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...And then life throws you a curve ball

...I don't even know where to begin. I guess... a month ago? I started to experience incredible pain while sitting. In my neck, in my back, in my left shoulder. Some of this is arthritis, some is muscle strain from arthritis. I've been experiencing arthritis twinges in the knees, back, and neck for a few years now. But I've never had any trouble sitting for long periods of time. Then the pain got exponentially worse at some point in November, I am not even sure when, to the point where I can't sit and write anymore, at least not comfortably, and I have to do pain drugs from my orthopedic doctor to get through my work day. I can't sit on my recliner (at all), or on my couch/at the dinner table without major neck and back support (or any chair, really). I have an inexpensive ergonomic chair at work that I can sit in most of the day, if I get up frequently and walk and stretch out.

That's the crazy thing. It's more comfortable now to walk than sit. I take walks when I'm in too much pain. At home, I have been reduced to lying down in my bed to do most sedentary things (and you can't lie flat--I mean, everything flat, including your head and neck--and do most sedentary things, it turns out). Over Thanksgiving weekend, I lay down so much, I got a bed rash.

Now, you might say, "Well, all that sitting isn't healthy anyway." But that's kind of like saying the barn door shouldn't be left open after the horse is long gone. I am writer, and a computer programmer. I have been sedentary for a long, long time. All I can do now is try to fight against the tide.

I'm trying to figure out what changed between October and now to effect me so radically (besides crappy genes on both sides finally coming to a head against years in sedentary pursuits). And there's only one thing I can think of. In late October, I went to my orthopedic doctor about my neck arthritis, because it was becoming something of an issue at work. He sent me to a physical therapist, who worked on my neck and shoulders. It was after those sessions were completed I started to have the constant, piercing pain, even when everything was well-supported, and repeated muscle pulls and muscle tenderness.

I made a follow-up appointment with my orthopedic doctor and he took me off PT and had me schedule two MRIs, one on my back and one on my neck. I literally broke into tears from the pain in his office. I was (still am) very fearful I won't be able to do my job anymore. I remember the day--it was my birthday, last month--when the words "going on disability" popped into my head for the first time as a possible scenario.

Now, I am hoping that won't happen. I am working on all sorts of interventions. A new, orthopedic recliner (zero-grav) for home, a new gym exercise/muscle strengthening program with a personal trainer, and then, whatever interventions my orthopedic doctor recommends after he sees my MRI results (I had those done Tuesday evening).

Pain is a strange thing. I always considered myself pretty stoic, but the pain I've been experiencing lately--inescapable, debilitating to normal, everyday activities--has turned me into a harpy. You just discover this wounded animal side to your personality.

Comments

( 34 comments — Leave a comment )
cactuswatcher
Dec. 13th, 2014 01:06 am (UTC)
Very sorry to hear you've had such pain. I get a little muscle pain in my back and think it's awful. But I know it's nothing compared to arthritis of the spine. I'm sure we all wish you a more comfortable future starting in the near future.
masqthephlsphr
Dec. 15th, 2014 04:00 am (UTC)
Thanks, J. Sympathy in this situation means so much.
ann1962
Dec. 13th, 2014 02:14 am (UTC)
Back pain is the worst. I'm really sorry that you are going through this.

"It was after those sessions were completed I started to have the constant, piercing pain, even when everything was well-supported, and repeated muscle pulls and muscle tenderness."

When I was doing PT, this happened one time. The PT explained that she went too far with the release movements, which left my muscles unsupported. The tense muscles keep us in a certain smaller, safe, ranges of motion. Our muscles know their limits. Once released, horrendous pain.

I hope your MRIs give info that will help you feel better, and find a strategy that helps. You have all my sympathies. I wish back pain on no one. ::hugs::
masqthephlsphr
Dec. 15th, 2014 04:05 am (UTC)
right now it's the muscle pain in my shoulders that is causing the most problems.I am hoping that is temporary or that massage or acupuncture can help with that. Thanks.
mamculuna
Dec. 13th, 2014 02:36 am (UTC)
I've had horrible back and neck pain from sitting, and know exactly what you mean about standing being better. What you're experiencing sounds really, really horrible.

I've had excruciating back pain recently and finally tried Active Release Technique--I suspect you could find some near you. My husband and I have both found that it really made a huge difference, especially if we kept up with the stretches and exercises he gave us.

I teach online and I've recently completely abandoned the desktop for lying down and using a laptop--about half the time with heat on the hurty places.

Everybody's different, so I really hope you can find something that works. Pain really does make me into a different person.

Edited at 2014-12-13 02:38 am (UTC)
masqthephlsphr
Dec. 15th, 2014 04:04 am (UTC)
Right now, I can't lie down and use a laptop, because your head has to be propped to some degree, and that hurts too much. However, I will look into the therapy you mentioned.
(no subject) - mamculuna - Dec. 15th, 2014 04:31 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - masqthephlsphr - Dec. 15th, 2014 05:38 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - mamculuna - Dec. 15th, 2014 05:47 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - masqthephlsphr - Dec. 15th, 2014 04:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
ponygirl2000
Dec. 13th, 2014 02:50 am (UTC)
That sucks! I hope you feel better soon.
masqthephlsphr
Dec. 15th, 2014 04:07 am (UTC)
thanks pony.
cornerofmadness
Dec. 13th, 2014 04:30 am (UTC)
Sorry to hear it. It definitely sounds like the MRIs are in order because pain like that doesn't come on so suddenly usually.
masqthephlsphr
Dec. 15th, 2014 04:08 am (UTC)
I think the sudden pain is from the physical therapy. The MRIs will help with my on-going chronic arthritis. I will need some other kind of intervention for the muscle pain. What is most depressing right now is being unable to write.
(no subject) - cornerofmadness - Dec. 15th, 2014 04:13 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - masqthephlsphr - Dec. 15th, 2014 04:23 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - cornerofmadness - Dec. 15th, 2014 04:29 am (UTC) - Expand
kathyh
Dec. 13th, 2014 11:09 am (UTC)
So sorry to hear about that. I found mild back pain difficult so such sever pain must be beyond hard to deal with.

*hugs*
masqthephlsphr
Dec. 15th, 2014 04:11 am (UTC)
it is especially hard because it's new to me. Learning to live with pain everyday is a skill, I think. A skill that I will have to learn. Thanks.
(Deleted comment)
masqthephlsphr
Dec. 15th, 2014 04:13 am (UTC)
I think I will have to try out a variety of approaches myself. I have been hoping that it would get better on its own. I think now I will have to experiment a bit with some therapies and interventions. Thanks.
avrelia
Dec. 13th, 2014 11:33 pm (UTC)
so sorry :(
masqthephlsphr
Dec. 15th, 2014 04:16 am (UTC)
thanks so much for your sympathetic thoughts. It helps a lot.

Edited at 2014-12-15 04:17 am (UTC)
midnightsjane
Dec. 14th, 2014 02:31 am (UTC)
Chronic pain is so debilitating. I am crabby right now from the pain in my sprained ankle, but I know it will get better. The prospect of having long standing pain is something else entirely. A starting place for dealing with it must be finding the cause, so I hope the MRI gives you answers.
I wish I could wave a magic wand and make it all better!
masqthephlsphr
Dec. 15th, 2014 04:21 am (UTC)
knowing you you probably have a magic wand that you use at work to help your patients.I will see my doctor in about a week to find out the results of the MRI and see what he has to say about interventions. I will let you guys know what he says.
scrollgirl
Dec. 14th, 2014 05:41 am (UTC)
*hugs* I'm so sorry you're going through this, and I hope the MRIs can tell you something about how to treat the pain.

Edited at 2014-12-14 05:41 am (UTC)
masqthephlsphr
Dec. 15th, 2014 04:22 am (UTC)
thanks for your kind thoughts E.
ironed_orchid
Dec. 15th, 2014 05:29 am (UTC)
I'm really sorry you are dealing with this. Constant pain is so awful.

Unsolicited advice: a guy who was doing his PhD in my faculty had issues with sitting for more than 20 minutes, and he adapted to using voice recognition software, so he could stand or pace or lie on the floor. It wasn't perfect, but from what I hear, the options are getting better all the time. Might be worth experimenting to see if you can find something that lets you "write".

Edited at 2014-12-15 05:29 am (UTC)
masqthephlsphr
Dec. 15th, 2014 04:07 pm (UTC)
I am already looking into that. I am using it on my tablet, and I have bought a goose-neck holder to position my tablet in a position where I can read it while lying down.

The computer is a little trickier. I have researched the software, but positioning it for viewing from a comfortable position... might require some inventive googling.

In the mean time, I am hoping the ergonomic recliner will allow me to work comfortably in between standing and stretching breaks. I will get it in another week or so.
chaos_by_design
Dec. 15th, 2014 06:11 am (UTC)
I'm really sorry to hear this. I hope you find something that works for you.
masqthephlsphr
Dec. 15th, 2014 04:11 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much, F.
tygermine
Dec. 21st, 2014 02:36 am (UTC)
A bit late, but I'm so sorry to hear about the physical issues you're having. It sucks living in constant pain.
I'm a sedentary creature at heart and earlier this year, when I had all the shit with my job and slight depression, I moulded myself to my couch. I began experiencing sharp pain in my one hip everytime I stood up or walked.
My mom just told me to stop being an idiot and walk around. Now living in Bangkok, all I do is walk around and now my back hurts - from my heavy chest.

Anyway, can I make a suggestion?

Try to find some aqua yoga. It'll help with the pain by stretching your ligaments, whilst keeping the movement supported and low low impact. My aunt does this for her arthritis and the relief is amazing she tells me.
masqthephlsphr
Dec. 21st, 2014 02:55 pm (UTC)
I'm going to want my doctor to sign off before I even attempt yoga. Although aqua yoga sounds safer, since gravity is less of a battling factor.

I am trying to get more walking and moving around into my day, and *real* working out. I must say some of it might be a little on the late side of all this.

Thanks for your thoughts.
anomster
Jan. 1st, 2015 04:08 am (UTC)
Oh, yike! I'm so sorry you're going through this, N.! And that I haven't been keeping up w/LJ for so long & didn't know sooner. I hope it's at least somewhat better by now--I can't tell for sure from your later post if it is or if you've just made some adjustments that help. And what happened w/the MRIs? I don't see anything about the results since this post.

It looks like you got a lot of good advice above; the only thing I can think of to add is the possibility of a standing desk. I hear good things about them on the Editorial Freelancers Assn. email list. Any chance your workplace would acquire one for you? I don't know if they existed when I had my major back problems in the '80s--I lay on my back & edited w/pencil & paper, using a clipboard.
masqthephlsphr
Jan. 1st, 2015 04:35 pm (UTC)
I only recently got a smaller, more compatible desk and ergonomic chair out of them. I have investigated standing desks. But it's hard on my back to stand in one position for very long. If the issues persist, for ex, I am going to look into voice recognition writing software so I can write fiction while walking or lying down--I can do those both in longer stretches than standing in one position.

Computer programming is a little more difficult to do while walking. But I may get a high enough platform for my desk to raise the lap top every few hours just to stretch out briefly.

MRIs revealed soft tissue inflammation in the cervical spine, and facet joint arthritis in the back (actually, back diag just confirmed results of MRI a year and a half ago), so I have an appointment with a pain clinic for shots.
( 34 comments — Leave a comment )