My history with back pain started on December 8, 1980. I remember that I played racquetball that morning with my good friend and coworker David Fryer (he was 'Da Fly' just as I was 'Da Mule' -- there's a funny story or two there but I will save that for another blog). I don't remember a specific play where I got hurt, I just remember that I was in quite a bit of pain most of that day. I was annoyed because I had to stay up late to watch the Monday Night Football game; I ran the weekly football pool at work. I remember the date vividly because, late in the game, Howard Cosell announced, in as dramatic a fashion as only Howard Cosell could muster, that John Lennon had been shot in New York City. I immediately (tried) to jump out of my recliner (the typical post college recliner with holes in the fabric), but instead fell flat on my face because my back would not cooperate. I literally crawled to the radio and turned it on to try and get more news about Lennon's condition.
So that began a lifetime of on and off pain in my lower back. I managed to work and play through it, with the help of my good friend Advil, until January or February of 2008. I suddenly started to feel severe pain in my left hamstring and calf. When this did not go away in a week or so, I made an appointment at the Emory Spine Center. Long story short, I had a herniated disk (L5S1) that was pushing on my sciatic nerve. I realized that I had been experiencing similar pain for a couple of years when riding more than 30 or 40 miles; I just attributed that to muscle pain and took Advil, but I realize now that was probably also due to the disk leaking out over time.
So, today, after a series of cortisone epidural injections and a year of resting and doing cores, I am mostly better. My cycling is still severely limited; I did manage 25 miles 2 weeks ago, but this past weekend I was in pain after 13 (I was in the middle of a 20 mile ride). I still have bad days however, which is why I am writing this blog - yesterday I sat at my desk in my home office for 5 hours catching up on email (I was out 2 days a month ago and had not been able to catch up!); then I drove an hour over to Marietta for a meeting with CCE (Coke bottler). Then I sat for 3 1/2 hours in this meeting (I did stand up to stretch several times); then I drove home in Atlanta traffic, which took an hour and a half. I was in pretty bad pain most of the way and had to stop and stretch mid way through. I got home, lay flat on my back for about an hour (made great progress in the book I have been trying to finish since March!), then did my cores. I felt better, but was still in enough pain to pick a few pointless arguments with my wife.
Now to the universal experience portion of this blog - pain in general can really sap your energy, but it seems to me that back pain is all encompassing. It's hard to do anything when your back hurts. I have several friends dealing with this now, one is about to undergo surgery. I was lucky to avoid that, but at one point last year I would have welcomed it if I thought that it would cure me. I never really 'felt old' until last year; I am hoping 2009 will be my 'rebirth' year and I can get back to where I was in '07. My dream is to ride in the MS ride again (I did 11 in a row from 1997 to 2007). That's a 65 mile ride 2 days in a row. It's in September, so I need to start building miles now. Wish me luck!