One of the risks of being a caregiver for a stroke patient is that you’re going to get hurt eventually. In fact, “nursing employees suffer more debilitating back and other body injuries than almost any other occupation, and most of those injuries are caused by lifting and moving patients.” (source)
Since my other full time job is patient care, advocacy, and rehab professional, it was only a matter of time before I hurt myself.
It happened about a month ago. Mark was in an odd position and was sliding, and it was up to me to get him situated and safe. I was lucky to have help here with me at the time, but I also overcompensated to get him safe. For a few days after that, my back was wonky, but I continued on living life which included sitting in a chair for long periods of time getting work done. Then it hit. My lower back locked up and could barely move. Getting dressed hurt. Walking the dog was excruciating. I was down for the count.
My often annoying chronic back issues quickly became acute debilitating pain.
When I lived in Mount Shasta, one of my best friends was a chiropractor, so I had free care whenever I needed it. Since the move, I’ve been good at caring for my back. But with Mark’s stroke, a lot of things have become a lower priority. Sitting in Dallas traffic driving 60+ miles a day to see him in the hospital was an exercise in survival and there was no space for lumbar support when I was just trying to arrive in one piece.
With the new bout of pain, I really had to pay attention to healing my lower back. Here’s what has been working. (Notice how this isn’t a past tense thing; this will be an ongoing defense.)
Gentle Pilates. Long ago and far away, I did Pilates a few times a week. My core was never stronger. In the acute phase of pain, there wasn’t much I could do. But I did what I could. This 10 minute video helped.
Tensing and relaxing involved muscles. There was one small muscle that was quite involved and this was the exercise that helped release it. Nearly every muscle in my sacral region including glutes, hamstrings, quadriceps were tense. It took a lot of time and energy to move through muscle groups and release the tension. I did so by working/engaging the muscle as much as I could and then focused on relaxation.
Massage. I don’t have time to go get a massage, but I was able to get a massage gun delivered same day from Amazon. It immediately gave me relief in affected areas. This massage gun has officially become my favorite purchase of 2022.
Ibuprofen. I don’t like taking a lot of Advil, but in acute situations, reducing the inflammation immediately helps. Longer term, this wasn’t a solution, though, but it did help move through the first bouts of pain.
Turmeric. Used by arthritis sufferers to reduce inflammation, I use this regularly anyway, so I just upped my intake and started making more Indian food to get more into me. You can buy pills of turmeric/curcumin or you can just buy turmeric in bulk and cook with it. Even my dog gets turmeric regularly as it is immunomodulatory, basically meaning that it’s anti-inflammatory and helps prevent illnesses like cancer.
An inversion table. My chiropractor suggested that I try this. It came from Amazon and took a bit to put together, but it definitely helped relieve some of the pressure. While the worst pain was focused in my lower back, I found other areas of my back that had tension as well. The change in gravity’s force on my body highlighted other areas to work on.
Vibration plate. I’ve had this for years, although it hasn’t been consistently used by me, which it probably should’ve been, using this has been a godsend for shaking loose tight muscles. It’s like standing on a giant massage gun. I am able to stretch on the vibration plate which allows me to stretch a little deeper where I need it.
Heat. A heating pad helped to alleviate the stress on my body.
Arnica gel & Tiger Balm. I used these interchangeably on the most affected areas. I’ve always had arnica gel around to help with bumps and bruises that are an inevitable part of being a kid. I am at my core a hippie mom. Tiger balm was helpful bringing pain relief to the worst spot, but it definitely has an odor and is greasy. I like the arnica gel better for muscle pain because it absorbs quickly and doesn’t smell.
Hylands Backache Relief. These are homeopathic tablets. I didn’t expect major relief from these, but I was surprised at how well they took the edge of the pain off so much so that I didn’t need Ibuprofen as often. It may have been coincidental, but when I started taking one pill an hour for a day, it marked a turning point in the most acute phase of my pain episode. I had used Hylands teething tablets for the kids, which were a godsend at night. They didn’t last very long, but stopped teething pain fast enough that they worked until the tylenol/advil started working. A lot of people poo on homeopathic treatments, but I’ve had good experiences with them for minor things.
Getting help. I pride myself on being able to get things done myself, but this bout of pain forced me to hire someone to help me out. I worked through an agency to find someone, and I think we’ve got someone who will work out long term. Not only does she help with some of Mark’s care, she helps around the house, too. This frees up time for me to take better care of me.
Spiritual analysis. I firmly believe that any ailment that shows up in our lives is here to tell us something. Actually, I believe that anything that shows up has a message, but these bouts of pain can really ensure we’re listening. I was able to dive deeper into some spiritual messages relating to support and my acceptance of support in my life. This ended up changing some of my long-held beliefs about who I am and what I deserve and how I handle things
The worst of this kicked in about 4 weeks ago, and I’m officially back to my old self. My old self was not in pain, but had some stiffness. Armed with my new tools, I can make more efforts towards keeping myself pain free going forward.
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