Living with Chronic Back Pain: Part 2

Reinventing Myself

Living with chronic back and leg pain

By Cathy Smith

Part 2: Mourning the loss of my old self and trying to keep hope

I still mourn for the stuff I used to be able to do. After 56 years of leading a very active life and suddenly having that come to a stop is devastating. I am in disbelief every time my back goes into spasms. Working on my back has become a full-time job. Personally, I think mourning is part of the healing process.

For the first 18 months post-surgery, I maintained the hope that I would return to my old activities. I have finally realized that is not going to happen. I still hope that I can have a life that allows me to walk, bike, swim, and maybe even play a little pickleball. 

In early August 2018 I was feeling the best I have and was doing all of the above activities. The numbness in my foot was gone for the first time. I would wake up with no pain! I could stand for 15 minutes and I could carry a gallon of milk. I thought, wow, this is great. I can live like this.

Then, wham, back went into spasms in Mid-August. Unfortunately, the disk above my fusion has herniated and disk material extends into the neural foramen on both left and right sides. I have been working over six months to get this disk to settle down using conservative treatments. Every day, I do my nerve glides and cobra pose. I transition to my full core stabilization program and take short walks as things settle down. (if you haven’t guessed it yet, I am a very disciplined person. I work hard to stay as fit as possible since I know strong muscles will help support my feeble back).  When spasms returned recently (4th time in 6 months), I sought pain management treatment and have had two epidural injections. I was feeling better after both and then 4 days ago, the pain down the front of my legs returned!! What the heck!! My hope is running thin. I told my doctor, I just want to get back to where I was the first week of August. 

I am also now wearing a lumbar back brace to help reduce the leg pain when walking as well as when working around the house or buying groceries. I know back braces can weaken your muscles, but my doctor suggested for the interim to help me maintain some activity. I am finding that it really helps and helps me mentally, too.

Keep the hope even during the really tough times.

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