A Cough, a Sneeze, and the Ignominy of Back Pain

Yesterday morning, I was bopping around the apartment getting ready for work. Part of my morning routine includes feeding the rabbits their brekakfast (mostly veggies), their medication, and a bit of fresh hay.

Usually, about 10 minutes after I put hay in their litter box I inevitably sneeze (due mostly to my allergies). It’s a routine thing, and something I’ve gotten used to.

Standing in the bathroom, I could feel the sneeze welling up. I grabbed a bit of tissue paper, and at the exact time that I sneezed… I felt something sharp in my back. A small group of my back muscles seized up in an instant. It felt like someone had hit me in the back with a baseball bat, but the area of impact was about the size of a grapefruit.

I hobbled around a bit, but eventually got to where I could walk ok. I joked about it with Liz, and didn’t think much more of it.

You know how, if you sleep in a strange position, you can get a crink in your neck? That inexplicable, hard-to-find point of pain that causes certain motion to be really painful/uncomfortable? It’s exactly the same sensation, just located near the base of my spine – a little to the right.

I noticed it slightly on the ride in to work, but as the day progressed it seemed to get worse and worse. If I would cough, I could feel it ache. The back pain got to a point where the simple act of coughing actually felt really unpleasant, and made me actively try not to cough, so I wouldn’t mess with my back.

The worst part of it all, I found out later, was when I’d stand up after sitting at my desk for multiple hours. I say “stand up,” but what I really mean is “crouch like a comma, only to slowly rise like an ape transitioning into a man over the course of 45 seconds.” I stood up around lunchtime to go grab some food, and ended up having to hold on to my chair for a long, long while… long enough so that my back could slowly straighten. Long enough so I could actually take a step without feeling a sharp sting in my lower back muscles.

At lunch, and at the end of the day… I’d stand after sitting, and spend about 30+ seconds slowly getting upright, slowly trying not to grimace too much in front of my coworkers. It was slightly embarrassing, as I felt like a senior citizen. Add this to me being sick since last Wednesday, and it’s not be so great of a week.

There are certain things you sort of figure on, getting older. Your eyesight goes a little more, your energy lags. But when your own body starts to crap out in new ways, it feels like a very personal betrayal. I wanted to say to myself: But we’ve been going to the gym! I thought we made a deal! What happened to our deal?

And the sad part of all this is that it’s due to a sneeze. I could have been ok with some more glamorous trigger – a bar fight, a motorcycle accident. Hell, I’d even take falling while running away from an Internet friend. But a sneeze? There’s no glory in that.

Liz believes that, while the sneeze may have been the culprit, the root cause is with my back. She’s wanting me to see a chiropractor, which I’m divided about. I don’t know a ton what they do, and have always felt leery about going to see a chiropractor. That said, I’ve never had this much of a back issue until now… so maybe I’ll give in. If this back stuff keeps up, I might have to throw in the towel.

And then, very slowly, very gingerly, waddle over to the chiropractor’s office.

[CC photo via AJ Batac]

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