I know, old joke.  But I’m old.  Almost as old as that joke!

I remember the first time my back actually went out.

It was Christmas day.  I was living with my Grandma Harris, and she was not at home – she had gone over to Uncle Bob and Aunt Joyce’s house.  Later, we would be going to my Mom and stepfather’s house.  I was gathering the gifts from under the tree that we would be taking with us.  I bent over to pick up a package – not a heavy package.  Not heavy at all.  I started to straighten up (quickly – because, you know, youth) and …

The pain dropped me to my knees (literally).  I went to all fours, and I couldn’t move.  At all.  What the hell?  This had never happened to me before. (I was such an innocent.)  And it hurt so bad.  And there was nothing I could do but wait for someone to come help me.

When Grandma came home, she found me in a fetal position on the floor.  I was still in horrendous pain, but I was able to get to my feet with her help and bent over I made it to bed where I spent the rest of the day with a hot water bottle on my back.

I never wanted to go through that again.


After that, I would get quasi-regular back spasms, but never so bad that I couldn’t move or work out the muscle spasms to where I was mainly mobile.

I could handle this.


The next time I was immobilized was living in Los Angeles – well, really, the Valley.

You know how sometimes when you stand up after sitting on the side of your bed, and you push off with your hands?  Well, my right hand missed the bed (yes, I know, wtf? I don’t know how I did it, I just did, I’m talented that way).  And there I was again.  On the floor. It felt like I had torn every muscle on the right side of my back.  Okey-dokey.  I’ve been here before, only now I lived by myself – so nobody was coming to help me.  I got to my knees, and edged around until I faced the bed, and then leveraged myself up off the floor (slowest leverage ever).  Called work and hobbled back to bed.

My boss had a brother-in-law who is a chiropractor and so I got in to see him immediately.  I don’t know what he did, but he got me mobile.  I went back for some repeat treatments – and that’s when I learned that chiropractors may do some initial good but after a while, poking at sore and injured muscles, only delays the healing.  So I stopped seeing him and healed up.  Mostly.  One thing he told me that was true, when you damage a muscle like that, it never really heals up all the way – just mostly.

And then, married, living in San Jose, I’m at work.  I bend over to turn a key in a cabinet door.  TURNING A FUCKING KEY!  COME ON.  Yup, out it went again.  At least this time, I didn’t end up on the floor.  I simply couldn’t stand up straight – and walking around bent over is not a professional look you want for work.  I got back to my chair and little by little was able to straighten my back.  As it was the end of the day (of course, it was the end of the day – I couldn’t do this so I could leave work early), I went home, got into bed.  Next morning, I called Kaiser for a referral to a chiropractor.  Found one nearby and they were able to see me that afternoon.  Again, got me mobile.  And I stuck with it until the treatments seemed to be causing more harm than good.

And now, here I sit, all old and fat, and my back is pretty much bad every fucking day.  Mostly, just the right side.  No surprise, that seems to be the side I keep damaging or has an inherent weakness.  My back no longer immobilizes me for long periods – at least, it hasn’t for a long time (knock on wood).  Instead, I get spasms tearing through the muscles that make me gasp or scream (just a little) before going back to its usual mildly threatening pain.

And here’s the fun part, the worst spasms are when I am fucking lying in bed!

My orthopedist told me exactly what is wrong, but I can’t remember the name of the muscle for the life of me.  What he also told me, and I do remember, is there is not one fucking thing you can do about it.  You just have to wait for it to heal.

Well guess what Doc?  It’s not healing.  Not at all.  It’s just getting worse and worse.  And now, there’s a fucking pandemic and I don’t feel safe going to see the doctor to see what can be done – because surely, there must be something.  And I would Google it myself, if I remembered which fucking muscle it is.

But sadly my fat old lady brain is in about as good of shape as my fat old lady boo-boo back.




  1. Hey Terri,

    I used to work as a patient care coordinator for a private ambulatory surgical center specializing in minimally invasive spine surgery. This is the type of surgery done with a small incision thru a small tube and laser assisted to remove the debris around the nerves causing pain from spinal stenosis (pinched nerves).

    As a patient care coordinator, I would speak to patients that would call in to inquire about their candidacy for this type of surgery. I would guild them through the various steps to determine if this type of surgery was applicable to their systems based on medical consultation and MRI. Disclaimer, I’m not a nurse or orthopedic doctor. I’m just an educator that would guide the patients thru the processes to determine their candidacy for this type of surgery.

    After reading your post, it appears you may have spinal stenosis (pinched nerves) caused by the narrowed space in the vertebra from the aging process. You see, as we age the disc between the vertebra lose their elasticity and become flatten and brittle. Consequently, the lost of spaces causes bones to rub and bone spurs to occur. This extra competition for space eventually reduces and “pinches” the nerves that travel from the spine to the various exit areas of the vertebra.

    I agree that this will not heal by itself. I think the healing that might be referred to, is from inflammation to tissue that surrounds a nerve that causes pain. A reduction of inflammation around a nerve does feel like it “heals” over time. However, the reduction and competition of space around the various exit nerves of the spine are compounded as we age (from worn discs, bone spurs etc).

    At this point, I would advice you to get a lumbar MRI to help diagnose the predicted spinal stenosis. The steps for treatment for back pain is usually done in steps. First, you should get an MRI and get a spinal stenosis diagnosis. Second, get together with your doctor to try the various non-invasive options. This usually means a type of pain management treatment(s). Chiropractic adjustments, pain injections, exercises and pain pills. Lastly, when all else fails and the frequency and intensity of pain increases, surgery is your final answer.

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