Saturday, January 2, 2016


I haven't done this for quite some time, but a few days ago I put my back out. This used to happen to me fairly regularly, until someone suggested sleeping with a pillow between my legs--which I have done for years now, and which has spared me the kind of serious pain I used to experience.

It happened, this time, early one morning when I was trying to help little Luka with the construction of a new toy that involved a complex arrangement of plastic, tubular towers as a race track for marbles. Unwisely, I was in a twisted position, bending low from a chair to the floor, intent on following one of those infuriatingly complicated, wordless instruction sheets that demand at the very least postgraduate engineering skills.  It was only when I tried to get up that I realized something bad had happened.

I screeched in pain. The sensation, I soon discovered, was of extreme compression, as though I had lost three inches of my height. I limped along, tilted severely to the right, looking something like Lawrence Olivier's Richard III, all scrunched up and twisted. Agony!

Well, I was able to get to see a local chiropractor right away, and Ellie drove me down for the appointment. After an hour or so on one of those flexible benches that look like something out of a medieval torture chamber, I began to feel fractionally better. They put a set of electrified muscle relaxing pads on my back, and these helped, too.

Still, the pain has persisted, though with slow improvement. Yesterday, three days after the Event, I took a long walk by the beach, starting out on the boardwalk and following the path along the cliffs for a mile or so, and the movement helped to ease things up. Later in the day, I took a jacuzzi, which was also helpful.

And this morning I got out of bed with greater ease and considerably less pain.  Years ago, it could take weeks for the back to heal, and I credit not only the chiropractic treatment but also that habit of sleeping with the pillow between my legs for the (hopefully!) speedy recovery. The chiropractor suggested that "it keeps the back in neutral"--which seemed like a good explanation to me. Anyway, I pass the tip on, in case it should prove useful to others who suffer from the bad back phenomenon, and I know there are many of them.

Anyway, yes, pain. A big sign at the gym I frequent (this is probably helpful, too: keeping the core strong) tells me that pain is nothing more than weakness leaving the body. I have a more Buddhist approach: pain is inevitable, suffering is optional. The human body becomes more susceptible to pain as it ages. It stiffens, loses strength and flexibility. I'm of an age, now, when I'm given to observe this truth first-hand, and it is humbling.

I'm fortunate to have come to understand, however, that it's possible to observe these changes without the craving and attachment that cause the suffering. Wishing it were otherwise is not helpful, nor is clinging to the belief that this is "my pain." Better to remove the "my": "This is pain." That way, it gets to be kind of interesting to watch. But, truthfully, it's also interesting to watch how easily the mind slips back to the "my"!

And oh, by the way: later that day--the day I put my back out trying to "help" him--I found that little Luka had constructed beautiful towers all by himself, without consulting the instruction sheet, and was busy racing marbles down the tracks. Another humbling jolt to the ever-hungry ego!


Alonzo Davis said...

I think I'll have to use the pillow after the heating pad tonight.

PeterAtLarge said...

Yes, try it, Alonzo. Great to hear from you. Tomorrow I'll be posting about justice in America...