The Vent

A Huge Pain

7 years ago by

A Huge Pain

I have a bad back, so today, I am talking about a literal pain in my a$$. I herniated a disc playing soccer when I was 17 and haven’t been the same since. It’s been a number of years (I won’t say how many) that I’ve struggled with it, the pain ebbing from nonexistent to excruciating, which is where I’m at with it these days.

The smallest things are impossible without pain – putting on shoes or pants, picking up my cat (who, to be fair, does weigh about 20 lbs), or bending over, ever so slightly, to spit out toothpaste. Certain things come off the table for a while, like exercising, quickies (which I consider exercise), dancing (also exercise) and I am oh, so sick of it.

I am in physical therapy and know I’ll get better eventually, but I won’t lie and say there haven’t been tears, shoe throwing or serious contemplation about asking a total stranger to help me tie my shoe that’s come undone. I haven’t actually done that last one because I can walk pretty normally and worry no one would believe that I actually need help and I’d feel super awkward. So instead, I walk the two last blocks to work with my shoelace picking up SoHo’s finest grime and wait to sit on my office floor and painfully tie my own shoe.

Fortunately, I’m constantly reminded of the small things I take for granted like taking a bath or sleeping those extra 15 minutes and rushing to work each morning. I need all the time I can get just to wash my face and put my socks on. I’m also reminded of how great my live-in boyfriend is as I watch him do all the cleaning, laundry and cooking with no complaints. I think about these things when I feel my pain and frustration turning into a total public meltdown.

This isn’t the first time, or the last, that I’ll go through this, either. Like cheaters, once a bad back, always a bad back. But for now, I’ll think about how lucky I truly am and internally debate if I’d give up coffee or alcohol for no back pain. Oh, and triple knot my shoes.


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  • Hey Carie! Sending you all the loving and strengthening vibes I can muster! Girl, I feel you.
    I injured my knee dancing/doing taekwondo in my teens and I’ve had pain for as long as I can remember. On the good days, I would hardly notice it but on the bad days… I HAVE asked complete strangers for help getting up after slipping on steps and not being able to get up myself. But not until a VERY LONG minute had passed by with strangers just walking around be without offering any helo because why on earth would a fit 26 yo need help getting up?!

    I finally mustered up the courage for surgery in December and for some time, it was going so well! I was pain free! For the first time in over 10 years! But then, something happened and now it’s painful and swollen again. So no yoga, no running, and no surfing (and surfing is my no 1 addiction and I’m DYING every day that goes by w/o it!). Did I mention I live in an old house, 4th flooe, no lift?

    But anyway, here’s the thing: the only way is forward. Always. And on my bad days, I try and remember that.

    Also, I believe things happen for a reason and the universe puts us where we need to be, when we need to be there. So have faith, you’ll get there, one day at a time.

    And lastly, I find it helps me not comparing myself to others. I know, it sounds lame but it’s true all the same. You might be a bit restricted in what you can do right now (and god knows I know what it feels like to have an invisible injury!) but you have superpowers of your own. For one thing, you’re a bad-ass writer for a bad ass-community. And this very moment, you brought out something good in another human being, and inspired me to send you them vibes, Go you! I’m rooting for you.

  • Hi Hanna – Thank you for all of your words of encouragement and positive thoughts! You put it so perfectly with an “invisible injury.” Thank you, again, and best of luck to you and your back! x Carie

  • I hurt my back some years ago and was sent to “L’Ecole du Dos”–Back School. The physical therapist didn’t believe in massages; she was all about strengthening the back’s muscles. She said she had seen x-rays of people with terribly eroded disks who didn’t suffer, because their muscles were strong enough to hold everything in place. I kept going for years, even after insurance no longer covered it, because it was so nice to be pain-free (and when I did stop and just did the exercises at home, I learned that little by little I was doing them incorrectly. A coach is vital). Now I do Pilates twice a week, and the exercises are amazingly similar to the Ecole du Dos (but the location is easier for me, hence the switch).
    One thing my kiné always said was that walking was excellent for a bad back–it gets it moving just enough without overdoing it.

  • Inconnu March, 20 2017, 5:29 / Reply


    J’ai vécu une chose similaire il y a 6ans de cela. Arrêté preque un an a cause d’une hernie discale en l4-l5. Je ne pouvais même plus marcher, et quand je le pouvais c’était vraiment limité. J’ai eu 5 infiltrations et je t’avoue avoir voulu en finir plus d’une fois.. maintenant c’est de l’histoire ancienne enfin je l’espère, j’ai retrouvé quasi toute ma mobilité même si ce n’est plus comme avant.. ceci dit je suis peut être chanceux de pouvoir pratiquer occasionnellement du sport a forte dose sans ressentir de réel douleur.
    Je ne veux pas faire le commercial mais on m’avait conseillé à l’époque de tester un tapis de accupression et cela ma énormément soulager. Je prenais de moins en moins de medocs (cocktail reconnu anti-infl/décontractant/lamalime et j’en passe) grace au tapis magique. Je n’ai jamais voulu me faire opérer, d’après certaine étude il faut 10ans pour que cela se resorbe… a voir
    Le meme site marcharnd propose d’aurenavant un appareil qui permet de décompresser les disques. (Ce fut mon cadeau d’anniversaire pour mes 34ans, sa soulage énormément selon les personnes)
    Je partage ta souffrance, même si plein de monde croit comprendre quelle douleur nous vivons ou avons vécu, je pense que tant que l’on a pas été confronté a cela, personne ne peut l’imaginer.
    Félicitation a ton homme, d’être présent et compréhensif. J’aurais souhaité la même chose mais ce ne fut le cas.

    Courage et positivité!

    Cdt M.

  • I couldn’t agree more that no one knows how bad back pain can be until they’ve experienced it themselves! Thank you for your encouragement! x Carie

  • Hélène March, 20 2017, 6:32 / Reply

    Back pains… Tell me about my life!!!
    I started practicing Pilates about a year ago and guess what? Yeahhhhh!!!! Back and neck feel more comfortable and relieved. I do it twice a week as well and it does help…. A lot!!!

  • Hélène – It seems like Pilates is what most people are recommending for me and it will be the first thing I try once I’m strong enough! x Carie

  • Have you heard of the Safe concept? It was developped by a former ballet dancer to heal back pains. It is soft and strengthen your deep muscle. Check their website
    Good luck with your back!

  • Hi Bobbie – I have not heard of Safe Concept, but I will definitely look into it. Thank you! x Carie

  • Cristiana March, 21 2017, 3:59 / Reply

    This describes me so well. I also have a herniated disc in the lumbar area. So painful and stressfull to know you can’t do most of the activities you used to do before. I’ve also been told to strenghten my back muscles. I intend to start kineto therapy and pilates. I am confindent we can skip surgery ( at least that what my doctor recomended, first, pfff, like, yeah right!) Stay happy and confident, though! :) Hugs from Romania!

  • Thanks, Cristiana! I intend to avoid surgery as much as possible, too. Best of luck to you!! x Carie

  • Michelle March, 21 2017, 7:53 / Reply

    I’m interested in the responses and am sorry for your pain. This last year I have had terrible lower back pain in the mornings. I’ve seen specialists (including a rheumatologist), had an MRI, two x-rays and a bone scan. Absolutely nothing showed up. I started doing pilates – when I do it twice a week – I can walk in the mornings. If I skip my classes, I’m in pain. Maybe in a year or two I’ll feel well again, although I’ll likely always have a weakness. I’m only 36 and its been a hard year. I have found my peace with it though. The afternoons and evenings I can walk around with no problem! Pilates is key in my situation. I find it interesting that others are saying something similar.

  • Michelle – My pain is MUCH worse in the morning, too. Most of my current pain comes from an irritated and pinched nerve. I’m definitely going to start with Pilates as soon as I can as it seems like a common denominator in feeling better. Best of luck to you! x Carie

  • Oh my, I am in the exact same situation at this very minute. I truly truly can relate. I first herniated my disk at 16 and had a dead leg for at least a month before I ever thought to say anything to anyone. Here I am at 45 — in pretty good shape from running and yoga and meticulous about my back care — still dealing with the periodic, absolutely crippling flareups. This is my 5th time in PT since the beginning. And each time I am filled with the same abject terror that I’ll have to live like this the rest of my life. And throw in a dog, 2 kids, husband who works long hours and commutes, my own very busy schedule, etc it is just overwhelming. And yet each time it slowly gets better and I am slowly able to resume my regular life. But at the risk of sounding melodramatic to anyone who has never experienced this — the fear never ever leaves me. I am always always on guard for it to happen again. I wish you a speedy recovery. OK. Off to PT.

  • So not fun : ( I hope you have found a good path towards healing. I like edibles for pain. I don’t have pain in the way you do, but I have had chronic hives since the birth of my daughter. I can certainly relate to a constant undercurrent of discomfort, it’s debilitating and makes me overly sensitive/irritable. Hang in there and I hope your feel good moments just keep growing!

  • Hi Carrie!
    Sorry to hear of your pain. I’m currently also suffering “invisible pain” – but in my abdomen (nearly 5 months and still undiagnosed but I’m getting an exploratory operation soon!) Anyway I came to say have you tried acupuncture? I had a few sessions and they really helped with the pain. I can’t afford to do it forever but it made a difference when painkillers don’t do anything.

  • Hi Carie,

    I haven’t commented on this lovely blog before but I felt compelled today as I can so relate to your very heartfelt and honest words describing what so many of us have experienced in the world of back pain. Sadly I’ve been on this journey longer than you but the good news is I’ve learned a few things along the way that have helped me which I would like to share in the hopes that maybe they will help you as well.
    First as in so many things the way I have “framed” my back pain has helped me deal with it and has made a huge difference in my mental state which then actually helps me to move out of the active state. So what I learned over the years is to only think of my back pain in terms of the word “flare-up”. I never use another word or thought process to describe my pain. A flare-up is just that and what flares up flares down. And so it has been. This has helped my family as well. No panic necessary!!
    Getting through the active phase is challenging and for me I have found that staying engaged in some fashion has been the best strategy. I will use an ice pack in the car to get from here to there. (sitting is the worst for me). I will adopt a half day model as pain can be so tiring (like walking around with a chain around your neck). I am a swimmer which has helped me tremendously so even if I can’t swim as I normally would I just get in the water and float. This can be a few minutes of pain relief and an outing. Advil is good, ice is good. Heat feels good but not good for long periods as can increase your inflammation. I have had success with physical therapy as well. For me it feels good to be “doing something” about it.
    I’m thinking about you Carie and hoping that some of these suggestions as well as the thoughtful suggestions of others will help you on your road to moving out of this flare up. So not fun I know but you will get there. And then the goal is to try and lengthen the good time between the inevitable flare ups. Pilates sounds good for that!!!! I know swimming is a hassle (hair not good) but it has been a savior for me. If you have any affinity for the water find a pool!!!

  • Aieaieaie!!!
    I’ve been going regularly to a chiropractor since I’m 15 years old, I tried a physiotherapist who did some soft massage that were totally ineffective and did fitness during a year, which has quite helped me but was totally boring. I’m still seeing my chiro and I’m doing Pilates now and I really enjoy it. It helps too, and for me it’s sooooo much more interesting than fitness (I like yoga too). So, I understand you, it can be so painful.
    Have you tried Pilates? Everyone in my group has some back problems, and normally it’s perfect for this kind of things. Stay strong and take care!

  • I know very well what pain means, I’ve had my own story with it. :(
    I just wish you all the best and don’t ever give up!

  • Charlie Mingus March, 22 2017, 2:33 / Reply

    @Jodi, you expressed it well, “the fear never ever leaves me. I am always always on guard for it to happen again.”

    The combination that has best helped me is deep massage (1-2 times a month, 1.5 hour sessions), exercise to strengthen my core…especially my lower back (pilates, ashtanga yoga), adjustments with a good chiropractor (preferably one who does ART and Graston work), and using ice packs. I also had to work a lot on not getting depressed from the pain and finding ways to calm my anxiety.

  • Pilates ! It saved the life of my friend, she was going crazy with her invisible pain: all the doctors she saw at that time were recommanding surgery. She was against back surgery and did research about pilates and nutrition (removing acidity in her food was very helpful and working with a good Pilates instructor changed her life). Good luck to you ;;;

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