Thursday, October 28, 2010


The MRI was essentially normal: some degenerative disc stuff, but nothing unusual for my age and nothing that would account for the severity of this latest episode. My physical-therapy guy informed me briskly that my problem was a flattened lumbar curve, aggravated by tight hamstrings, and gave me a bunch of exercises to do, along with stern instructions that I am never to sit back in a comfortable chair again, but must always perch on the edge and maintain the proper curve of my spine. He thinks he'll only need to see me for two weeks.

Okay, so this is all good news, although the exercises have made me so sore that I just had to take a pain pill for the first time in three days. Why, then, am I not happy? Well, I still hurt, for one thing. Also, I like comfy chairs, and the idea of giving them up for life doesn't sit well, as it were. And the PT guy's efficiency made me feel like a pot being stirred on a stove: he had five of us in there at once and, with the help of an assistant, went from one station to the next, poking and prodding and flexing and instructing. This doesn't matter if his exercises work, of course -- and the cost per visit is a mere $20, a real blessing after the almost-$700 MRI -- but . . . well, I guess I was craving comfort, and that wasn't it. I was looking in the wrong place, of course, and that's my problem, not his.

A lot of this is the blasted grief issues, which probably have a whole lot to do with the severity of the current episode. At the MRI place, I had a long conversation with the receptionist, whose husband died suddenly nineteen years ago and who said she can still remember every detail of that day. She was very sympathetic to my recent losses. So was the lady who cut my hair today, who's a cat person and showed me pictures of her cats after I told her about Harley. So was my eye doctor, who was extra sympathetic because our vision coverage is decreasing drastically in July. I'm getting new glasses. I hope they last a while, since this is the last time my insurance will help pay for them! (And they were almost $500 even after insurance.)

Okay, I'm whining. (Gee, y'think?) Obviously I'm a prime candidate for that grief retreat a week from Saturday! But I'm also seriously considering looking into some non-Western treatments. A few years ago I talked to a friend who's a family physician about "alternative medicine;" she declared all of it bunk, but did admit, somewhat grudgingly, that any benefits patients receive from these treatments result largely from the fact that the practioners actually listen.

Gee, y'think?

A few years ago I had some acupuncture treatments. They helped my sinuses a lot; I stopped going because I intensely disliked the practitioner (I found his politics appalling and his personality arrogant), and also because he insisted on my taking Chinese herbs that did nothing for me. But I was standing on line at the grocery store today, thinking idly about maybe trying to find another acupuncture person, when I spotted -- in the rack with People and the Weekly World News -- the Mayo Clinic's Guide to Alternative Medicine 2011.

Acupuncture's number one on their "top ten" list (they offer acupuncture at the Mayo Clinic itself), and they say it can help with lower back pain. They also recommended guided imagery, hypnosis, massage, meditation, music therapy, spinal manipulation, spirituality, tai chi, and yoga -- in that order -- for various ailments.

So I'm not going to stop my PT exercises, but I may very well look into acupuncture in addition, especially since my allergies are still in overdrive and the sinuses could use some help. In the meantime, I haven't yet used my sister's birthday gift of a ninety-minute massage at my health club, so I'll try to do that in the next few weeks, too.

Does practicing the viola count as music therapy, even when you haven't been able to pick up the instrument for weeks because of back pain, so that when you do pick it up again, it sounds like a deranged animal being dipped into molten lead?

I hope to get back to the hospital on Saturday. That should help, too; volunteer shifts are an excellent way of regaining perspective.


  1. It almost seems like your body is a holding tank for everything you are not expressing, for everything that is not right in your life. Hopefully this grief retreat will let you get everything out into the open and your body can start to heal again. It is just a thought, but maybe the work you do at the hospital is putting more of a load on your emotions (and therefore your body) than you realize and can handle at this time. Since you are already overloaded with your own struggles right now it could be a rest from that environment might be good for you. Just a thought. I know you are a warm and giving person but sometimes we just have to give to ourselves for a while.

  2. Anonymous1:48 PM

    Dear Susan,

    Glad you got good news from the MRI! Whatever kind of care you try next, I hope you and your body feel better soon.



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