One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin.
–Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis
If my grandmother was killed – by my other grandmother – still the worst part of that day would be when I had to put on my socks.
— Louis C. K.
I’ve been thinking a lot about these quotes lately. Why? Because I have felt somewhat like Gregor this past month, lying there helplessly, unable to get out of bed alone. And I haven’t put on my own socks in two weeks.
As many of you know, or may have noticed, your head coach is suffering from severe low back pain. On the morning of October 1, I woke up with a little more stiffness than this 48-year old body is used to. It was a little more difficult to bend forward.
Since then, things have gotten progressively worse. Four doctors, two x-rays and an MRI later, I am no closer to feeling better, but I have learned a few things.
First, the MRI revealed that the disc between my L4 and L5 vertebrae has degenerated and lost some of it’s fluid. (This is known as Black Disc, because it shows up as dark on an MRI. The white in an MRI is fluid.) It’s a deflated tire.
But what is most interesting is that may have nothing to do with what is hurting me. As doctor #4, a neurosurgeon, said to me, “You may just have low back pain”.
In that, I am not alone. An estimated 80% of Americans will suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives. In fact, low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide.
Here’s the other thing I know: this is not a “CrossFit injury.” In fact, doctor #2 told me that my core muscle strength likely kept this from being much worse much sooner. Having said that, I probably won’t lift another weight this year. But as soon as I can, I will. I will always err on the side of strength and fitness.
I am going through standard treatment of anti-inflammatories, rest and perhaps some physical therapy if that is needed, but I may be in this for another month or more. At it’s best, it’s just a dull ache. At it’s worst, standing up is a two-man job. I am constantly on guard against the random and sudden spasm that feels like I am getting hit with a Tazer.
So I wanted to let you know why I am walking a little more slowly and may not be my super-cheerful self all the time. (Stop laughing.) Constant pain can make a person tired and cranky. I am doing my best to combat both. And don’t be surprised if I pull you out in class to demonstrate a certain movement, since I cannot do so myself.
Thanks to everyone who has offered support and advice. Special thanks to Jill Jani for getting me into the pain clinic at Holy Cross on short notice, to my coaches for covering some classes when I don’t feel up to it, and of course, to my overburdened wife Michelle for putting on my socks every morning.