Back pain and I have been old friends for about a decade or so. Most people suffer from back pain throughout their lives so there are no surprises there. However, surprises have a way of sneaking up on you and in June this year I was given the biggest surprise of my life.
Over the past twelve months or so my back pain worsened. I found that I could no longer walk for long without getting strong pain around my pelvis and shooting pains down my legs. We moved house in June this year and all the lifting and bending involved with that caused me to suffer for a few days in a row. I told myself I had a misaligned pelvis or perhaps a pinched nerve. Anyway, enough was enough so I finally took myself to see a doctor. He sent me for some X-rays and while I was getting the X-rays done I realised that I had a big problem. The radiographer had difficulty getting decent scans. She said I was very ‘bent’. What does that mean?
I took my xrays back to the doctor and we looked at them together. I nearly fell over when he put them up on the screen.
My spine was all twisted. “You have scoliosis,” he said. Ok let me just pick my jaw off the floor.
My doctor sent me to see a neurosurgeon and my neurosurgeon sent me for a bone scan and an MRI. It turns out I have moderate scoliosis along with two slipped vertebrae, one in my neck and one in my lower back. I also have bulging discs everywhere, narrowing of disc spaces and arthritis.
Ok so what do I do now doc? My neorosurgeon said that spinal fusion surgery will more than likely be needed but let’s try and put it off for as long as we can. So, I am now taking anti inflammatory medication for my arthritis, I have weekly physiotherapy visits and I have pain medication for when I can’t deal with the pain anymore.
Dealing with chronic pain is exhausting. I can’t sit for very long, I can’t stand for very long and I can’t walk very far. I have to alternate between the three….. sit, stand, walk all day long to try and keep the pain to a minimum. I have burning pain, sharp pain, muscle spasms and my entire back aches most of the time like I have the flu. I have pain in my buttocks and in my legs. I have also lost 40% of the movement in my left arm and have constant shoulder pain and a horrible burning pain along my left collarbone. I stand crooked. My right hip juts out and my left arm hangs lower than my right arm.
I’ll be honest, there are times when I have had dark thoughts. How on earth am I going to spend the rest of my life like this? I cry myself to sleep sometimes or I’ll go and have a little weep in the bathroom by myself. But here is the thing….whenever I have these dark thoughts I remind myself that it could be much worse and there are so many other people dealing with far worse things than this. The other thing that helps me more than anything is my painting. I can paint! I get to do what I love to do every day of my life. Yes it’s hard and I have to keep leaving my painting table every 20 minutes or so but I can paint! It takes my mind off myself and my pain, and it gets me out of bed everyday.
Shortly after I found out I had scoliosis I painted this painting of some poppies that I had bought. I gave it the title ‘Twisted Sisters’ because it reminded me of my bent spine. Poppies are twisted but they are beautiful. They are bent but they are not broken.