The Anatomy of a Backache

The first title I came up with was Further Confessions of a Coppertop.  But not wanting to ostensibly wallow in the throes of self-pity too long, I thought better of it.  Not that such self-absorbed retrospection of the type is always a bad thing.  It does provide eventually, hopefully, that springboard from which one can bounce back as much from their physical pain as its emotional partner.  After all, ultimately all questions should be answered in the healing process.

Daddy's little helpers; Motrin 800.  Not to be taken lightly.

Daddy’s little helpers; Motrin 800. Not to be taken lightly.

So here I am on day thirteen of short term disability, having moved on from such self-aggrandizement and there still exists a mix of calm and panic in my mind.  Paperwork for FMLA has been submitted and claims forms have been appropriately faxed bringing a subsequent sense of relief that comes when the first of the hard segments of the whole ordeal has been accomplished.  Remaining however, is an underlying sense of dread as the truly dicey piece of the puzzle, recovery, now has to begin.  That happens once the verdict of diagnosis is in.  Mine was guilty by reason of spondylolisthesis. 

Spondylolisthesis occurs when one vertebra of the spine slips forward over the bone below it (WebMD).   This usually occurs in the lower back (lumbosacral) region and can cause lower back pain and weakness, pain or numbness in one or both legs.  In extreme cases it can cause the involuntary emptying of your bladder or bowels.  I’m thinking I should be happy for life’s small favors.   Not only that but the irony of it all hasn’t escaped me.   To think that you’d set out to achieve a certain healthy lifestyle, only to have that lifestyle, or certain actions involved with it, turn on you and produce a rather unhealthy condition is nothing if not sardonic.

Being physically active-gardening, strength training and working-one would thing that such an infirmity wouldn’t disrupt my days but it did.  It makes me wonder at what point I should have begun questioning the nature of the backaches I’ve had for most of my adult existence.  I mean, spondylolisthesis isn’t a name that would readily come to this layman’s mind; or any regular person’s for that matter.  It is, however, something in the medical dictionary so, I’m thinking it should’ve been somewhere in the back of my doctor’s consciousness; especially that part of his mindfulness that dealt with my treatment.

More than simple back pain it seems, of the five major types of lumbar spondylolisthesis the one I’ve contracted, degenerative, is the type most often associated with older adults.   It occurs due to arthritic changes in the bones of the spine brought on by cartilage degeneration.   But the condition is also the major cause of backache in teenagers involved is sport, another bit of the old tongue-in-cheek.    Also, certain sports, such as weightlifting, can cause stress to the back bones resulting in the onset of the ailment.  It just keeps getting better and better.

So here I am finding out somewhat late in the game that a backache isn’t always a backache and a pill doesn’t address or solve all your health problems pertaining to it.   And as much as I’m trying not to see this as a health disparity issue, I’m simply not comfortable with being so sure about that.

I don’t want to beat up on doctors; they are after all our first line of defense against all disease.  It’s just that I used to think of HMO’s as the Sports Medicine for the common man.  I was comfortable in that I would receive the very best of care, just like the pros.  And like the pros, I thought of myself as having a team of folks, all intent on curing me as quickly as possible to ensure I get right back into the game of life.  I’m not so sure these days about my analogy.

I can’t help but think that on the one hand had a Dallas hospital been a bit more reluctant to prescribe a pill and a bit more reticent in doing their due diligence, Thomas Eric Duncan might still be alive today.  It’s an extreme example to compare to my situation but such actions are ultimately far-reaching and affect each and every one of us.  That’s a truth we need to recognize.

Moving forward, this is my wake-up call and it should be America’s too.   Each of us should be very involved with the course of our healthcare treatment.  Today, more than ever before, we have at our disposal the resources to do just that.

As this infection or another affects our very existence, we should be aware of the slow (and surprising) creation of a new demographic; those on the last rung of the ladder to receive proper, medical treatment.   With the ACA now in full swing and flourishing in places, many of us are already the low button on the coat and we don’t even realize it.

Facts about spondylolisthesis were taken from WebMD and Medicinenet.


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