I awoke this morning to a flare up in my back. When this happens I feel like my body just hates me. I have no control over it. It messes up my plans, makes me rest when I want to do something else and is very exhausting on top of all the added pain that comes with it.
What exactly is a flare up? It is more pain than normal in the damaged parts of my body causing dysfunction and excruciating agony. What causes it? Sometimes, I’m able to sleuth out the cause and other times I just have to shake my head at this body and wonder what it is doing to me now.
Here’s a little insight in to MY body’s flare ups (All the Pain Girls have flare ups and they have discovered different techniques to deal with what their body throws at them): 1) Massive amounts of pain that comes on for no apparent reason OR comes on because of something I did OR I didn’t do – sound like a child’s temper tantrum, huh? 2) Last for hours, weeks or months 3) CAN be made better with pain meds, stretching, the ball*, ice, heat, laying down to rest (and snuggling with my cat) or getting up and moving around or dangling on a noodle in the pool’s deep end to get weight off my joints and pelvic floor. Some of these may sound counter active to each other, but that is because different parts of my body flares up and need different solutions. The flare up may be muscle pain or nerve pain which is sometimes hard to tell a part even after dealing with it for a decade.
I find it interesting that one day, I’m fine and the next day I’m not. I wonder what happens in the night that makes things better or worse? Why was I fine yesterday, went to sleep and today I’m not? Or vise versa? I need to run a clinical study to find out. 😊 My physical therapist and I have discussed it on several occasions. But the only conclusion we were able to come to was the position in which we sleep. For me, once I put myself in a certain position to sleep, I do not move until I wake up again. For my PT, he rolls around in his sleep (how odd! Kidding, a lot of people do. I think I might be the odd one who stays completely still. I wake up a lot in the night so I do move around several times to different positions. But I digress. More research is needed here.)
Today, the flare up is in my low back around L5S1 where my two discectomies were. I am laying on ice right now with my knees up to keep my low back as flat as possible. I dangled in the pool earlier today to get the weight off my low back, then I worked to stretch my low back by pulling my knees to my chest while dangling. The warm water felt good on my body too which helps to relax my muscles. I also took a muscle relaxer and prescription breakthrough pain meds before laying down for a nap after lunch while my boys rested.
Now, what caused this one? I always try to search my brain for what brought a flare up on. Most of the time, I don’t know, but if I over did it the day before, I make a mental note to remember my current limits. I do think I over did it yesterday by taking my boys to the splash pad for two hours. I don’t think my back was quite ready to handle being upright that long yet. I hadn’t been upright that long since my surgery. Also, a door smashed in to my low back right on my incision when I held it open for my son. I didn’t get my foot back in time to hold it open and the metal push bar made full and hard contact with my tender back. I came home and took a nap for two hours hoping to rest my back.
We also went out to eat last night. The service was horrible and we were there for two hours. That is WAY too long for me. I stood quite a bit of the time so my sitting pain wouldn’t be so bad. By the end of dinner, I just had to stand at the end of our booth and wait for my family to finish eating. I was just in so much pain. Sometimes, walking helps my sitting pain, so when we got home, I walked around and checked my flower beds.
All of that was just too much for my back. It may not sound like much for a normal person. But for me, it is. This is my normal. I have learned the saying “No pain, No gain” is completely wrong. When my body is telling me to stop, I should stop, rest and try again later in order to avoid a flare up. When I have a flare up, I have learned the hard way, to be kind to my body and let it rest. I have struggled mentally with letting my hurting body rest. It is all a process. Each flare up is different. And a flare up is different from a pain attack. More on that another time.
*What is the ball? As you can see in the picture, I have several sizes of myofascial release balls. The black and orange balls came from my physical therapists. I use a tennis ball or racquet ball at times, too. The ball is a powerful massage device that can help relieve pain and improve function in sore muscles or to relax muscles that have tighten around my nerves. The ball massage is a form of self- myofascial release. I place the ball on the painful place in my back, hip, butt, groin, crotch, thigh, calf or foot. Most of the time, I just lay or sit on the ball for a while (5 minutes or more) and let it slowly stretch the **fascia around the muscle or nerve. I may reposition the ball as it relaxes the area to continue the stretch. Sometimes, it is painful or I feel an intense pulling in my tissue, but I know I will feel better afterward. Other times, I may roll back and forth over the ball for a more intense stretch – like one would on a foam roller. The ball can get in to smaller areas than the foam roller. My IT band is a favorite spot to lay and roll over on the ball.
**Fascia is the thin sheath of connective tissue that covers all the muscles and nerves in the body. When fascia gets tight, or restrictions, it causes a lot of pain. When trauma occurs (ie surgeries), the fascia hardens and shortens. It begins to pull other structures out of alignment with a force of 2000 lbs per square inch. This website answers some questions about facia: http://marlboropt.com/myofascial-release/ (This is NOT where I go to physical therapy.) I’ll do an in-depth post of fascia and myofascial release later.