The worst lower back pain experience I’ve had is difficult to choose – unfortunately. It’s between an episode in Edinburgh when I was a student, and an episode in New Zealand (where I worked from 1991-92). Let’s go with the NZ one…
I had been travelling around the South Island on holiday, driving from town to town and staying in backpackers or similar. Each day I’d drive maybe 50-150 miles then spend the rest of that day, and maybe the next one or two, exploring the area. It was a two week whistle stop tour, taking in Picton, Kaikoura, Christchurch, Arthur’s Pass, Punakaiki’s pancake rocks, down to Franz Josef Glacier, Wanaka, Queenstown, Milford Sound, Te Anau, Invercargill, Dunedin, Hanmer Springs, Nelson, then home to the North Island. A lot of driving… driving isn’t good for lower back problems, and I’d had a “dodgy back” since half way through my 4 year osteopathic training (they say it takes you 4 years to qualify and 7 to recover!).
I got to Dundedin, went for a walk with a friend along the beech, bent down to pick up a stick for the dog to chase, and WHAM!!! Agonising pain swept across my lower back. Immediately I thought – “Oh no! my holiday! I have to drive tomorrow!” The dog just wanted me to throw the stick, but I had to use it to lean on to hold myself up – and it kept sinking into the sand so I gave that up. My friend tried to support me, but the uneveness of the sand meant there were too many little jerky adjustments which sent my back into spasms of pain. Eventually I had to ask him just to leave me to my own devices; he went on ahead while I gingerly made my way back to his flat, “walking” with a hand on each upper thigh to support my weight.
We had only walked a mile along the beech when my back “went”; it took me 45 minutes to get back! I was sweating despite the cool autumn breeze, and all the time wondering how on earth I was going to be able to drive the next day. That night I barely slept a wink (despite large anti-inflammatories and painkillers); I had a constant 7/10 pain, which would slowly build to 8/10 as I stayed still, but if I moved it went straight to a 9.5/10- agonising spasms. I couldn’t really walk, I struggled to find any position to lie in; sometimes on my knees curled up, sometimes on all fours, and I certainly couldn’t sit. It wasn’t pretty, and my poor friend was unable to help, much as he tried! It did settle over 3 days, and I didn’t miss the ferry back to the North Island, though I did have to change my route to catch up.
What did I do to get better? Followed the “Use it or Lose it, But Don’t Abuse it” principle.
What’s been your worst lower back pain ever? Let me know in the comments section.