Reluctant Lessons Learned from a Back Injury

There's nothing like an acute injury to sharply illustrate the necessity of a strong support system.

First, an embarrassed confession. Embarrassing, because one, this was my third housekeeping injury*, and two, because as a bodyworker, I should have totally known better.

Shortly before noon on Monday at the head of already action-packed week, I'm breaking from my 'niggly task list' to advance the laundry, some of which I need to get dressed for my day.

It should have been clear from my comment to self, that there was way too much laundry in the washer, and I was surprised it didn't break down. So, should I have tried to lift that basket, especially with my back in a slight twist?

Needless to say, my son's sweet girlfriend was a little startled to emerge from the bathroom to find me lying on the hallway floor. And rightfully concerned.

I tried to reassure her that I was fine - in spite of not being able to roll over or get up. She dutifully brought the wet wash downstairs to the dryer (in two trips, after I cautioned her of course, to NOT pick up that whole basket..!)

I'll skip the details that went down after that. Except to say, I did manage to get to a chiropractor, muddle through a shiatsu session (as giver), and receive an unexpected acupuncture treatment.

Overall, I can walk, I can drive, I can sit … apparently I can do some shiatsu… but the injury is such that it's really hard to find any position I'm comfortable in that doesn't register a 4 - 6.5 on the pain scale (10 being the worst… 7 starts to bring out the expletives…)


The brunt is situated right in the lower lumbar - L5, and the chiropractor thinks that one of the main culprits is a strain to quadratas lumborum. This a quadrilateral-shaped muscle that attaches the upper four lumber vertebrae to the hip. Whatever that means to you, suffice it to say that side-bending of any kind, tipping the pelvis back, twisting even minimally, raising my left leg, trying to get off a chiropractor's table or out of my car is... well, quite painful.

This is to be expected, and I'm sure it will heal. At least I hope… I do feel some concern about the audible 'pop' I heard. But why I'm telling you this - besides to warn you of the hazards of domestic work - is to share what I've learned so far (because I do try to transform every 'negative' event into a 'learning experience'.

1) Back pain sucks.

2) Housework is hazardous.

3) Just kidding. Mostly.

4) It is worthwhile investing in one's health before stuff like this happens. Because, as the chiropractor reminded me, if I'm already doing all the right things, the body has much more to work with in terms of self-healing resources. I'm not yet back at 100% - I really think I did a number - but I'm fairly functional, considering.

5) A core support system that you can rely on is invaluable. And I mean that literally and metaphorically.

When lifting a glass of, oh... say, beer causes pain in your low back, you get a real clear idea of how much your most tangential movements depend on the strength of your core.

I think we take our support systems for granted, until they're compromised, and it affects everything we do. To a degree, they should be - we need to rely on them without question, because you quickly come to find out then when you have to think about every movement, adjust your body accordingly so as not to incur further injury, and rely on the peripheral functions to take up the slack, it's quite exhausting. And possibly anxiety-producing.

And yet, you can't just assume that support system will be there for you, unless you nourish it, and care for it and do you part to strengthen and support it in return. It is very much an interdependent relationship, and an investment.

I can blame the load of laundry, and believe me , I do - but I also know this was an accident waiting to happen. I have been taking far too many shortcuts regarding that area of my body, especially during shiatsu sessions. I've been hearing it talking to me  - some days quite sternly - and Monday it finally let me know, "Enough already!!"

During the shiatsu session I gave that day of the injury, I was in pain. And yet, I was grateful for the care I had to take with my body mechanics because none of those short-cuts were optional. So, I really had to pay attention to what I was doing, and where my center was.

On the other end, I got a taste of the support system that I live with. My family came to my aid. That was good to experience, though a bit uncomfortable. These less-than-life-threatening incidents are a good opportunity to explore what you can and cannot rely on.

6) I have added a new chiropractor to my go-to team. Just sayin'.

6) I have a MUCH greater appreciation for people in this situation - especially, long-term.

So, do I need to connect the dots for you as far as how this translates to the realms beyond back injuries? Do you know who/what you can rely on when you're knocked out of the race? And do you make sure to feed them, support them in return?

It's good to explore those questions before you have to.

* Gina trivia factoid #54: only bone ever broken: my fourth toe, inflicted while making the bed.

* Last debilitating back injury: two years ago, carrying a bucket of mop water from one room to another. Do you see a theme here?

PS - I did get a cool back support thingy. Made me feel like a champion heavyweight wrestler!!