT

    ooh, you poor thing! Back problems are the worst. After reading your post, I won't be complaining about my sciatic nerve anymore...anyway, it's nothing a few extra pillows and some ibuprofen before bed can't help! Hang in there!

  18. Yeow...back pains can be so debilitating. I sure do hope you feel better soon.

  19. Sorry to read all the details of your back pain. Sounds simply awful. I hope you are feeling better now (Tuesday night).

    Hang in there, Duchess Linda!


Thanks for visiting!