Disclaimer: This is one looooong post guys. If your curious as to the specifics of my back woes this past year and how I'm getting better this post is for you! If you don't feel like plowing through my entire back story don't worry, I'll post some pretty pictures and not so long winded posts soon :)
It all started in March. Chad and I spent all weekend in the mountains. We hiked, biked, rock climbed and yoga'd our hearts out for two and a half days. My usually tweaky back felt great! It was tired while hiking but, Sunday night, when we were home and I was stretching, I remember telling Chad that I felt no pain at all in my back, this was the first time in a very long time that I had absolutely NO pain at all.
The next morning was a very different story.
My back was sore and as the day went on I started to hunch over more and more. By the end of the day I was pretty bad. Chad and I tried going for a jog that night to see if moving would help. It didn't. It did however make it much worse. From there I went downhill very fast. It wasn't just my back that was killing me but I had severe nerve pain all the way down my leg and into my foot. After a couple days the physician I work for was concerned and tried getting my poor back to relax with muscle relaxers and some mild pain pills. When that didn't help he sent me to his chiropractor.
I had high hopes for the chiropractor. I had no insurance so I was hoping I just needed an adjustment and some stretching and I'd be back to normal. He adjusted me, used the ultrasound machine, the little electrical stimulators, and also used a machine to stretch my spine out. The only relief I got was when I was strapped into the machine that stretched out my spine. He also spoke with my doctor and I took my first steroid pack. The stretches he had me doing at home were excruciating to say the least. My husband would have to help me and I would be sobbing through them. It was horrible for both of us. After a month I had had enough. The chiropractor wasn't doing anything new for me at my appointments despite the 0 progress I was making, and he said that he really thought I should get an MRI. There was no way I could afford to even think about getting an MRI so I stopped going to the chiropractor and stopped trying to muscle my way through the stretches. And... remarkably.... I felt better.
Make no mistake, I still couldn't stand up straight, lay down flat (on my back or stomach) and was in a LOT of pain, but it was better than when I was forcing those nasty stretches. At this point I had also started to lean to the left, a lot. I decided to try seeing a physical therapist. I cried as I talked with the wonderful Physical Therapist. He was kind, patient, and a wonderful listener. He worked with me for over an hour that day, and when I left I felt better, emotionally and physically. I had high hopes. Since I didn't have insurance he wrote down very specifically what to do at home since I couldn't afford to see him often. I will forever be grateful for that. I saw him a second time and could almost stand up straight when I left his office.
It was Memorial Day weekend and Chad was at work. At this point I was still hunched over but I was doing my physical therapy exercises every day and was making slow progress. Then I decided to try and clean when Chad was gone. I stupidly picked up our 50 pound hiking pack to move it across the room when my back spasmed and literally threw me to the ground. I have never in my life experienced pain like that before. All I could do was sob and lay there. At one point I managed to get up and grab the laptop to try and relax on the couch to no avail. Instead I rolled off the couch on to the ground and cried and watched Netflix until Chad got home. I knew it was bad.
Two days later we drove 2 hours down to Vegas to board a plane to fly to Michigan. I was nervous that I would seriously die on that journey. My wonderful neighbor graciously gave me a vibrating mat that she still had from when she had a herniated disc. It helped a lot on the drive. I had to use a wheelchair in the airport. I only had 2 very mild pain pills leftover and used them strategically to help me get into a somewhat comfortable position and then I just didn't move. The doctor I worked for in Michigan tried helping me out, my family tried helping, nothing helped. I was in so much pain at night I would literally just lay on the ground sobbing. When we went to U of M's campus to take pictures of Taylor my dad plopped me down in another wheelchair, between the severe back pain and crippling nerve pain, I couldn't walk very far. The doctor I worked for also sent me to her doctor where I was able to get an injection in my SI joint. I also got better pain pills, Valium and more steroids. The pain pills were better than what I had before. I was out of it for most of our vacation due to all of the medications I was taking, but even those prescriptions didn't help much at night. I would still end up in unbearable pain, sobbing on the floor. I cannot even describe the pan I was in, it was a living nightmare. Everyone told me I needed an MRI. I continue to ignore them thinking it was just my SI joint, and I didn't need to waste my time and LOTS of money for a test to tell me what I already knew.
When we got back to St George I went back to the physical therapist who had helped me before. He was shocked at how bad I was. He tried to help me but finally said there was nothing he could do for me. I was in too much pain to do any of the stretches or exercises I had previously done. I sobbed through the entire visit. He told me I needed to get an MRI.
After that I went to the clinic that helps uninsured people. The PA there thought I would be fine on muscle relaxers, gabapentin and yet another dose of steroids. He finally prescribed some pain medication but it wasn't nearly strong enough. I was back to sobbing on the floor nightly after work. He suggested getting an x-ray. Chad and I mentioned that everyone said I needed an MRI. He agreed. Since I was able to qualify for a voucher that helped (a little) with the cost I finally gave in and set one up.
I still couldn't lay or stand straight so the MRI was a horrible nightmare. I could have cared less about being strapped down in a tiny tube, I was in SO much pain. I had to pinch myself the entire time to keep from moving. I sang primary songs the whole time and prayed that I could make it through. The Dr. had ordered 2 MRI's without contrast and the same 2 again with contrast. The MRI tech graciously told me I didn't nee to do the ones with contrast, the images he had were fine. Prayers are answered.
I was also working through this entire ordeal. I'm a medical assistant so it was not easy. I was hunched over so far, I was practically at a 90 degree angle with my body. My patients and coworkers poked fun at me about it, I got quite a few Quasimodo jokes, and I played along but in reality I was in horrific pain. I would burst into tears as soon as I got in the car. Chad would have to drive because it was too painful for me to use my right leg. At home I couldn't stand up long enough to cook, I couldn't even stand up straight enough to take a real shower. I sometimes needed help just to get dressed, blow dry my hair and put on my shoes. Chad had to help me with everything. After work I would sit in the shower with the hot water beating on my back and just cry until I couldn't anymore. I wouldn't eat I hurt so badly. I would throw up because I was in so much pain and so tired from not being able to sleep. It was like this for a long time.
The results came back from my MRI, I had bulging discs at L4 and L5. S1 was also looking bad. I was referred to a spine specialist. My boss had graciously decided to provide me with health insurance. I am forever grateful that he helped me out by doing that. I could now afford to go to a specialist! Because I was seeing a specialist I finally was able to get pain medication that was strong enough to help. I have never been more thankful for Percocet in my life. After meeting with the specialist he referred me to a surgeon. I was adamant that I did not want surgery, there had to be another option. So he offered to give me injections near my spine to see if that helped at all, but told me to still meet with the surgeon. I didn't.
I had the injections and they helped just enough that I could attempt to do my physical therapy exercises again , but it wasn't pretty. I was so discouraged. I had been dealing with this since March and it was now September. I was so tired physically and mentally, I had been completely dependent on Chad the whole time. He was exhausted and I was depressed.
Then one day, shortly after the injections, we went to Albertsons, the grocery store near our house. I was only able to go to grocery stores because I could lean on the cart like a walker. We grabbed a few things and got in line to check out. The cashier, a manager there, said, "Hey, you look like I did". At this point I was used to unsolicited advice on how to magically cure my back: chiropractors, acupuncture, reflexology, special supplements, braces, and a whole host of people's favorite doctors. I had even had people pray over me in public. I thought I had heard it all and I was slowly coming to the conclusion that maybe my Dr. was right and I needed surgery, I just wasn't getting better. The cashier surprised me with a new recommendation though. "There's a healthy posture class over at The Summit gym, you should try it out". He went on to tell me he used to have the same problems that I did with the L4, L5 and S1, and then said "Look at me now!". Yup, he was standing up straight. I thanked him for the suggestion and we left. Little did we both know, he had literally saved me with his simple suggestion to a stranger in his checkout line.
I was in a tough spot. I either needed to meet with the surgeon or figure out a different option, it seemed as though I had tried all the other options and they had failed, miserably. So I looked into this healthy posture class. I decided to try the free week membership and give it a shot. It was better than surgery and cheaper than trying physical therapy again. It couldn't hurt.
With the week pass I was able to go to 3 classes. I hobbled into my first class nervous that I wouldn't be able to do any of the moves. And you know what, I couldn't do most of them. I couldn't even do the simplest of warm up stretches, intertwining your fingers together and raising your arms straight overhead to stretch. In fact I struggled just to stand through the entire warm up (standing up was a horrible, painful nightmare), I desperately wanted to sit on the ground and give up during the first few minutes. I didn't though, I had determined that I would give every class my very best effort. This was going to be a place where I really pushed myself. Lori helped me through the first class, she gave me lots of modifications and lots of encouragement, both of which I needed. After leaving that first class I was in even more pain. Lori had worked me over. But the next morning, I felt just a little bit better. So I kept going.
After the 3 free classes I felt better. 3 classes.
Now don't misunderstand, I wasn't completely better after 3 classes. I was still a bent over, hunchy hot mess, but I felt noticeably better. Something was happening. So after my free week trial I immediately signed up.
I have been going to Lori's class now for almost 2 months. It is hard work. In the beginning I modified a lot of the moves. In fact I winced and even closed my eyes through a lot of the moves... I still do today sometimes. I still have to modify some things and I still have to bend my knees when we stretch our legs out straight, sometimes I'm the only person in class with bent knees. But it doesn't matter. Even modified moves give you life changing results. After just over a month of hard work I am standing almost straight. There's no doubt in my mind that I will be standing up completely straight soon. My spine specialist told me last week that I am looking amazing and to keep up whatever I'm doing. There is no longer any mention of surgery. I am working on getting off my pain medication but I do still need it right now. I'm sure as I continue class I will no longer need it. I attend Lori's class 3 times a week, and if I could fit more into my schedule I would.
I will be grateful to that stranger in the grocery store for the rest of my life. Without his simple suggestion I never would have found Lori. The two of them are an answer to prayers and they are both responsible for where I am today. I hardly know either of them, and yet I love them both dearly for helping to heal me. After almost a year of debilitating pain and endless attempts to remedy it, I have finally found my solution, and I am feeling like myself again. As long as I live in St. George I will attend Lori's class, and when we move I will take her dvd's with me.
Thanks to Lori and my Grocery Store Savior my husband finally has his wife and partner back, my boss has his medical assistant fully functioning again (my patients all think I've had surgery), and I have my life back. I'm starting to rock climb, mountain bike, hike, play piano, take walks, shop, shower, cook, clean, dress myself, and run again! Best of all though? I am happy.