Thursday, February 16, 2017

Out and about!!

On Monday I went for a long walk with some friends, one of whom had a GPS device that said we'd gone 2.8 miles.

Why is this the subject for a blog post?  Because it's the longest I've walked in more than a year and a half -- and I did it without pain, either during the walk or afterward.  For somebody who has always loved long walks, this has been a very long time, during which I worried whether I would ever regain my ability to wander around all day.  It also affected my photography-related art practice, since you can't take interesting pictures if you don't go anywhere.

I bring this up in the blog because coincidentally, yesterday I read about a new study, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that says if you have back pain, medical treatment may not be helpful at all.  Don't bother with an MRI, don't take heavy duty painkillers, for heaven's sake don't do surgery, just wait it out, with a bit of exercise if you can, and see what happens.  And I want to testify that they're right, at least for me.

This has been the second time in the last 15 years that I have gone through long bouts of back pain.  The first time I dutifully went to the doctor, got an MRI, learned that some of my discs and vertebrae were rough around the edges, and was sent to physical therapy.  I did three sessions, during which at least half the time was spent discussing when to schedule my next visit around the requirements of insurance reimbursement (no, not to make it cheaper for me, but to make it more lucrative for the clinic).  I quit PT and lounged around for months, walking when I could, until things got better.

Years passed.  The back pain returned. When I visited the doctor for another reason, I told her that I was having trouble walking; she said swim or do water aerobics instead.  I did that all winter.  Still had trouble walking and lounged around for a year, walking when I could.  I kept a diary of how long I walked and the different varieties of pain, trying to figure out what brought it on, whether it was good to walk or good to stop.  Never could figure out a strategy.  But around Thanksgiving it seemed that I could walk farther without pain.  I felt great.

Then I took a bad fall and broke a bone in my toe.  Six weeks of orthopedic shoe and very little walking.  Then, back in real shoes, I could do a mile, then a mile and a quarter.  And Monday, 2.8 miles!

Everybody has various mantras for life, and one of my favorites has always been "outlive the bastards".  This makes twice I've outlived the pain and emerged on the other side.  I know some day this approach is going to fail, but right now, I'm celebrating.


  1. Oh, what a good motto.. And mine is "In order to not be weak, don't be weak..."

  2. Good for you! I love walking and I am glad you are back it. I also agree with you. Let your boby mend itself.

  3. Similar story here. Back pain, could hardly get out of the car. Tests, therapy, and a doctor who said No surgery!!!! Similar study I read said most will go away within 2 years. Well, almost to the week, 2 years and it was gone. I just consider my self lucky, and do not play a medical professional in real life.

  4. Isn't it a great day when you realize "I don't hurt!" ? I think I saw that article. I wonder how many people ended up in worse shape following back surgery...

    I wonder if the fall itself may have actually helped your back pain, not just the no walking? I've had times where I woke up with back pain for no reason and it stayed until I held something heavy (one side at a time) and did gentle side bends while kneeling on the floor. Hey I figured that if taking it easy worked when I got back pain doing something daft, why wouldn't doing something daft work when I got back pain doing nothing?

  5. Congratulations! I'm glad to have more evidence supporting my theory that surgery is not necessarily the best course of action.

  6. My husband had chronic back pain. Tried the chiropractor. Waste of money--the pain always returned by the time he drove back home. Now acupuncture and he is pain free. amazing.

  7. I highly recommend a licensed massage therapist who knows about muscle fascia and trigger points. Hard to find, but good as gold when you do. Mine has given me some stretches to help with a variety of things.

  8. Talking about toughing out your back pain is good to hear.. so many people just pop pain pills... and longtime use of those are pretty dangerous. A dear friend developed kidney failure after years of the pills. Thanks for sharing your experieence.

  9. My mantra is "Ever Onward." I've gone through back, knee, and hip pain and I hate it when I can't walk. There were plenty of times I just circled the back yard a few times (or even my living room). If I don't try, things seem to get worse. Healing seems to come faster when I move around.