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Helen Harper

Back pain

  • June 11, 2015
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I’ve been cursing this week. I had a minor fender bender on Wednesday then on Thursday, halfway through my gym session, did my back in. Whether the two are related, I’m not sure, but I’m currently lying on the sofa with a heat pack and feeling generally very sorry for myself.

It’s horrifying how many people have to endure back problems – and often far worse than mine. At least I generally heal within a few days. I’ve had ongoing issues for years and actually thought I was over them as I’ve had twelve months clear. When I was working as a teacher and the pain hadn’t yet quite gotten to the part where I had to be sent home, I’d lie down in the staffroom to try and rest. Almost everyone who walked in would sit down next to me and offer advice. It was always very well meaning but I did get incredibly tired of conversations that started, “When I had back problems, I did (insert treatment). Let me give you the phone number now.” By the end of the day I’d have up to twenty competing avenues to follow. Great, except that the one thing I’ve learnt is that, when it comes to your back, there’s rarely a one-size-fits-all recovery programme.

The first time I ever suffered with it was over ten years ago now. I was teaching in Devon and I think I had only about three or four weeks left until I finished my job and re-located to Tokyo. With half my classes on exam leave or doing work experience, I was taking advantage of the extended free time to clear up my classroom. I was standing up and holding nothing more than a pen when I felt it – a strange sharp pain in my lower spine. Confused, I tried to walk it off. It just got worse. I halted in the middle of the room as two pupils wandered in from the class next door. My vision by this stage was already blurry and I knew with absolute certainty I was about to faint. I managed to tell them to get the other teacher – and then the next thing I knew I was on the floor as he crouched next to me trying to bring me round.

That was a pretty scary experience. It was nothing compared to what happened next though. Any time I tried to get up off the floor, I was in screaming agony. As luck would have it, the local fire brigade were on campus giving fire safety demonstrations to some of the younger pupils. Three of them were summoned and, in the absence of a wheelchair or anything sensible like that, I was deposited onto a normal plastic school chair and carried through the playground to the nurse’s office. Of course it was break time when this happened so crowds of kids were able to witness my journey. Lucky old me. In theory, it should have been fun – something akin to Daenerys from Game of Thrones on a litter. And, come on – firemen! The reality was that when they’d been trying to help me get to my feet, all I’d been able to think about was the fact that I hadn’t shaved my legs for about a month. When I was being carried on the chair and watching these poor guys sweat profusely, it was more a case of wishing I had stuck to that diet after all.

Still, the fact that I was compos mentis enough to be embarrassed proved that things could have been a whole lot worse! Let’s face it, things can ALWAYS be worse. Now I have the perfect excuse to avoid doing any cleaning whatsoever. If I can just train the cats to bring me cool drinks and nibbles whenever I want, then I’ll be set 😉

Photo by CJS*64 A man with a camera

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