Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Diagnosis: Freak of Nature

I have been living with chronic and acute back pain, stemming from accidents and injuries that are various, unrelated, and span nearly fifteen years. Wow. I just summarized fifteen years of medical history in one sentence. Yay, Samantha! I would pat myself on the back, but as you'll read on, you'll understand why I need to leave my back alone.

My back is like an accordion straw. It's remarkably flexible, but weak, the product of more than fifteen years of ballet, tumbling, and cheerleading. This, in combination with my accident-prone nature, creates a perfect storm for frequent and sometimes severe injuries. What I'm saying is, I fall down a lot.

I've fallen off a bed, a deck, a horse, a merry-go-round, a flight of stairs, a bike, a mechanical bull, a six-foot ladder, monkey bars...

Aw, forget it. That list is tedious. It would be easier to list the things I haven't fallen off of: a tree, a roof, a moving car, a tight rope. Yeah, I think that's it.

So, my back hurts, but I'm flexible and self-reliant. What is a girl to do? To alleviate my pain, I stretch, twist and manipulate to feel the sweet relief that only comes from popping my back. This goes beyond simply twisting from side to side. Over time, I developed fourteen distinct techniques for popping seemingly every vertebrae from my skull to my sacrum. I would describe them, but I would need a diagram to illustrate, and I'm just not set up for that.

By 1999, I no longer said I was "cracking my back". I called it "adjusting my spine" to "realign my vertebrae". And I wasn't indiscriminately cracking bones. I would sit up straight, Indian style in the floor, and using my hand, I would reach behind my back and feel each individual vertebrae, including the space in between the vertebrae, to pinpoint the primary source of my pain, and I would perform whichever maneuver would adjust that vertebrae. I'm pretty sure that actual chiropractors don't adjust their own spines, and that I am insane. If you're wondering whether I've been treated by a chiropractor, the answer is Yes. Many. I got some of my best ideas from them. They don't know that.

Many people informed me that the sights and sounds of me cracking my vertebrae like walnuts was disturbing, so I began doing my adjustments in private, rarely discussing it. Kinda like how you privately over tweeze your eyebrows and obsessively examine your pores in search of blackheads. Sidenote: If you say you're "performing extractions" due to your "congested pores" instead of saying that you're "picking your face", you will feel instant credibility. Go ahead, next time you're mashing on your nose, tell yourself out loud that you're just in need of some facial extractions. It will free you from the shackles of your zit-popping shame.

If I had to gauge my pain on a scale of 1-10, with a 10 being excruciating pain that severly limits my mobility and is accompanied by nausea, crying, difficulty sleeping and concentrating, I would say that my pain number varies from day to day, and hour to hour, but since the birth of my son, I live between a 4 and an 8. Since 1998, my baseline is a 2. I can't remember a day without pain. Pain feels normal. I just assume that everyone is in pain, all the time, and that each of you reading this has a shoulder or an ankle or a knee that flares up. Otherwise, I'm not normal. I never considered that possibility. Regardless of how "normal" my problems may be, I've decided to finally, after years of pain, to see a doctor and learn once and for all if there is something serioulsy, medically wrong with me and if there is anything that can be done about it. Wish me luck!

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