My Back Talks Back

Herniated Lumbar Disc
Photo of bulging lower back disc

When we are between our teens and mid adulthood, we often think: “I am invincible! I can do anything. I am strong. I have unlimited energy.” After all, usually nothing happens (that we can see) when we participate in risky behavior at that age. It takes getting older before we realize, “I screwed up!”

Where Did My Youth Go

When we get older and feel the wear and tear on our bodies from all of our abuses and extreme behaviors we start thinking in real time. We slip into the not so invincible, not so all powerful, not so energetic and not so young: “What was I thinking? I wish I had known that! What did I do to myself?” We finally realize that we are no longer “spring chickens.”

Back Has “Mad” Communication Skills

Did you know that your back talks to you? Actually your body is constantly communicating with you through your brain chemically and neurologically. But I am discussing my back’s own communication skills because Back spoke clearly and eloquently.

Thanks to the ignorance of youth, a high tolerance for pain, and some physically stressful work during my adulthood Back gave me my first warning.

Upper Back’s First Message

The messages started when I was a nurse trying to keep a confused patient in bed while the rest of the staff were in a Code Blue emergency. As I struggled to loose the patient’s vise grip on the bed rails which he was trying to throw his legs over, I felt a sharp pain between my shoulder blades and numbness down my right arm almost immediately. Neck spasms followed quickly.

An MRI revealed two mildly bulging discs in my neck. I was placed on sick leave; given physical therapy and healed after about three weeks. But I soon discovered those discs were only temporarily healed.

Back Gets Re-enforced

The exercises did strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles to support my upper back. But while using my shoulder and neck muscles at work later, I re-injured my neck. After a second failed recovery period, my supervisor told me to find another line of nursing because my neck could not handle the work in ICU/CCU. Back and my supervisor were telling me what I had refused to hear. So I worked in an outpatient pre-operative  area with much less pulling, turning, or lifting. Things went well. Then my family moved.

Lower Back’s Warning Shots

After several years of floor nursing I developed a few flare ups of  back ache and rare slight left leg pain. I would rest my back; apply ice and heat; get physical therapy, do some yoga stretches, and the back pain got better over a few days’ rest.  And then I went right back to work.  My back was talking to me but I wasn’t listening.

Back’s First SOS

Later I started home health nursing. While helping a family member lift a client up in their chair, I discovered that the patient did not help when I promptly had pain in my lower back and down my left leg.

A lower back MRI showed I had  not only two slightly bulging discs in my lower back but a bone spur and degenerative changes!!  After physical therapy and back rest, the doctor released me to return to work. The doctor even told me that people with worse bulges and degenerative changes than mine could lead normal lives after the initial healing period. So why should I worry, right?

Back Stabilizes

So I continued to do floor nursing but on the telemetry floor. I almost always had help, the patient assignments were closer together so there was less walking. Everything seemed better.

Back’s Final SOS Received

Then at the age of 59, after 37 years of nursing, my two lower spinal discs revolted. Back started with a whimper and progressed to a scream. I noticed that when I sat to chart or look through orders my posterior started aching. This discomfort became a burning, aching pain. Soon I couldn’t sit or stand for more than 15-30 minutes without great discomfort. I couldn’t walk on concrete floors without having numbness and pain down my left leg or in my left buttock after just 5-10 minutes.

Back Sighs, “Finally!”

I went to the doctor with records in hand. Physical therapy did an assessment and studied the reports. The therapist told me that with the bone spur and the bulging discs that I should not lift over 20 pounds of weight. When I gave my supervisor this note, things changed. The hospital could not risk my re-injuring myself permanently. The hospital could also not risk being libel if someone fell and I couldn’t help them.

AHH, Retirement

While on Long Term Disability through my hospital, I applied for several jobs. I was honest about my restrictions. No one hired me. Wonder why??? So I retired early.

A Happy Back

Finally after physical therapy from three different therapists, exercises, some weight loss, and after three different chiropractors over 5 years, I have only occasional back aches. My back (upper and lower) are much happier. I seldom have sciatica. I still have numbness down my arm if I sit or sleep with my head bent forward or at an odd angle for too long. But I can fix that with re-positioning myself.

Back Gets TLC

I also learned how to protect and treat my whole back. The last and present chiropractor has done more good for my back than the others put together! If one chiropractor doesn’t help, try another one but only after seeing a back specialist.

Back Guides Me

Knowing I had a weight lifting limit of 20 pounds helps tremendously.  I studied the weights of things, so I could learn what was under 20 pounds to prevent throwing my back into the past misery! I still do stretching yoga exercises to pull those vertebrae apart and give the nerves more room when necessary.

Back Says Divide and Conquer

If I have a lot of groceries to bring in, I use one of the carts I have. If I have to travel, I have a rolling suitcase and smaller bags I attach to the handle and roll them without lifting. I can also divide and conquer most any big load that needs moving.

I don’t have to vacuum the whole condo if my back tells me “I am tired!” I try to stop and rest. (I haven’t  totally mastered this one, especially when I am on a roll doing housework and close to being finished!)

Back Demands My Attention

But all of the therapy in the world would not have helped my back if I hadn’t started heeding Back’s messages. Some of the progress was slow because I had to learn not to do things just because I wanted to. Finally I learned that if I had to do a risky activity, I had to figure out how to execute it safely.

I am a 64 year old woman. I am not ashamed to ask for help lifting or moving a heavy object. (That took some time to learn!!) But I realized that protecting my back was more important than my pride. I have plenty of family and friends who would help if I need it. There is no shame in getting older and needing help.

If Back is Happy..

Since those early back injuries, I still have minor aches and pains but a lot of those go with arthritis and getting older. Back and I are on good terms now. When Back speaks I listen.



37 thoughts on “My Back Talks Back

  1. It sure pay’s to listen to what our body is telling us. I haven’t learnt yet, can do one days gardening, next day needs to rest, back and hip too painful to bend, still will go and do more gardening later in the week.
    Who’s going to weed it if I don’t?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah…the Back. What a beautifully, complicated thing it is. Think about a spine and all of the separate vertebrae. How on earth do we stay upright?? It’s kind of miraculous. So happy that you listened to what Le Back was telling you and that you have made peace with it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you. Me too. Now if I could get my Achilles Tendonitis, and shoulder bone spur to cut it out, I would be in good shape! lol They will respond to my tender loving care, I am sure.


  3. I’m only 34 and my back talks to me! I’m of a petite build, and 2 pregnancies were rather stressful on my poor back. I now have flare-ups of sciatica and severe lower back pain whenever I am going through a stressful situation (like now, for example, renovating our kitchen). Thanks for sharing your experience!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, thanks for commenting. I am about to go out of town to a nephews wedding but I would love to follow your site. I am a very open minded Christian who has one son, (biological) who i8s pagan and my second adult son, newly adopted with grandbaby on the way< who is Buddhist. I am amazed at the help these two have received from their respective religions. I totally accept them and their beliefs. zi hope to learn more from your posts too.Thanks!!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I can soo relate. Never understood about back pain until recently. But you are right! You only get one back! So right on!Thanks for this post!
    Hey by the way when I click on your gravatar by your name to send me over here to your site-
    I get this message:

    This connection is untrusted
    You asked to connect securely to, but we can’t confirm that the connection is secure due to a problem with the website’s security certificate.
    Such problems may indicate an attempt to steal your information.
    Close this webpage
    Show advanced

    But when I click on your picture under my LIKES it sends me here to your page. Just wanted you to know in case you wanted to check on it. So weird!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks, Joyful2bee, for your comments and suggestions on my post about sciatica issues. That brought me to this helpful article – thanks for sharing your experiences along with very wise advice! I’ll be BACK to browse around further 🙂 Best wishes!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I really liked how you said we need to listen to you back and that our back basically communicates to us- this is so true. Excellent article. I am new to this. If you have time could you look at my sight and comment- Have a great day. jon PT

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.