Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘back pain

Instant Aging

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I have developed an unmistakable hunched-over gait that instantly adds years to my appearance. Even though I have been able to carry on with a wide variety of chores, my recent disc flare up has slowed my motions dramatically.

I didn’t have too much discomfort mowing the lawn on the small tractor. I did mostly okay using the power trimmer to cut back the overgrowth along the trail outside our southern fence line. I raked. I used the pitchfork to turn composting manure.

Oh, the chickens love that task. We uncover a lot of crawly insects when disturbing the compost piles. We do the scratching for them. They just show up to reap the rewards.

Funny how they turn those creepy bugs into eggs we find irresistibly delicious.

Regarding my difficulty with standing straight after I’ve been sitting for a while, I’ve got a hunch. Without actually being able to see how the degenerating disc is causing me pain, I can only guess using the sensations I feel.

For the most part, there is nothing more than a dull sense that something is amiss. I never know what movement or gesture is going to result in the feeling of electric shock, when I presume the bulging disc suddenly reaches a nerve.

It seems to me that my body takes it upon itself to protect me from the possibility of the shock by locking up the muscles in the vicinity. This happens unconsciously, and when I try to stand up, those frozen muscles are no help. The remaining muscles have to do all the work, and my movements look incredibly labored.

Eventually the rest of my back, neck, and shoulders become stressed and fatigued from essentially fighting against the frozen lower back muscles that are trying to protect me from the feeling of being stabbed.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy my body is trying to save itself from the stabbing shocks, but it reaches a point where the protection is as bad as the injury.

Today, I have new respect for the stilted shuffle of an old body. It’s probably busy protecting itself best as it knows how.

I’m hoping the continued addition of yoga strengthening and stretching positions will provide added information for my body to reign in the extreme reaction of seizing up completely.

Have you ever noticed how easy it is for aging to come on instantly, but regaining youthfulness requires a lot of effort over a relatively long period of time?

I fail to see the harmonious balance of nature in that.



Written by johnwhays

September 4, 2018 at 6:00 am

Shared Pain

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It’s the time of year when the bucks traversing our woods are leaving plenty of calling cards. I always wonder if we are seeing marks from just one, or if there are competitors making their presence known.

Cyndie came upon this spot of cleared leaves beside the trail yesterday morning.

Just a short distance away, I found a tree with bark scraped off.

Delilah took particular interest in scents along the path, so I expect there is a lot of aroma communication going on out there.

It is much nicer experiencing the deer activity in our forest than it is dodging them on the road. There have been an unsettling number of deer hit by traffic and staining the road surface on my route to the day-job this year.

If one of the local hunters don’t take down the buck that is visiting our property, I’m hoping I might get a chance for a shed antler.

It will be an opportunity to scour our woods, off-trail with Delilah after the hunting season is over. I just need her health to improve enough that we can ease her activity restrictions.

She had a second treatment from a dog chiropractor last night, where Cyndie learned of a massage technique we are hoping will continue to relieve Delilah of her pain.

The dog and I are on parallel paths of recovery. I’m not using massage to calm my troublesome back, but have returned to my regimen of exercises and stretches to strengthen my core and improve flexibility.

It doesn’t seem like it should work as well has it has for me, but in a rather short amount of time I have regained a remarkable amount of mobility and am enjoying much less pain. The lingering symptom is a constant dull reminder of not-quite-pain in the lumbar region of my spine that occasionally warns me with brief increases of sensation a couple of notches down from the real thing.

Little hints that I’m not all good, even though I’m not feeling all that bad.

I understand exactly what Delilah is going through.




Written by johnwhays

November 15, 2017 at 7:00 am

Mostly Healthy

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Other than choosing to regurgitate the entire undigested contents of her stomach on our bed the other day, Pequenita is leading our animals in staying healthy.

The good news about the others is that all are showing promising signs of improvement.

Delilah had a quick relapse to yelping in pain after her promising signs of normalcy a week or two ago. Happily, that regression was short-lived and she has re-emerged with more of her old vim and vigor once again. We remain cautious about encouraging too much rambunctiousness, lest she experience another similar setback.

She has a second visit to the doggie chiropractor scheduled for next week. We are trying to constrain her activity a reasonable amount until then.

Cayenne’s swollen eye has settled down nicely, but shows signs of still being irritated. Cyndie washed it out again yesterday. Since all the horses were due for a fall visit from the veterinarian, we will have a chance for her eye to be seen this morning when the Doc comes to give all of them some attention.

I’m doing my best to keep up with everybody else’s progress and enjoying increased mobility and reduced pain with every passing day. ‘Nita does her best to keep my legs stretched out and warm for me. I think my tight hamstrings do me no favors at avoiding problems with my lumbar discs.









I have been grossly negligent about stretching and exercising for best back health, but as soon as the trouble showed up last week, I became a planking maniac again. The problem with that was that the muscles of my torso became incredibly stiff and didn’t want to take on the load my ailing back wished they would.

Stretching like a yoga master became the third option.


Written by johnwhays

November 10, 2017 at 7:00 am

Epic Normal

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Some days are just days. The simple steps of tending to basic maintenance and chores that happen every day can become so routine they fade to obscurity.

Yet, living it feels anything but obscure. Each simple accomplishment brings huge satisfaction.

This weekend, having our son, Julian, visit to pick up a package that Fed-Ex delivered here, and recruiting his help with some compost distribution and wood splitting, were particularly rewarding.

We used the Grizzly to pull trailer loads of wood, and with him driving, I gained a perspective of the squeaky brakes that helped to push me toward finally taking it in to professionals for service. Julian helped me get the ATV secured in the bed of our truck and I dropped it off in River Falls.

It could be several weeks until I see it again, so we are hoping there won’t be significant need for clearing the driveway of snow until well after that.

Maybe in a sympathetic response to Delilah’s painful condition, I experienced a return of degenerating disc symptoms as I leaned forward to pick up a piece of firewood, which brought a quick end to the delightful progress we were accomplishing. I’m on limited duty once again.

Luckily, that presented no disruption to a planned visit from a co-worker and her husband. She wanted to surprise him with the trip because he has a big appreciation for the majesty of horses, despite little access to them. Cyndie was wise enough to guide some time inside the fence for them, a step that is reserved for very few visitors.

As always, Legacy proved the consummate companion for the interaction with his herd-leading confident calmness. Dezirea couldn’t spare but a moment to accommodate us, as her attention was otherwise fixed on something in the distance that I couldn’t see.

Regardless the obscuring nature of the inherent normal-ness of the weekend, it all felt perfectly epic.

Given the right perspective, living in the moment can provide that result.



Written by johnwhays

November 5, 2017 at 10:43 am

Self Inflicted

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I’ve had a good, long span of time since one of my degenerating discs unleashed its contents to press against a nerve. I have not taken that for granted. Yesterday, pain made itself familiar to me once again. Today, my movements are reduced to wincing hesitations.

One thing after another seemed to fail for us yesterday, deflating our high hopes and dragging them in directions we didn’t intend. The universe laughs at our feeble plans. The truck failed to start again, despite the new battery and other work that Cyndie paid a local repair shop to do. She postponed her plan to drive into town and buy feed for the horses.

On our walk down to check on the truck, we were startled to find such a large amount of metal shrapnel left in the snow on the driveway from the recent gutter work. In their rushed attempt to complete this job by the end of their day on Friday (which they didn’t actually achieve, since there are still some finishing details that will require a return visit sometime in the future), I think they neglected to give a thorough enough effort toward cleaning the ground beneath where they worked.

It became my job to clear our walkway and upper driveway of dropped screws mixed with slivers and shards of cut metal. I had been hoping to have a warm day when I could use the new ice breaking tool I recently bought to scrape the compacted snow off the asphalt of the driveway by the house. Not only was yesterday lacking in warmth and sunshine, we were getting a gentle sprinkle of snowflakes that were just enough to camouflage the debris on the surface, such that my best option appeared to be scraping everything down to the pavement, regardless the conditions.

I think one thing that causes our efforts to bring pain to our bodies is when we are not happy to be doing the work. I was off to a bad start.

Cyndie walked past on her redirected plan to now clean some manure from the area beneath the overhang of the barn, checking on my progress. I reported my arms were complaining about the effort. In a short time, she returned from her project, pain evident in her whole body, angry over her inability to navigate the snow between the paddock and our manure pile.

I realized that I had neglected to clear that route adequately after the last big snowfall. I went from the unhappy struggle to scrape the driveway, to the necessary task of clearing snow for a path to the manure pile, now feeling some guilt over my negligence. Cyndie was not going to let me suffer alone, having readjusted her attitude, and showed up to work on it, too. She is better at “getting back to grazing,” a reference to how horses process things without dwelling on issues. Unfortunately, it was too much for our ailing bodies to shovel, so I needed to get our ATV, “Griz.”

I swiftly got it stuck. In frustration, I made sure to get it really stuck, forcing it forward and back until I was good and mad and the snow beneath it was packed tight. Then I went to get the shovel so I could angrily fight against the snow I had packed, working in contorted positions that eventually gave me the secondary result that I seemed to be after: back pain.

Regardless the physical discomfort we are both dealing with today, yesterday turned out to be a successful day. One major victory for us was that we avoided totally feeding off of each other’s angst. We eventually made good progress in teaming up to clean the area near the barn more thoroughly than it has been for a couple of months. Afterward, we settled in by the fire to enjoy a pleasant evening, eating a fun pizza dinner, with Cyndie’s fresh-baked ginger cookies to sweeten the deal.

We both recognize there were lessons for us in the difficulties we experienced yesterday.

Now, to figure out how to let my degenerating disc know that I recognize and understand my lesson, and it doesn’t need to continue hurting. I’m inviting it to go back to grazing.

It works for us.