Pain, a Feared Dragon or a Potential Teacher?

Over ten years ago when I first developed degenerative changes in my discs and vertebrae of my lower back, I lived with various levels of pain from Degenerative Disc Disease for well over a year. I still have occasional rounds with aches, sciatica, and pain. Because the vertebral discs in my back are getting thinner, the nerves are getting increasingly crowded where they come out from the left side of the spinal cord between the discs in my lower back.

This causes varying levels of pain in my back and in my leg from sciatica. Medicine, TENS unit, heat, acupuncture, “body work” (massaging, manual traction, stretching,) and rest helped. I was taught some breathing methods that have helped if a sudden pain or cramp occurred.

The truth is I have been arming myself with all the knowledge I could gather and utilizing it when needed. As you may have read, I am a retired nurse. I took care of many patients under many different circumstances for thirty-seven years..

As a nurse I tried to teach my patients about their disease process and how it affected them and what they could do about it. I was surprised to find that some patients had the attitude, partly out of fear, that “Ignorance is bliss.” Some were afraid of the uncertainty of their future yet they were afraid to face the future, at least at first.

There were many kinds of reactions to their illness depending on how they faced other problems and how much they felt they could influence their body to beat the illness. I chose to think of myself as the female knight fighting the dragon that I could never see. In order to overcome him I had to achieve certain goals. That took learning everything I could about the problem my body was having.

I wanted to have as much autonomy over my life as possible. In order to do that, I needed to plan how to handle challenging situations. For instance: I was instructed not to lift over 20 pounds. By lifting heavier items I might compress my discs further and put more pressure on certain areas of my nervous system.

I needed to know my limitations: for instance, how heavy does twenty pounds feel like to lift? So I started weighing things I knew were less than twenty pounds. I picked up various items to see what they weighed with me on the scales. I got the weight up to 15 pounds and got where I could lift something just enough to know if it was over that weight with a 5 pound margin for error.

So that was helpful except when my grandsons came to visit. Then I had to ask their parents for a little help. I tried to be sitting when they came running up to me. That way I wasn’t picking them up. I did have to catch the smaller one sometimes from falling off the couch. But I handled that well, as long as I didn’t jerk my back.

Another factor in the protection of my back was I needed to do back exercises. I did all kinds of them, including some good yoga stretches. I did find that some of the first pain I had each morning was getting out of bed. So I first sat on the edge of the bed and leaned over to hopefully stretch the vertebra apart and held that position for a minute or two and pulled myself up with my hands on a walker to an upright position. This seemed to work well for a long time.

But I am learning that I can adapt to adverse situations and resolve some challenges. I learned how to strengthen my back with exercises recommended by the physical therapists. I learned, after the initial shock or fear, that attitude helps tremendously. I thought of the other physical problems I had faced earlier in my career. I overcame each of them with physical therapy. I did not give up! I exercised probably harder than ever because I knew that was what was needed to beat the dragon that was trying to change my life and body.

I was thankful for everything positive in my life: the love of my family, friends, God, having had good health, loving the beauty of nature and enjoying the variety of flowers, clouds, sunsets, whatever I could sense and enjoy, I felt thankful for them as well as the each day for rest, a good night’s sleep, the beauty of the earth and the support given to me from others that I could talk with or see. I was thankful for my home and my wonderful neighbors. Gratitude can help put even pain and fear into perspective. Being thankful can do wonders sometimes to help you keep from seeing only the negative in your illness or life.

I did a lot of research about sciatica, its causes, treatments, what to do and what not to do. Knowledge is definitely a winning part of fighting your health battles. See what you have; what symptoms to expect; what treatments to expect; what you may or may not expect from your illness. Feel the feelings that are normal when faced with life changing health problems.

2 thoughts on “Pain, a Feared Dragon or a Potential Teacher?

    1. Thank you, Beth! My father was an engineer, my brother was an industrial engineer, his son is too. I think I inherited an engineer mind for daily activities. 🤔 I like to figure things out.

      Liked by 1 person

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