First, the good news: I was able to successfully get out of bed this morning! You may be wondering why I would bother to make a big deal out of this. Don’t the vast majority of humans roll out of bed every morning without a second thought? Well, on top of the pain and stiffness that often comes with dystonia, lupus and fibromyalgia upon waking, I should probably also tell you that after a marathon session of yoga yesterday, I realized I had exacerbated an already strained hamstring and irritated muscles of the rear pelvic region. Little did I know, however, that by the time I went to bed that night, I would be hobbling down the hallway like the Hunchback of Fairfield County to the bedroom. But I’ve got stuff to do, and as Carly Simon so plaintively sang, in so many words, this hunchback honey hasn’t got time for the back pain.
I tried to recall if I had done anything specific to trigger this crippling affliction. Are passing time and an aging body just starting to finally wear down on these weary bones and muscles? I may have pushed the previously injured hamstring to stretch a bit too much before it was fully warmed up—yes, even trained yoga teachers and former seasoned athletes can still make foolish fitness decisions. However, later in the practice, my leg felt perfectly fine. As I was getting up off the mat, I noticed that my lower back hurt a little bit, but, again, this wasn’t completely uncommon. For the last month or two, lifting from forward bends and standing up from sitting for extended periods of time sometimes caused a twinge in the lower back, but it was usually fleeting and not a cause for major concern.
Moving around to do the dishes and laundry, the muscles in the lower back felt a little more sore and stiffer than usual. Still thinking this increased discomfort was something that could be easily relieved, I got back down on the yoga mat and did a few extra hamstring stretches and some hip openers I learned from Alanna Kaivalya’s online class, aptly titled “Rid Yourself of Back Pain.” I slipped in a few extra neck and shoulder stretches for good measure . And because I had done several different backbends in my practice, I made sure to focus on breathing as I settled into a long stretch in counterposes, like various yin yoga forward bends, child’s pose, rabbit pose and extended puppy pose. Afterward, I meditated, calming both the mind and body. Ah, yes—a perfect cool down!
When I got up, I initially thought that I had fully relaxed the tight and tense muscles. However, the relief was temporary and the stiff discomfort was spreading along the sides of my ribs and oblique abdominal muscles. As the afternoon progressed, it became harder and harder for me to bend forward in any capacity. Getting out of a chair or up off the couch was excruciating. By the time my husband got home from work, my walk had turned into half-hobble and I couldn’t stay in any position too long without sharp and deep pain or a seizing spasm.
Easing myself up and into the bed was a long, grinding and excruciating process. I finally lay flat on my back to center myself and breathe deeply. I commenced with my bedtime reading of Neil Gaiman’s American Gods by resting my head on my pillow and holding the book directly over my face. It was peaceful and mostly without discomfort. Yet, by the time I was ready for bed, agony had settled in. It was too painful to stay in any one position, however, I was seized by crippling spasms when I tried to shift from one position to the next. I may have let out a yelp or two—or a dozen. This continued all night long. As I lay there hurting and helpless, I was reminded of the worst days of joint and muscle aches, where pain spread like a virus, invading other areas of my body…my hips, my shoulders and wrists. Needless to say, I didn’t get much sleep.
This morning, I lay in the bed fully awake for a couple hours before braving the slide down and out of the bed. I held my breath, but it was far less painful than the night before. My stiff achiness still forced me to walk around with my back hunched for a bit. However, after freshening up in the bathroom, I was able to walk my way upright way back to the home office to sit supported in my desk chair. After a time, I felt pretty good as I pondered heating up breakfast. As soon as I leaned forward to get up out of the chair, however, sharp pain seized me again.
I slowly and painfully made my way to the kitchen, where I ate and eventually washed dishes. Standing too long caused spasms in the hips and achey weakness in the legs, so I made my way back to the couch, where I am currently sitting against a stiff, yet forgiving pillow, with a heating pad. Leaning forward eases the tension, which is an awkward way to type, but it works.
After I hit ‘Post,’ I’ll be making my way to the tub where I hope to find relief by soaking in Epsom salts. Later, I’ll slather on some more of this deep muscle jelly I bought a few years ago and hope that the bodyworker fairy grants me the wish of finding an extremely capable massage therapist in this part of the state who can give emergency home visits. If not, I will brave the foam roller and my Yoga Tune Up therapy balls, and pray that they relieve my muscle pain, instead of making me worse.
Living with chronic pain for so many years like I have, you tend to get used to physical discomfort, twinges and aches. They are always present in some fashion, but they usually can be ignored as background noise when you keep your mind and body busy enough. It’s only after all the activity, when you are finally fully at rest, that you realize—yep, all those aches and pains are still there. But this acute, agonizing pain is different. It’s one that really can’t be ignored once triggered. I’m hoping, though, that my large arsenal of pain and physical stress management tools can help relieve what’s ailing me—if not get to the true root of the problem—by day’s end, so I can have a good night’s sleep once again.