|Smiling in spite of the pain|
This particular pain happens to me occasionally, and it's usually exacerbated by moving in a certain way that causes the sacroiliac (SI) joint to get inflamed. It's almost always in the right section of the sacrum that was damaged in my accident in 2000. As I sit here early on Sunday morning, I can feel the pain, but it's much, much better than it was earlier in the week. I remembered that the last time this happened to me, I wrote about it on my other blog. I was so happy to have found that a chiropractic adjustment would help with the pain. It was a year ago, and the funny thing is, I had forgotten about how much the adjustment helped until I read what I wrote.
The main thing I wanted to write about this morning is how much physical pain alters my experience of daily life. Giving birth to my son many long years ago, I experienced considerable pain and suffering, but I don't recall any of it. Every woman knows that we forget pain when the result is such a reward as our beloved infant. But what do we do with the inevitable pain and suffering that comes with age? Some of us move through it, and others simply get grumpy and crotchety. I had to make several pain-related decisions this past week.
The weather this week couldn't have been better, after a wet and unsettled day last Monday, so the Trailblazers had an extra hike on Tuesday instead. I didn't mention to anybody that my back was bothering me, because someone might suggest that I stay behind. I noticed that because of the trekking poles, I was able to relieve some of the discomfort by leaning rather heavily on them during the downhill sections. By the time we reached the car, I was in serious pain, not only in my back, but spasms were coming and going above my waist. As we drove to the pizza joint for food, I finally complained about the pain and was given some ibuprofen, which helped a great deal.
The next morning, Wednesday, I walked the usual half-mile to the bus stop to take my regular morning class, an hour-long aerobic session that always makes me feel better afterwards. I noticed I was having trouble walking normally and could have used a cane. I slowed down and adjusted my stride to keep my hip from seizing up. The pain in my lower back radiated down into my hip, and I was heading to an exercise class! What was I doing?
Not knowing how to do anything else, I went to class and worked out as usual, and you know what? I did feel better and was in much less pain than before. But we were intending to go on another hike the following day, and I was in a quandary. Any sensible person would not have gone but would have rested instead. But no, I was afraid to stay behind because my friends might have fun without me, and then I would be in a considerable amount of psychic, as well as physical, pain.
So I went on the hike in spite of myself. Again, I noticed that the uphill was not much problem, but the downhill! Ouch! At least it was a shorter hike, but my back pain was a constant companion the entire time. I know I shouldn't have gone, but I did notice that my back didn't bother me quite as much as it had earlier in the week. I also knew I was scheduled for a massage on Friday. I hobbled home on Thursday and climbed into bed very early.
I told my massage therapist about the situation and she spent a long time working those muscles surrounding the source of the pain, which have a tendency to tighten up. When I walked out of her office I felt better than I had in a week. Okay, I'm on the mend, I told myself, and now I need to make a decision about Saturday. I had told my friend Linny that I would join her in a skydiving day.
Well, you probably already know what decision I made: of COURSE I went skydiving yesterday! It was another beautiful day, and if I was in too much pain, I would just turn around and come home. But how would I know if I didn't at least try? I made four skydives in all and found that the only part that hurt at all was packing my chute. After the first jump and the resulting discomfort in packing, I hired a packer, a nice young woman named Katie, and she did the hard work for me. I could get used to this; instead of wrestling my parachute into the bag, I lounged around and chatted with my friends. And these were such good skydives and I had such an excellent time that I couldn't imagine having stayed home and missed the fun.
So here I am now, early Sunday morning, sitting in bed with my laptop as the sun comes up, another sunny day. Yes, I can feel the pain is still there, but I made the decision to live with it, move through it rather than let it dictate my activities. And these were all good activities, ones I wouldn't have wanted to miss out on.
I remember years ago when I got sick with Hepatitis A. I was really, really sick, and the doctor told me in no uncertain terms that I must not try to move through the pain and discomfort, because it would only cause me to end up with chronic hepatic failure. I was forced to lie around and allow my liver to heal. For ten weeks the only exercise I got was walking up eight stairs from my bedroom to the living room, once a day. I couldn't go to work, I couldn't do anything but read, nap and rest.
Our bodies are resilient, but listening to the right way to deal with our pain is completely individual. My stubbornness and unwillingness to miss out on the last week's activities was correct for me, for this week, but it's just not always the case. I hope I have the wisdom to know the difference when the time comes. Because it will come, again and again, as long as I'm alive and kicking.