I've chimed in on another couple of threads, but wanted to start a new conversation here.
Realizing that we all have completely different injuries that share some common attributes, I wanted to move away from discussing our actual injuries and talk more about how chronic pain makes us feel.
I'll get us started.
I've been dealing with lower back pain since about 2002. There wasn't a particular injury, but being a military member basically just caused wear and tear over the years. I noticed a real change around 2009, when I had my first real flare up. Ever since then, I find that anytime I do anything slightly rigorous, I would feel the tension the next day and occasionally, it would be debilitating.
I'm a pretty fit guy (or at least I used to be). I always loved running, and I used to run anywhere from 10-15km at a time. Admittedly, I wasn't always the best at stretching before or after my runs. My inability to bounce back after each run started to get me down. Running was really my favorite way of keeping in shape, and I was pretty against giving it up. A lot of my problems might be attributed to pushing through runs when I probably shouldn't have, and also not stretching properly. All this to say that as my back pain started getting worse and worse, I started to feel crappier about not being able to do the activities I loved.
I have two small kids. As some of you may know, they require a lot of picking up, moving around, bending over, etc. As they get older, you want to be able to play with them, roughly at times. I was starting to notice that I would get back pain during any sort of rough play. Sometimes, the day after I would have assembled a dresser, played some games, moved some stuff around their rooms, carrying them for a long time, etc, I would be very tight and sore.
Blah blah blah....I'm sure this is stuff that everyone has experienced.
But I'm really finding my mood is starting to be affected. I've had a couple of nasty flare ups that have left me on the couch for a few days, heavily medicated with percocet and flexerol. I would lay there watching my wife try and get the kids ready for school, do the house work, take out the trash, make dinner, and other such physical things. When I watch this happening around me, I feel completely useless. Here I am, a 34 year old military member with a strong sense of duty and initiative, and I can't even help my wife get our kids dressed. You can imagine that this starts to weigh on your mind.
The hard part too is that my wife has issues of her own. She has emotional issues, she has headaches, insommnia, stomach pain and other such things. None of them, in my opinion, are as severe as when I have my flare ups that completely keep me on my back. But it does add problems of sympathy or empathy. I think after 8 years of marriage and two kids, we don't really have much time to give each other empathy anymore. I nod and offer a little pat on the back when she complains about her issues, and she gives me the old "well, that's too bad" when I complain about my back. I really don't think she understands how bad it gets sometimes. I think at times she likes to think that I'm just being lazy, the way you might see in a sitcom about the Dad that throws his back. In one scene he's on the couch moaning, but when everyone leaves the room he gets up, does a little dance, and sneaks a cookie. That lack of empathy really gets to me sometimes.
I also have a sense of hopelessness. Let's talk treatments. So far, I've had a chiropractor try and help, a three separate physiotherapists in three different cities apply manipulation, dry needling, racking, acupuncture, ultrasound therapy, stretches and heat. I've had a fitness specialist provide me with a detailed exercise regimen designed to build up my core and increase my flexibility. I've had a physiatrist (yes, a physiatrist, I didn't know what it was either, but apparently it's like a sports medicine doctor who can assist with pain management) prescribe me any quantity of percocet and muscle relaxants I'd like. Nothing has given me long term relief.
Recently, after three months without pain relief and three months of undertaking the physical training program, I was starting to feel like I was making progress. I no longer had any real pain in my lower back while stationary or sitting at my desk. I was doing deep stretching and foam rolling every single day, and although my legs would get sore from the PT, I did not feel tight in my back. I felt so good, in fact, that on an unusually warm Christmas Eve, I decided to try a short run. I was told by my trainer that as I regained flexibility and core strength, evetually we would re-introduce running since I loved it so much. I was feeling so good that day that I went ahead and ran without any approval. I ran the slowest 5 km in my life, walked for about half of it, every conscious not to go overboard. I stretched extensively both before and after. I rested and applied heat. The night of 25 December, I reached over to pick up a a light object off of the floor, and my lower left back tweaked and knocked me to my knees. I was barely able to stand up, and still had to walk for 10 mins to get home. I could barely do it and I almost called a cab since it was late and everyone at my house was asleep. The next day I was unable to move. The following day I had to report to the ER (as the military hospital was closed on Sundays) and received a shot of anti-inflammatory, and a small prescription for percocet and flexerol.
Once I was able to move again, and after a road trip to see my family, I returned home to a snow covered driveway. I know what you're thinking: "Nooo, don't do it!!" But I had to. I had to contribute to the household and shovelling was always my job. After about 5 mins I tried to lift the scoop and again in the exact same spot, it tweaked again. I threw my back twice in a one week period.
Of all of the times I felt low or blue about my feeling of uselessness, this felt much worse. How could I have been feeling so good, with some optimism that this was going to get fixed, and then without any warning suffer two of the worst flare ups I had ever experienced. The pain I felt was 10/10 and the worst it ever was before. I actually think I might have damaged the disk on that side of my back but I won't know until I get some X-Rays and possibly an MRI in February. I've been on narcotics since then and although I have full movement when I am on them, as soon as they wear off I can feel it getting tight and sore again in that same spot.
I feel very depressed now. I can't see how I will ever be back to normal again. I'm 34, and this is only likely to get worse as time goes on. I feel like I'm 80 years old. I know I'll snap out of the rut eventually, but right now I want to give up. I want to eat everything I see, I want to lie in bed all day, and I have 0 motivation to be a good employee, father or husband. Funny thing is, hugs from my kids are the only thing that makes me happy these last few days.
What am I looking to get out of this? Well I don't want pity, and I don't want advice. I just want to vent and hopefully see posts from others that are in the same or similar situation. I'd like to know it gets better, and if it doesn't how some of you have managed to still have fulfilling lives with chronic pain. Right now I feel like my kids and wife would be better off without me. She should leave me and go find someone else that is fit and filled with energy. My kids deserve a Dad that can play with them, run around with them, and pick them up without injuring themselves. I wouldn't blame her if she left but I know she won't.
If you stuck this out and read the whole thing I thank you. I know it's hard to find time to do that so I appreciate it.
Hopefully I'll find one or two people who have a similar story and I'll have someone to start sharing my feelings with. I live in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada by the way.