#2: HOW IT ALL STARTED?
Chronic pain. Just the word ‘chronic’ makes me cringe. The definition of chronic is longer than 3 months. At the age of 18, this concept didn’t cross my mind. I had multiple back injuries, extending well over a 3 month period but there was no way I was labelling myself as chronic as that age. So, how did this all happen?
Initially, I hurt my back at the age of 18 when I joined a rowing team. I was on an ergo in the gym when I felt this almighty pain shoot through the right side of my lower back. I could hardly move- I wasn’t sure I would be able to get myself home. After 5 minutes, I eventually worked out how to stand up. This was like no other injury I had had before- this scared me. After a couple of days the intense pain wore off and I resumed life as normal with a slightly unhappy lower back.
Since the injury I have never returned to rowing as I was too scared that I would redo the same injury. This didn’t bother me too much though, as netball was my number one sport. What concerned me was that in that same year, I re-injured my back 3 times during games of netball. This bothered me. Over the whole year I sat out for 9 games of netball and played another 8 half games. My lower back was stopping me from doing the thing I loved to do the most.
My team mates would ask me, what is wrong with your back? I didn’t know. A couple of diagnoses were thrown around by health professionals like facet joint jam or muscle strain, but nothing definite. After every re-injury I would seek professional help, where I would be given stretches, a quick massage and I was sent on my way. The line, ‘You’re young and active. You will be fine in a few weeks’ was often mentioned. The only problem was I wasn’t being active when my back was injured. How could I convince myself to do exercise when I had a back injury? My immediate reaction was to rest, protecting my back from any further damage. I planned to strengthen my back and core when the injury healed and the pain left. However it never left and therefore I continued to wait before doing these exercises.
Many years later, after undergraduate and master’s qualifications in exercise sciences, seeing a number of health professionals, as well as my own self-directed research, I can see how very wrong I was. One day google pointed me in the direction of chronic lower back pain- a criterion which matched my story to a T. This is the point I stopped treating my lower back as an injury which needed to be diagnosed and rested, but as chronic pain, which needed to be managed. This marks the beginning of my self-management journey. A journey, like any with highs and lows and one I will be exploring more in future blogs.
For today, I want to make the point that accepting I had chronic pain allowed me to stop playing the waiting game. Instead, I was able to get on with other aspects of my life, while my back pain was still present. I can compare it to waiting for good weather to do something fun. The perfect day may arrive, but for some reason you wait for a sunnier day. So why not start today!
In my next blog I will talk more about the chronic pain cycle and how this circular motion had me running in circles for a very long time.
Until next time ☺
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