Cervical and lumbar pain, with a bit of thoracic for good measure. That’s the story of my back. It’s not a pleasant story, but at least I’m not completely debilitated by it. I am also not alone with it, by any means, with back pain being one of the most common medical complaints in the industrialised world.
My osteopath tells me that back problems are so common because we humans, clever as we think we are, have simply not evolved properly to walk upright yet. Effectively, we still have a spine that is intended for moving about using both sets of limbs most of the time. Yet, at some point about three or four million years ago, one of our ancestors decided that walking on their hind limbs most of the time was a clever thing to do.
The human spinal column curves in mysterious ways, chiefly in order to facilitate bipedal locomotion. It’s that curious curving just above the pelvis that is the root cause of most back problems. You see, if all we did was mooch about the savannah picking wild fruit and scavenging a bit of meat here and there — oh, and scampering up trees to escape predators — we probably wouldn’t have the problems we have today. Equally, most of us now don’t have physical jobs that keep the muscles in condition, and so it’s painfully easy to do some mischief to our most important collection of bones. Even just getting out of bed can cause damage!
My problems are manifold. I’m quite tall for my generation and gender, so I tend to stoop. When I was at school I never found it easy to perform a forward roll in gym class, and it seems this may be due to my thoracic vertebrae being very reluctant to move. In fact, they’re almost flat — which would account for my gymnastic incapabilities! Stooping has been exacerbated by my professional life being spent either hunched over a drawing board, or more recently a keyboard. This has led to all kinds of muscular issues, with extra “scaffolding” being generated in my neck and shoulder muscles in order to hold my odd angle of posture. I’m also suffering from early onset osteoporosis…
About six weeks ago, I made the error of making a lengthy road trip on a hot day with the car window just open a crack. That draught across my neck set off a chain of muscular pain and anguish that is still with me now. It’s a proper pain in the neck, in every sense. The worst thing is I knew it was likely to occur, but I still kept the window open. The pain is disrupting my sleep pattern, there’s discomfort when I sit and watch TV, or just sit here at my desk trying to do something constructive. No amount of stretching exercises seems to alleviate it, and I fear it may be a sign of something worse. It nags and mithers at me, and sometimes gives me cause to wish I’d bothered to keep myself fitter when I was younger.
Not that I have suffered in silence. I’ve been attending an osteopath for some years now, though I’m told my patient file is not one of the largest in the establishment. Initially it was because I did something very silly to my lumbar spine. Now that’s been mostly mended, it seems it may have been triggered by the aforementioned scaffolding and stooping, transferring the required mobility to the lower back. So the treatment has moved slowly up my spine to where it’s now concentrating on the neck and shoulders. Physically, I’m a mess.
Still, visiting the osteopath for a monthly session of muscular manipulation helps enormously. I do recommend it for anyone, but I also recommend discussing it with your doctor to ensure it’s the right course of treatment. I am only a satisfied patient, and not a qualified health professional.