Sorry for the longer than usual blog hiatus. Get your violins ready, but I am currently suffering through one of my periodical bouts of lower back pain, which makes it very painful to sit up for more than a few minutes at a time. The last two weeks or so have been spent remaining vertical just long enough to teach my classes and hold office hours, before dragging myself home and chewing on pain killers. Blogging was one of the first things to go.

I was diagnosed with degenerate disc disease a little more than a year ago, but I’ve had back problems going back to 2000. The first such attack was especially memorable, since it occurred roughly three days prior to my PhD thesis defense. If you have ever suffered through a serious bout of sciatica, you know there is no pain like it. You’re all but immobile. There is exactly one physical position that provides any relief, and that is lying flat on your back on a hard surface. I remember giving my defense standing ramrod straight, since the slightest bend at the waist was very painful. In those days we were still using transparencies, and at one moment in the talk I forgot and bent over to pick up the next slide. Damn near fainted. On the other hand, it probably worked to my advantage. My thesis committee took pity on me and only asked me a few perfunctory questions before passing me. Yay!

Still, as bad as it was, it eventually healed on its own. It was the kind of thing that got a little better each day, so after the first four or five days the worst was over. Since then, roughly every eighteen months or so I would have a flare-up. Then I’d be miserable for six to eight weeks or so before life would get back to normal. During all this time, however, I never got around to seeing a doctor about it.

That changed last summer. You see, the memorable attack of July 2011 came with a couple of delightful new symptoms. I had two numb spots in my left leg, and some serious muscle weakness in my left calf. That scared me enough to see a doctor. Having watched too many episodes of House I was thinking blood clot, but my doctor basically laughed at that idea. An X-Ray revealed the degenerate disc disease. Basically, the cartilage that pads the discs in your spine gradually erodes as you get older. In my case, that degeneration has reached the point that two of the discs in my lower back are practically in contact with each other. Most of the time this doesn’t present any problem at all. But if I move the wrong way, or exercise a bit too hard, things can get inflamed, putting pressure on the sciatic nerve, causing quite a bit of pain in my leg and lower back. Very annoying, but, again, with some patience it eventually heals on its own. Last year I actually did some physical therapy to address the muscle weakness, and while it took some time, eventually I recovered completely.

Relative to past attacks, this one has actually been less severe. My experience has been that it takes six to eight weeks for something like this to heal. It has only been two weeks since the initial onset of problems, and there has already been clear improvement. No muscle weakness this time, and actually considerably less pain. It’s just sitting specifically that is uncomfortable. Standing is much better. But things are getting better. For example, I have now been upright for close to ten minutes. I am squirming a bit, but if I had tried this a few days ago I would be close to tears by now. So things are getting better, but any sort of extensive writing is off the table right now. Sorry about that.

As annoying as all this is, it really could be a lot worse. So I’d say I have a lot to be thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving to all, and see you soon.

Comments

  1. #1 Big G
    Every where you want to be
    November 21, 2012

    Check out this website…. spineonline.com
    It works !

  2. #2 Malky
    UK
    November 21, 2012

    Speaking from personal experience get yourself a good physio and/or sports masseur and take up Pilates. Did wonders for my back which also suffers from degenerative disc disease

  3. #3 JimR
    November 21, 2012

    I have been carrying a neighbor to an orthopedic clinic for sciatica pain. A steroid injection has not helped so far. After watching him for the last few months, you really have my sympathy.

    He was specifically instructed to stay away from a chiropractor and to only see a physical therapist who specializes in spines.

  4. #4 Richard Wein
    November 21, 2012

    You have my sympathy. Your experience sounds similar to mine when I was younger, though I haven’t had any acute bouts for a good few years now. Getting older and less active may have helped!

    A few things that have helped me:
    1. Less sitting. These days I usually use my computer (laptop) standing up, on a shelf.
    2. A lot of walking (and swimming until recently). More vigorous exercise tends to do me more harm than good.
    3. A memory foam mattress topper. I used to sleep on a hard futon, which was better than a regular mattress, but still left me feeling sore and stiff in the morning. Memory foam has been a god send. The best ones (Tempur) are very expensive, but there are cheaper ones available too. Do try one if you haven’t already.

    Best wishes for your recovery.

  5. #5 Bilbo
    November 21, 2012

    I’m sorry to hear about your sufferings, Jason. I’ll keep you in my prayers. It can’t hurt. I hope you have a happy Thanksgiving, in spite of things.

  6. #6 Kevin
    November 21, 2012

    Forget blogging. Get that fixed.

  7. #7 Alf
    November 21, 2012

    Ouch!

  8. #8 MNb
    November 22, 2012

    What Kevin writes. Come back when this thing is over – I can be patient.
    In the meantime I wish you all the strength you need.

  9. #9 SLC
    November 22, 2012

    Been there, done that. Remember a schmuck calling himself JonS, who occasionally commented here in the now somewhat distant past, and who, among other things claimed that the human spinal column was a perfect design?

    OT but in a previous thread (comments have been shut down on all previous threads), a gentleman calling himself Todd said the following re the recent election.

    I cant wait to clean my dirty laundry with all the tears of left wing sorrow that will be flowing in the streets Nov. 6.

    ROTFLMAO!

    Very dangerous to count one’s chickens before they are hatched.

  10. #10 Terrence Hardeman
    United States
    November 23, 2012

    From the sampler pages of Ph. Rosenhouse book I could see where his hypothesis was going and lost interest in purchasing the book because he said nothing new to any argument on both ideological opinions of creationism v.s. the evolutionist theories and remember this argument has been going on for the last 150 years. As we all are human beings we all have the rights and limited qualifications to argue opinion so I was quite intrigued that a PHD in Mathematics took on the challenge to converse with the world so stealthy with conviction or self credibility by conversing and observe organizations and political movements that are either for or against one anthers principal ideas of where we came from. Regarding Hitandrun comments I believe an honest reply would be the right thing to do first that being when your condition has improved enough to converse intellectually about your book. Now as for myself I have been researching the human genome as a hobby for the last 15 years as an armature. I have marveled at such a wonderful machine such as it is . Professionally I am a BSC in Computer Science and regarding thermal dynamics or pacifically the 2nd law I will just say that it in no way has anything to do with supporting evolution nor creationism and with minimal research and common sense you will find in plain sight the evidence to support a creator of intelligent design, one only has to wont to believe and see with his own eyes what , who where and why the truth is . From purely scientific evidence alone the Human Genome project has been the greatest witness to support the facts on why evolutionary theory can never hold water I’m sorry to say, Time and time again the ideology to argue and attempt to win the case to support evolution is purely on the merits to elevate the grieving conscious of the secularist and atheist of the world. This has gone as far to be labeled perverted intellectualism. As a scientist I will leave you with this anecdotal evidence to ponder. The entire global genetic library is not merely a volume of complicated chemical signatures that merely by random chance neither come into being nor assemble by chance and from nothing but the most advanced bio intelligent machine man has ever seen. I will also argue and tell you that the microprocessor architecture in you computer operates on the exact mechanical and problematic principals as the bio genetic machine and in principal I tell you that in an environmentally stable constant a billion years from now your very same computer will be exactly the same as what it was when it was designed and first created. The onboard low level and high level programming will operate exactly as designed, it will not decide otherwise nor shall it grow legs and walk away or out of the figurative primordial ooze. Just as every program that is written has a syntax that only is unique to which it is written for such as Basic, C, C++, java , php, cobal , and assembler just to name a few each having its own syntax . So as to say that my C program will evolve to a different language syntax is simply impossible and to justify otherwise is insane or coconsciously perverted. To close let’s focus back to the foundation of what I describe to you by example of computer architecture and its relationship to the genetic principals. If you were to remove or alter any piece of hardware without the intentional replacement architecture and program updates necessary your beloved PC will seas to operate and or exist, and to further drive my point home if any part of the architecture were to fail by means of the principal laws of thermal dynamics then your PC will also fail and seas to exist. There is a caveat in my argument. Did you notice I said if “you were to replace” any piece of hardware in your pc? Yes you surly can change the behavior and or ability of your pc by swapping out peripherals that are systems within themselves however you would not be successful unless you had the knowledge and or understanding of the entire process of what make computers do what they do and other than what they are they will only do what you as the creator or owner will want them to do nothing more just as the human genome will only do what it was designed to do create humans and nothing more.. one last note everything in nature from dust to sub atomic particles is a whiteness to intelligent design. If anyone took the time to read all the way down to this line I will just say this if you won’t the truth seek the truth if you won’t the proof seek the prove it will only take but a small amount of your time just as how much time it will take you to Finnish the Venti Carmel Machiatto sitting beside your laptop Thank you for your time.

  11. #11 SLC
    November 23, 2012

    Re Terrence Hardeman

    Mr. Hardeman produced quite a word salad that said virtually nothing at great length. Since Mr. Hardeman demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the Theory of Evolution, I would suggest that he read the two popular books on the subject by Brown biology professor Ken Miller, no atheist he, before pontificating further on a subject of which he is completely ignorant. In short, never have I heard anyone write so knowledgeably from such a vast fund of ignorance.

  12. #12 Kevin Dowd
    November 23, 2012

    and some paragraphs or headers might have induced me to read even a little bit further than five words! lol…

    “two of the discs in my lower back are practically in contact with each other” ouch.. I have had both knees replaced.. and now my feet are acting up..

    take OXYcodone.. 10mgs.. they help.. also I take Lyrica to block pain signals from my legs.. that or Celebrex (which is much stronger) might help.. it clogs up your receptors in the brain.. but still..

  13. #13 Alf
    November 23, 2012

    Mr Hardeman, what exactly does the profession of BSC in Computer Science entail? Do you stand on a plinth with your degree stapled to your forehead? I see that you also moonlight as an armature. When do you manage to sleep?

    As for your evidence for Intelligent Design, you are quite wrong. I know for a fact that my cat Cassius crafted the Universe and all life in it. I can tell from careful study of his haughty expression.

  14. #14 Alf
    November 23, 2012

    Wot about those inversion contraptions? Mate of mine with back problems had one and he swore by it. Can’t see it doing any harm if you strap your feet in tightly enough, obviously.

  15. #15 Walt Jones
    November 23, 2012

    Sorry to hear of your back pain–I hope that suppressing the laughter induced by Mr. Hardeman ‘s comment didn’t exacerbate it.

    At similar intervals as your flare ups, I find myself stuck at a 90 degree angle. After reading of your travails, I won’t be complaining next time.

  16. #16 Hitandrun
    November 25, 2012

    Jason,

    Do you blame evolution’s Unintelligent Design for your back problems?

    Best wishes on a full and speedy recovery from one biped to another.

    H&R (Homo Erectus)

  17. #17 Neil Schipper
    Winnipeg
    December 9, 2012

    Sorry to hear about your back problems. I’ve had numerous bouts. All the best!

  18. #18 randyextry
    December 9, 2012

    As a doctor who specializes in spine disorders, I have a lot of advice if you’re interested. For the moment I’ll say only two things – #1 if there was no trauma, and the doctor got an x-ray, (s)he is not a very good doctor (at least, not at treating spine disorders), and #2 if you have never tried a course of anti-inflammatory steroids for one of your flare ups, you are needlessly suffering.