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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Can you help me find my Zen?

By Julie Johnstone


This is me when I still had my Zen.

Now, my Zen is gone. Or at least the part that says my body is together with my mind and spirit. About a month ago, I tweaked my back, and having a hectic schedule, I decided I was too busy to actually go to the doctor. Sometimes this can be good because eventually whatever ailment you have will often heal itself.

Not this time. As the month has gone on, my back has gotten worse. It started with a dull ache. Sitting for very long makes it worse. Kind of a problem when you are a writer! My husband blamed my chair at my desk, so I tried perching on a giant exercise ball. My trainer told me this would be good for my abs and probably help my back. So far, my abs look exactly the same, and my back hurts worse! Sigh.

I’ve tried self-medicating, so to speak. In the last month I have faithfully gone to hot yoga, flow yoga, long-hold-pose  yoga (I’ll spare you the actual strange names of the classes). Let’s just say there is not a yoga class out there that I have not tried. My back did seem to be feeling a bit better, if you consider that I could bend forward without wanting to scream.

Yet since I was not my usual rubber band flexible self, I decided something else needed to be done. Someone in one of my yoga classes suggested I needed a deep tissue massage. So off to be deeply massaged I went. I took my high expectations with me. I’d been warned that deep tissue massages hurt. Saying a deep tissue massage hurts is an understatement. I have bruises from getting my bad juju released. (Or supposedly released, in my case since my back hurt worse afterwards).

Next in the search of healing my body to come back in line with my mind and spirit, I took myself to the Chiropractor. I have never been to a Chiropractor, but several people I hold great respect for, informed me a Chiropractor had really helped them at one time or another. I met with the doctor on Monday. He put me on his table, and after a minute he told me I was out of alignment. I have to admit I was happy to hear it. I am an answer girl. If I have a problem, I feel much better if I can know the cause and create a plan-of-attack to fix it.

The doctor cracked my back in about a thousand places. Then he twisted me this way and that. Once he was done he told me I should feel all better. I had a brief moment where I did feel almost totally better, and when I say brief, I mean about five minutes of no pain, and then my elusive Zen darted out the door and out of my reach. My back pain came back bit by bit as the day went on. By Tuesday night, it was bad!
Yet, I’m a fighter. I dutifully rolled myself on three different kinds of balls to help loosen my muscles, took two Ibuprofen, and put myself to bed, after putting my kids to bed, of course. When I woke yesterday morning, I had to roll out of bed! Where oh where is my healthy body? My spirit and mind are still here, but my body has deserted me. But I shall prevail!

I rolled myself out of bed yesterday morning to go get my hair done. After all, I may feel awful, but I don’t want to look awful. At my hairdresser, I started talking, okay complaining, about my back. Low and behold, my hairdresser has had back problems for years. He referred me to his spine doctor who I'm going to see tomorrow. Wish me luck. I hope I leave intact in mind, body and spirit, or if not totally intact I hope I have a plan to find that missing piece of my Zen.

Have you ever had a chronic pain? If so, did you go with modern medicine or did you employ other methods to fix your ailment?

Have a great day!

32 comments:

  1. Oh, no! So sorry to hear it. :-( I hope the spine doctor helps you find your zen!

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    1. Thanks, Deb. I'm normally a really active person, so this has been really hard for me!

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  2. Oh Julie-there is nothing worse than chronic pain. I lived with it for years due to a bad hip. But I needed surgery. Now for the first time in over 30 years I have no pain. My friend had bad back pain and had his hips checked and that was the problem-misalignment.
    Hope you feel better and get your zen back. I left mine somewhere in downtown NYC years ago!!

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    1. Nancy,
      I'm so glad you are pain free now! Maybe you will spot your Zen next time you are downtown in NYC! If so, grab it!

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  3. I was hit by a truck when I was 16, so I don't remember a time anymore when my back didn't ache a bit. But physical therapy helps when it gets bad--both the exercises they give and the lovely massage stuff they do.

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    1. Hit by a truck???? Lisa, I had no idea! Poor thing. Next massage I get is going to be the kind that feels good!

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  4. I had severe, debilitating back pain for about a year. I tried using a different chair, massage, pain medications...nothing helped. Turned out that my back pain wasn't anything to do with my back at all, but was instead a combination of gallbladder disease and gallstones. Once my gallbladder came out, I've had no more back pain. So I strongly encourage you to continue seeking answers. My situation turned into an emergency, when the gallstones blocked my bile duct. I went to the ER because of what looked like blood in my urine, and that was when they did a bunch of tests and found the problem. I hadn't even thought about going to my regular doctor about it, because I assumed it was a muscular problem or something like that and not an internal problem.

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    1. Ok. Now you made me think I need to go see a 'regular' doctor. I don't even have one! That's next on my list if the spine doctor cannot diagnose a definite problem.

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  5. Oh Julie, I feel for ya! There's nothing worse than being in pain with no relief in sight. :( Every once in a while my sciatic nerve gets cranky but only lasts a day or two. I can't imagine if I had to deal with that for a month or longer. Talk about one cranky b...bear. ;] I hope you get it taken care of soon!

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    1. Thanks, Andris. During both of my pregnancies my kids sat on my sciatic nerve. Needless to say, I did not enjoy being pregnant because of this. Now they are just a pain in my neck! Snort! Seriously, I do love them!

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  6. I had chronic pain my leg for two years and nothing is worse. I think that the most difficult part is not knowing what is behind the pain. After a while, I began to question my sanity. Just like Catherine, a regular doctor diagnosed my problem and within weeks I was cured. Keep seeking an answer, Julie! You are in my prayers.

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    1. Thanks, Lily! I've got the regular doctor next on my list thanks to reading your and Catherine's tales.

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  7. UGH!!! That sucks so bad, Julie. About twice a year my back just locks up and pulls one hip higher than the other. I have to go to my doctor and get a muscle relaxer... Fun times writing like that. ;)

    Hope the Spine doctor does the trick for you!

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  8. Julie,
    What an icky thing to deal with! I'm sorry you're having pain, and I can relate to how difficult it is to write when it hurts to sit for long periods. Occasionally, my hips get really tight and it's painful to sit for more than 20 minutes. Not good when you're on deadline.

    I tend to pursue alternative medicine if the ailment can be treated that way. But I agree with Catherine and Lily that it would be a good idea to get a diagnosis from your MD first. Pain is our body's signal that something isn't right. Don't ignore it. The recommendation may be to rest the area to allow it time to heal and some of the other treatments might be aggravating it.

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    1. Resting is hard for me, but that is what I am going to force myself to do today since stretching it has not helped.

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  9. Julie-

    So sorry to hear of all this pain! I have been in three car accidents and had scoliosis as a teen. The only thing that save me from chronic neck pain ( although there was a lot) was seeing our local Osteopath in CT! Whole family has seen him and been helped, my mom after a major car accident and years of pain went pain free finally, my dad had back pain and shoulder pain relieved and my brother was helped with his migraines!

    I cannot emphasize enough, get thyself to an osteopath!

    Best-

    Katherine Johnstone

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    1. Katherine,
      I had not even thought about osteopath. I'll put that on my list!

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  10. Wishing you luck, Julie! The only thing that has ever helped my back has been exercise, but we are all different. I hope you get better.

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    1. Me too! I am a very active person, so not being able to exercise has really been bothering me!

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  11. UGH - we are going through just this problem with Mr. Knightley right now. He's been hobbling around for 3 weeks, despite 2 visits to the doctor. We are trying the chiropractor on Monday, but I'm nervous they'll do more harm than good (I had a back experience when I tried one). BUT he's willing to try anything at this point!

    Hope you feel better very soon!

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    1. Tell Mr. Knightley I totally understand. I went back to the chiropractor today, and I am feeling a bit better. Tomorrow I go to see the Ortho.

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  12. Oh, no! Julie, I had no idea!! I'm so sorry you've been in so much pain :(

    I had scoliosis as a kid that was corrected with 2-3x/wk visits to the chiropractor. Now I occasionally see one when/if I get out of whack, but I also get a Swedish massage every other week now, so I'm not out of whack as often.

    One thing I'm surprised no one has mentioned is Acupuncture! I've never used one for my back, but I had a weird hand problem last year (woke up one morning and literally could not even pick up a fork!) and instead of seeing my chiro or a PT, I went right to an acupuncturist. I had a book to write, and I didn't have time to waste on a "treatment plan" that might take weeks or even months. One treatment was all it took. ONE! I haven't had the issue since, either.

    I think seeing a regular doc, though, and getting some xrays is probably a good idea, just to make sure it's not coming from your internal organs. But then get thee to an acupuncturist! And don't worry -- the needles won't hurt nearly as badly as your back does ;)

    Good luck!!

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    1. Thanks, Jerrica! I didn't know about your hand problem! And the acupuncturist is going on my list!

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  13. Hi, Julie! I’m so sorry to hear about your back pain. It’s something that just nags at you and the more it hurts, the more you tense up, thus making the pain even worse. My husband has a degenerating disc in his back but he has learned to work with the problem. In my opinion, back surgery should the the very LAST option that anyone should consider. Hubby knows what he can and cannot do to keep from having a relapse. He gives himself a little time at bedtime and in the morning before getting up to put a couple of pillows under his knees to relax the muscles in his back. This is a big help. Should he have a problem with pain, he and his doctor have worked out a regimen of mild muscles relaxers and anti-inflamation medications for him to take for a couple of days and then things subside. If there is a disc problem, keeping the muscles that surrounding the disc nice and strong will help to protect it. One huge thing that we have found for any back pain or other muscular or arthritis pain is Biofreeze. It is a type of gel that you simply put on the painful area. Take a little time to relax and you would be amazed how fast the pain is gone. I don’t want to sound like an advertisement or like I have stock in this stuff because I don't. We just feel that this has to be a staple in our house. We buy it online at Drugstore.com.

    I hope that with rest and ibuprofen, you are feeling better soon. Take care. These things do go away. Just give it time.

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    1. Thanks, Connie! What great advice. I am going to get some Biofreeze! My husband and I are very active so it is always good, even when I don't have back pain, to know about a gel that can take muscle aches away.

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  14. Julie, I really hope the doctor helped--back pain is the worst--and you did ALL the right things. When that doesn't work--then off to the Doctor!

    I don't do pain well. I am not gracious or graceful about it. There are two people in my life who handle chronic pain in a way that humbles me--My Husband and youngest daughter.

    For us, it's a combonation of natural and homeopathic remedies in conjunction to seeing a doctor that helps. Right now my daughter is on a medication that has really helped--but then if it doesn't hurt bad enough she never tells me when she's in pain. Same with my Husband. We use heat/cold, anti-inflammatories, massage, electrical stimulation, and the most important thing: Exercise. Still there are days when none of it helps. Then I pray. That's all I have.

    So, I feel for you deeply--because it's one of those nebulous, awful things which takes time to diagnose and even when you do--the healing can be long.

    So--may the solution be simple and the pain doesn't stay!

    Thanks for sharing this with us!

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    1. M.V.,
      I had no idea your husband and daughter had chronic pain. How awful for them and you. I've only just started down trying to cure the pain. It's hurt for about a month, and I tried to ignore it the first week. Then I tried yoga, which did help a little. Strangely enough, the deep tissue massage made it worse! However, on my second visit to the chiropractor today, I felt a little better. I am very hopeful! Tomorrow, I go see a Neuro doc and then I will weigh what he finds along with what the chiropractor suggested.

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    2. I am hoping for you! Sometimes when you know what the problem is it sometimes helps.

      I like how you are systematically elimating things--this is important. Please keep us updated. Chronic pain is far more pervasive than people think and sometimes watching someone elses journey is encouraging.

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  15. Yes, for the past 7 years I have lived with chronic pain. Sharp knives, tingling needles 24/7 day in and day out. My skin burns so hugs hurt the touch of a hand hurts.
    Fibromyaliga for us it's a death of your old life and a rebirth of a new one, one of learning. But what works for one person might not work for another, we share a common bond and yet not. What we eat, drink, how much we move all helps but the pain NEVER EVER goes away. Changes in weather makes us hurt more, a thunder storm sends me to bed shaking with each clap of thunder like shards of glass shooting into my skin. Because of the constant pain other parts of the body begins to cause problems, heart, lungs, memory problems.

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    1. Kathleen,

      How terrible. I am so sorry to hear this. A dear friend of mine has Fibromyalgia, so I am familiar with the disease, but to say I understand what you are going through would be overly presumptuous. I hope you get the relief you deserve!

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  16. Another thing to consider, Julie, is food allergies. When I was tested and stopped eating the foods that caused chronic inflammation in my body, my back improved. I also have a great bodywork gal in Vestavia. She does KMI Structural Integration and is awesome (she doesn't kill you or make you wish you were dead). Also, the books Pelvic Power and Yoga for the Core were helpful. Best wishes to feel better soon.

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    1. Meda,

      I'd be very interested in chatting with you about what foods cause chronic inflammation in our bodies. I'd also like to hear more about KMI. Let me know if you are going to be at the meeting on Saturday!

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