Dec 122003

Man, my friends are a sickly bunch. Seems like we’ve all got something wrong with us. Rheumatoid arthritis, IBS, fibromyalgia, and a few even more exotic fun things I’d never heard of until I met the person with it. One of them has an allergy to pork so acute that apparently if he smells bacon, his capillaries will inflate to the proportion of the average garden hose.

Meriwynn mentioned feeling like she’s about 70 some days. I remember thinking, four or five years ago, that my warranty must have expired—it seemed my whole body was falling apart, suddenly and all at once. Back then it was largely sciatica. Of course, at the time I didn’t know it was sciatica, nor had I ever even heard of it. All I knew was that my hip hurt. All the time. I walked with a limp that gradually became a lurch.

I went to see a doctor. He told me I had pulled a muscle, gave me muscle relaxants, and told me to stay off my feet as much as possible for a week or two. The muscle relaxants didn’t help a bit; my lurch deteriorated into a bent-over hobble that usually required the support of furniture. My hip felt like someone had rammed an icepick into the pelvic joint and left it there. The ache spread down the back of my thigh; my little toe began to go numb.

I tried another doctor. He wanted to know exactly where the worst of the pain was; I told him it was in my hip, and pointed to the joint directly below my left buttock. He immediately nodded and said it was sciatica.

I was enormously surprised to learn that this tremendous pain in my hip was actually being caused by a problem in my spine. Seems that there are little cartilaginous disks between each vertebrae, that act as cushions and shock absorbers. When they get compressed, the nerve endings that exit the spinal cord get pinched between the vertebrae. In my case the nerves being pinched were the big bundle of leg nerves that exit the spine through the pelvis. This caused pain in my hip, and to a lesser extent the back of my leg. He took some X-rays; you could actually see the section of spine where the vertebra were pressed closer together.

More medication and instructions to stay off my feet. Still it got worse. I was actually consoling myself with the notion that many people lead full, productive lives from wheelchairs. A friend saw me lurching about one day and advised me to go to a chiropractor. She said she’d had the same thing&#8212both legs&#8212and the chiropractor had straightened her up again. We started checking into our insurance to see if it covered chiropractors.

One evening I was dozing on the bed—I never actually slept any more, the constant pain kept waking me up—when I was jolted awake by the most astounding pain I’d ever had the pleasure to experience. Seems the muscles of my leg and hip had decided to spasm violently, and hadn’t bothered to check with the rest of me about the schedule. It hurt like hell. Having experienced both muscle spasms and labor pains, I feel qualified to compare the two, and I’m here to tell you they’re about equal. All I could do was try to hold absolutely still so as not to trigger another bout.

My mate called his parents over to watch the kids, and practically carried me off to the ER. This is where you go for the really good painkillers. They gave me a couple of pills, and shortly after that I was able to stop whimpering and holding my leg up like a wounded retriever. The ER doctor gave us some more of the really good painkillers to take home, and started talking to us about the various long-term options. None of them seemed terribly good, and she didn’t appear any more enthusiastic about the prospect of surgery than I was.

My mate mentioned that a friend had recommended trying a chiropractor, and what was her opinion on that? She responded with some noncommittal language like “Yes, that’s certainly another option you might consider.” However, her tone and posture had the relieved air of a Charades contestant whose partner has finally guessed the word. We wondered later whether there was some kind of official hospital policy against recommending chiropractors.

At any rate, we made an appointment and he ferried me off to it (by this point I couldn’t drive the car any more, because it was a manual and I couldn’t work the clutch with my bum leg). We brought along the X-rays and told him the other doctors had recommended bed rest. He stated, “Bed rest is about the worst thing for you.” He gave me a little gel thing to keep in the freezer, and instructed me to put it on my back for twenty minutes out of every hour, to reduce the swelling of the pinched nerves—and to move about, nothing strenuous but stay active. He manhandled my spine for a bit, producing lots of interesting pops and cracks, and we scheduled a series of appointments. As I left I was still limping, but my mate observed that I was no longer lurching and I was almost putting some weight on the leg again.

Over the course of the next few months I made regular visits to the chiropractor, and my hip improved greatly. I eventually had to stop going when we changed jobs, and the new insurance company didn’t cover it. I still feel some pain in my hip most of the time, but regular exercise and stretching seems to hold it at a constant, tolerable level. Sometimes when Denise has me doing leg lifts, I can’t do as many on one side because I can’t stand on that leg as long. I’m hoping this will improve as my muscles get more conditioned. I’m also trying to improve the muscles in my abdomen, to provide more support to my spine.

At any rate, when my friends relate their various joint problems, I can empathize—I know what it’s like to live with chronic, crippling pain. It’s an even better motivation to exercise than my enormous ass.

Just call me Gimpy.

 Posted by at 9:46 am

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