Wednesday, December 3, 2008

My aching back.

It is official: I am old. Actually, it was probably official about 10 years ago, when I started getting called "sir" at rock concerts, or maybe five, when the grey hair really started kicking in. But now it's like extra super official, because I now have Old Guy Malady #1: A Bad Back.

Actually, it may not be my back entirely. It may be my leg, too. Or something else entirely. Like leprosy. Okay not leprosy. That's a joke. I hope. I sure don't want to end up on one of those colonies, with my nose falling off and stuff. That would suck. All I know is, a few months ago, I started getting a dull pain in the back of my right knee. I'd mostly feel it when I would walk up or down stairs, but sometimes it would happen just wherever I walked anywhere. Then it would go away again.

Being a relatively healthy guy--except when I'm dying of pneumonia or fainting on the kitchen floor--I am not used to pain. And so I ignored it. Or figured I was imagining it. Or that maybe it was just a cramp. But then a weird thing started happening: The pain migrated. What started behind my right knee now traveled up to my right lower back, above my hip. And when it kicked in, it was worse. Going up stairs, I now found myself doing the Old Man Grunt out loud, and holding my side, in classic Old Man Gait. Still, though, I kind of ignored it.

Last Saturday, though, I could ignore it no longer. The wife and I were out on a run. I felt the pain in my hip even before we left the house, but, as usual, I ignored it. But about 1.5 miles from our home, it really started hurting. I told my wife to continue on, that I was in a little pain and needed to walk for a minute. She ran on. The problem was, though, that I could now barely even walk. Every time my foot touched the ground, sharp pain went shooting up my leg and into my hip. Being only in running clothes, I had no cell phone on me. If I had, I would have called to get picked up. As it was, I had to limp all the way home, stopping every few feet to rest.

So needless to say, I was kinda freaked out. What was happening to me? The plague? Scurvy? Rickets? Okay,so maybe I've read too many books set in medieval days or on ships. Still, there was clearly a problem. So I made a doctor's appointment. The early diagnosis? Problems with my sciatic nerve. Solution: Get thee to a physical therapist.

Yesterday I went to the physical therapist for the first time. I go back again tomorrow for round two. According to her, I have any number of possible problems, with the sciatic nerve being only one diagnosis. So, in the meantime, I am banned from all exercise, except walking. I have to sit up straight, which really sucks for me because I am a big time sloucher. And I am not allowed to lean into my computer, which makes reading guild chat in WoW that much harder.

Overall I suppose it's no big deal, in the grand scheme of things. Still, it rankles a bit. "Your body is getting older," the physical therapist said. And, yeah, she's right, it is. It's not like I didn't notice this before. But it is, nevertheless, still pretty easy to remain in a permanent state of denial about your own mortality and fragile place in the world. There's a secret part of you that still thinks you're just going to live forever---or at least never have to face up to your own aging process. I mean, wasn't I just in college like just a few years ago???

Most of the time, I'm happy--or at least somewhat at peace-- being as old as I am. I feel like my life has gotten progressively better. I find my 40s much more satisfying than my 30s, and don't even get me started on my 20s, which is like the most overrated age bracket ever. But today, I gotta say, aging sucks.

Bah!

72 comments:

Anonymous said...

The universe is in a state of ever increasing entropy, but I'm still holding out hope for robot legs!

jeffk said...

I started having problems with my sciatic right around the time I turned 30. My condolences. At least it sounds like you had a decent doctor - I went to a GP here in New York who was all New Agey, with electric mini-waterfalls and fake Brian Eno playing in the waiting room. The first thing she did was stick acupuncture needles in my ear (with NO WARNING), turn off the lights, and leave the room for 20 minutes. She seemed shocked that the pain wasn't gone when she got back.

Anonymous said...

If it makes you feel any better, I'll be turning 20 in a week and I have a bad back. My spine, for whatever reason, is misaligned, which causes it to "go out" every 5-6 months.

Joe said...

I'm 10 years your junior and suffer from back pain, arthritis in my hands, knees and hips, canker sores, baldness, and occasional hemorrhoids. Can't wait to see what the future holds.
In short, we all have pain. You've had a great run. Keep doing yoga, it's a great way to keep yourself "aligned" without giving money to quacks. And stop running, for christ's sake, it's like punching your whole body 100 times a minute... or something...

David said...

Instead of regaling you with another story of back trouble, I suggest you listen to the Go! Team. Their album Thunder, Lightning, Strike will cheer you up guaranteed.

DoctorJ said...

I feel your pain. I celebrated turning 40 with a bout with sciatica. It took about five months of physio to clear it up. But the good news is that the physio does really work. I've been pain free ever since.

Ken said...

Make sure you have a quality chair at work. For the last three years, I started to develop back and shoulder pain. I figured I was just getting older. Six months ago, I switched jobs and they gave me a fancy $900 chair (my previous job gave me a P.O.S. chair!). After about a week, the pain was gone. I was shocked at what a difference it made.

J T 0 N said...

Sorry about your luck, Jeff. As I'm a young kiddo, I've started noticing that I need to not slouch as often. Hope you feel better.

Rene said...

Age does not necessarily have anything to do with it. Back in the day when I was much younger and fit, being an endurance runner, I got a case of the same thing and knew others that did too. We could run 100 milers over mountainous trails so it wasn't a matter of fitness. This stuff can just happen. One thing that helped was to work on the stomach muscles (no I don't mean eat more), as they keep the back aligned which will help. Since I used to chase dudes on these runs who were in the 60's you can cancel the oldtimer routine...although there might be an opening for a Walter Brennan type character somewhere...

pele said...

Have any of you seen the recent Charlie Kaufman film Synecdoche, New York?

http://www.apple.com/trailers/sony/synecdochenewyork/

pele said...

I mention it because this line reminded me of the movie...

"There's a secret part of you that still thinks you're just going to live forever---or at least never have to face up to your own aging process."

nailerr said...

It's not a sign of age when health is a problem, Jeff, Sir. It's when you TELL people about it.

Old men are still capable of the funny though, even if sitting correctly.

Sean said...

I empathize Jeff, though I wouldn't necessarily ascribe this to age with the stoic implication of accepting increasing fraility as a matter of fact of life. People are living longer, medical science continues to make strides, and healthy people such as yourself can maintain their health for longer and longer. Hell I'm 22 and there are guys 20 years your senior who have run faster marathons than me (and I'm rather proud of my 3:02 PR). Don't give up hope, not while time keeps ticking ticking ticking....

shoot me now :P

Gentry said...

I hope things get better for you Jeff with some physical therapy. I was playing so much Wow this last spring I developed carpal tunnel/repetitive stress injury problems in my wrists, hands and forearms. The solution was to take a break for a few months, read some books on CT/RSI and ultimately to exercise my upper body. So now I go to the gym so I can play Wow, I find it rather ironic.

Glen Haupt said...

Well that's crappy. I actually had a similar experience once (twice, actually), despite the fact that I'm 18.

If I lay on the floor on my side, but prop my head up with my hand to watch TV or whatever (because chairs and couches are too conformist), I get MASSIVE back pains.

Like, constant, aching, making-it-hard-to-move back pains. I shuttered at the thought of this being my life when I get older.

But then I thought, "Hey, Jeff Green is old. He says it all the time, and he's never complained of random pains and such. Maybe I'll luck out and be like him."

Well there went that right out the damn window.

Torak101 said...

Hey Jeff
I'm about the same age group as you. Here is what I have found. When you first feel something going on, stop your routine and look into it. You can't ignore it our bodies are not as tough as they once were.
Running is not the best thing to be doing. That is really high impact. Really bad for your joints and back. Drop some money on a cross trainer, something low impact.
I still hit the gym 2 or 3 times a week but I have had to modify things a little. I'm probably stronger then any other point in my life but more prone to minor injuries and longer recoveries.
You just need to pay closer attention and not ignore warning pains.
Again, you may want to think about doing something other then running. Its not that good for you at any age honestly. I did many years in the Army and trust me, it does long term damage to your body.

Tydigame said...

Sorry to hear about that man. I'm just getting back into shape after falling off the wagon in grad school, when injuries plagued my lower half. Maybe you can try swimming in the EA pool. They have a pool right? Google has a pool, I bet.

Anonymous said...

Running isn't that dangerous as long as you were proper shoes and don't overdo it (i.e. don't run daily or too fast). But...are you doing strength training? If not you should start. Nerves getting pinched or slipping into odd places can happen due to weakness in the supporting musculature, and also due to muscle cramps which are in turn the result of excessive strain on weak muscles. When you get better you should start squatting and deadlifting to develop some proper back musculature!

Stray Neutrino said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stray Neutrino said...

Jeff,

I thought you were only in your forties? You are still young, physically active, have a keen mind, (from the podcasts I've listened to and the articles I've read) and a positive and easy going outlook on things. If you keep it up, you will age very well, I think.

Take care of your body, you spend the rest of your life in it.

Mark said...

You can't be getting old Jeff. I've had similar problems my whole life, and I'm only 27.

I can get terrible pain that shoots up from the arch of my foot all the way to my lower back.

Something about the way my foot moves when I take a step. The doctor told my parents when I was a baby to either have it corrected as a child, or hope I grow out of it.

Unfortunately, my parents took the wait and see approach. Thanks...

Now, in my late 20s I have a hard time standing on my feet all day, or walking around the majority of the day without having horrible pains at night.

Oh, and to top it off, I was a 5'4" tenor drummer in high school. Little kid with big heavy drums strapped to his body very football season. Needless to say, Band camp f-ed up my back.

You may be getting older Jeff, but here I am 27 years old... and I have the back and feet of a 40 something.

Felix said...

On the bright side, now when you are randomly ranting out in public about something or the other, people will not think you are crazy... they will just think "Oh, it's just an old man doing what old men do!"

;)

Glinkman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glinkman said...

There are plenty of retirement communities up here in Nor-Cal. Mountains, lakes, and rivers all within reach. Jeff, you're not old until you start "migrating" in an RV.

spags said...

Like many others here, I too have low back issues, at only 33. Keep flexible, get the core (ab area and the sort) strong and watch the posture.
Also, a chiropractor (particularly, an upper cervical specialist) can do wonders.

James said...

My back has been hurting the last few days actually. I need to get back into Yoga.

Jeff Green said...

Thank you all for your words and encouragement and advice. Good stuff. My daughter, too, also greeted me this morning, after reading my blog, with, "Dad, you're not old." You guys are right: I shouldn't look at it as an age thing at all. That was kinda dumb. Okay, off to physical therapy now. IF MY SENILE OLD BRAIN CAN REMEMBER HOW TO GET THERE.

Joseph said...

Yeah, I'm hoping for a robot body ideally sometime before my body starts falling apart.

But stick with the PT, it's helped everyone I've known that has taken it seriously and stuck to it.

Red Science said...

Yes, growing up does indeed suck. I'm almost thiry (i'm sure you'll curse my relative youth), but i've been noticing little aches, pains and oddities as I get a little older.

but the one that kills me is getting grey hairs. I have enough on my head, but yesterday I found my first grey chest hair. Growing up is the balls.

Make it stop, Jeff. Make it stop.

Macroe said...

I can picture you perfectly in a House episode...

Iconic game journalist running in a brisk October morning in the park, suddenly invaded by a sharp pain in the back of the knee. Initially diagnosed by Cuddy as vasculitis, with a little side story of her flirting with famous journalist. Brilliantly dismissed later on by a jealous House upon thorough inspection of your Berkeley house, finding a moldy bookshelf with old PC game boxes collecting strange 'shrooms between the disks. Nice exchange of sarcasm between gaming legend Mr Green and medical wunderkind Dr House. Topic of verbal riposte: your and his level 80 WOW characters. Saldy House's Deathknight reached 80 before Deathbert. Conclusion achieved with good news by thirteen that you will be saved by eating more pasta every night. Extra bonus ending, thirteen turns her sexual preferences at the awesomeness of your charming wit during your stay at the hospital. Name of the episode? Old Man Green. Call your agent NOW!!

James said...

"Thank you all for your words and encouragement and advice. Good stuff. My daughter, too, also greeted me this morning, after reading my blog, with, "Dad, you're not old." You guys are right: I shouldn't look at it as an age thing at all. That was kinda dumb. Okay, off to physical therapy now. IF MY SENILE OLD BRAIN CAN REMEMBER HOW TO GET THERE."

You're my hero Mr.Green.

halojones-fan said...

I have it on good authority that back problems are caused by refusing to perform oral sex.

Joshua said...

Same problems, and I'm only 28. I used to have very active outdoor jobs, but within a year of being tied to a desk, I started to get sciatica issues. And by "issues" I mean my entire leg would cramp, without a way to stretch it out. Yeah, my lower back hurt too, but the leg pain was way worse. I'm sure you heard this a million times by now, but don't keep anything your back pockets, move that wallet up to the front. And good posture really does help. When it comes to back pain, everyone has advice.

Sharon and Francis said...

I was treated for sciatic pain about two years ago due to part of my spine pressing against he nerve. I got a cortisone shot in my lower back and now I feel great!

Jeremy Steven said...

I had chronic back pain for years. Then I started running, and it went away. I think using the muscles strengthened them. I was sad to hear that you injured you back while running.

I try to prevent back problems by stretching, doing yoga, and working core muscles (back and abdomen). Also, I try to stay aware of my sitting position.

Classic sitting advice like this suggests sitting straight, shoulders back, etc. However, new studies suggest that slouching is a better way to maintain a healthy back. Sitting forward is probably the worst though.

Jeremy Steven said...

@Sean

Damn! My marathon PR is a 3:38. I guess I got pwned.

:P

halojones-fan said...

I was recently at a military/industry conference. One of the companies there was showing off a new machine that would "scientifically" reduce or eliminate back pain, which is apparently a big problem in the military (carrying heavy packs, flying helicopters all hunched forward, etc.) "spinal decompression", I think they called it.

It was a steel table with two vibrating prongs sticking out of it. I was not clear as to how this was supposed to reduce back pain; like, you put two girls up there and you enjoy the show, and you forget all about your back pain?

Rob said...

Jeff, do you think it's the motobike that cause your back/legs problems?

Anonymous said...

Hang in there old man. We don't want to lose you quite yet.

Urock said...

Jeff, according to my father (whom, if my calculations are correct, was at Berkeley with you for at least one year), the technical term for "gray hair" is wisdom.

Anonymous said...

My beautiful neighbor was having problems with her feet, and said she thought it was a problem with her shoes.

It wasn't a problem with her shoes. She had cancer. The cancer had eaten away at her bones, which were literally on the verge of snapping they were so thin.

I was shocked at how soon she died after the diagnosis - it was about six months, really, but it sure didn't seem like it was that long.

If you've got a back problem... well, then be glad it's just that.

Man up, god damn you.

The Moose.

(Also, there's nothing wrong with having gray hair. Having gay hair on the other hand...)

Anonymous said...

Cue the dramatic music......
"Seasons change, time passes by as the weeks become the months become the years"

Jeremy Steven said...

Ho, yeah. Rob totally has a point. All of a sudden you're riding that new bike 30 miles to work and back each day. I wouldn't be surprised if that isn't a major cause of your issue.

darvoid said...

Getting old just plain sucks. There's no denying it. It would be better if life would just pause at 32 for about 30 years and then carry on. On my Mac I can hit the apple key with the plus key and text gets bigger each time the plus key is pressed. Can you do that with your PC in WOW? Just wondering.

Slapshot said...

Wait, Jeff. Your teenage daughter said, "Dad, you're not old."

Clearly, she wants something.

J/K It sounds from all you've written that you have a loving daughter there.

Mike Barrett said...

I heard denim jackets with the Star Trek Enterprise emblazoned on the back are great relieving for back pain.

Thomas Mulford said...

Get a cane, walk slower, look miserable, and THEN people will wait and hold the door for you. You might even be as so lucky to have a boy scout assist you across the street. Old age has its perks, its all about the silver lining.

piratebrido said...

I hope to grow old disgracefully.

Jeff Green said...

Thankfully, the motorcycle has been officially cleared of any wrongdoing. The pain preceded it, for one thing. Also, because it's a cruiser, the stance is actually better for my back than the previous bikes. So: while I have been banned (for now) from running and rowing and weight machines, I am free to keep riding. Woot!

Bobby Phillipps said...

Meh, I'm enjoying my 20s. Then again, you can't have your 40s before your 20s, so I have no room for comparison. Get better, Jeff... I mean Sir Green!

John Rivett said...

Pain killers are your friend, Jeff!

Listen to they're sweet music, they want to take care of you!

Sciatic problems are common with people with desk jobs, or so I was told, years of compression eventually takes it's toll..

Perhaps you could dangle yourself from wires ala Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible to play WoW. Of course your internist may not recommend this.

Take care, get well..

John Rivett said...

Btw,

Didn't you have a "Greenspeak" column a year or so ago whereupon you asked "where are my back pills"? Life imitates art, young man..

Greg Wak said...

Sorry to hear about your pain Jeff. As many others have said here, it may be time to give up running and switch to swiming, which can give you just as good a cardio workout without tearing into your joints. If the PT doesn't help, consider a chiropractor.

Calcaneus said...

It's not just "old" people, I'm in a Math lab (not doing any Precal work) right now and my back is getting a bit annoying. I'm blaming it on the fact that I started exercising recently, so either I'm doing it wrong or my back is trying to tell me that it liked me better when I was a slob.

Peter Fall said...

Hahahahaa! sorry, not to be mean. this sucks. i know because it reminds me of a similar situation that happened to my Dad; he has a bad back. and he's a pastor. one day he was preaching and his back was REALLY acting up! let's just say it was difficult for him to contain the pain inaudibly while he was standing at the podium, preaching! he kinda played it off like he was being taken by the holy spirit. and kinda just bit through it.

anyways, i know it's no laughing matter. i really hope you (and my Dad!) get better.

Anonymous said...

what was your most hated game cancleing

Stephen said...

Admit it, WoW is no place for old people.

At least my bad back is due to a bad crash in the manly sport of downhill skiing. :)

thecapps said...

Jeff, in keeping with the theme of your rickets, leprosy, and scurvy theories.. get thyself to a chiropractor! My mother has had a recurring sciatic nerve issue for years now. Only help she's had with that is going to the chiropractor. Physical therapy may help as well, but I know that she's able to get adjustments done to her aging bones to alleviate the problem. From what I understand it's a pinched nerve, so they're able to move the bones that are pinching it.

Good luck!

thecapps said...

Oh, and I agree with what another poster here said. You may want to think about something a bit easier on your knees and joints in general than running on asphalt. I'd suggest cycling or mountain biking. The latter is what I'm doing, but I think you've got a good 10-15 years on me, so that'll be more up to you whether do something that could be jarring to your body. Regardless, these days they have nice bikes that have shocks and suspensions and make it much easier on you.

Cycling would probably be fairly easy for you being on the west coast, I'd imagine they have more cycling trails and even bike lanes. Here in Ohio, they don't have much of that at all unless you live downtown. I'm a suburbs guy so stick to sidewalks and a bike path a few miles from our house. Rode 12 miles on a mountain bike last week, now that is a workout!

mario66 said...

The doctor said I need a backiotomy

Diego said...

every body segment started aching while reading your post... oh dear...

Brad said...

You may be having hip problems actually. Whenever I bowl my knee starts hurting but then the pain migrates up to my hip and I realize the knee pain was just an illusion created by the nerves in my hip.

Nathan Sanzone-McDowell said...

Jeff, the only thing that I can think to say is that, if you have reached your present "old" age without learning that PAIN IS AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FROM YOUR BODY THAT SHOULD NOT BE IGNORED, you life up to this point has been lived under a fey charm whereby you have never experienced the ills and frailty of us mere mortal folk. Well, now that the charm has worn off, you can face the reality of the human body, which most of us had to face in the later half of our twenties (between 23 and 25 is when the body starts to go "downhill", hormonally).

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