December 17, 2015, my wife’s birthday. She was working this night, so we celebrated a day earlier. I decided to head to the gym as I did most nights after work. I remember working out pretty hard, deadlifts, squats, but something was different about this workout.
I went home that night had a snack and pretty much went to right to bed. The next morning I woke up and something felt off. I was moving much slower but didn’t think too much of it. A hard work out the previous night will do that to a guy approaching his mid 40’s.
I went to work and went about my day, thinking I would loosen up, but I didn’t. If anything I felt worse. I was debating whether or not I should go to the gym after work. I had my gym bag and I was all ready to go. As I drove toward the gym, something told me not go. I came to a stop light and thought long and hard about whether I should go to the gym or not. I went home instead and figured I would feel better in a day or two.
This definitely felt different than just routine soreness after a hard workout at the gym. A day or so passed and by this time I was slowly getting around and was walking kind of bow-legged. Time to call the chiropractor.
I have a history of back problems, I had back surgery in 1999 at 27 years old. I can tell you I wish I never would have had surgery, as I still have back problems to this day. I have had episodes over the years where walking long distance was challenging. Sitting in a chair has been challenging, but having stenosis was a new experience.
After seeing a chiropractor and having an MRI it was determined that I had sprained my SI joint and blown a disk. I was a mess. I had never healed properly from any of my previous back injuries. I spent months working with the chiropractor (I had never seen a chiro previously).
What is spinal stenosis?
Stenosis is when the space within the spinal canal becomes narrowed . I was dealing with lumbar (lower back) stenosis and I was bent over at the waist about 30 degrees. I could not stand up straight.
My chiro had me icing about 8 times per day to get the swelling in my pelvis to go down. This was a difficult position as we needed the swelling to subside so adjustments could be made. So, I iced, and iced, and iced. I spent time before work, during work, and after work icing.
Not being able to stand up straight was hard.
Walking was very difficult for me
Walking anywhere was hard. I was bent over at the waist but was trying to keep my torso as upright as I could. I walked around with my arms dangling in front of me, I honestly kind of looked like a monkey.
Work was hard
I continued to work through all of this. Thankfully I worked in a small office and I was able to park right outside the office and I didn’t have to walk far. Part of my job was to deposit checks at the bank. I had to walk across the parking lot to get to the bank. This was excruciating for me. Trying to keep a glimmer of dignity, but also trying to manage my pain.
Life was hard
Not just for me, but for my family. My family relies on me to do a lot at home, whether it’s doing laundry, dishes, cleaning, or maintaining our home, my wife and kids rely on me a lot. I was kind of useless for about 5 months as I was recovering. I couldn’t lift much, I couldn’t really do much except ice my back and get some rest.
If we went out anywhere I would use my kids as a crutch. I would lean on them with my hands on their shoulders. They would take turns acting as my crutch. I am not sure if they enjoyed this or not, but I thought it was kind of fun.
Shopping was hard
Walking any kind of distance was really hard for me. But, I love to get out of the house, so trips to the grocery store provided an interesting challenge for me. Thankfully I was able to lean on the grocery cart, but even that wore me out after a while. We tried to go to Home Depot and Costco back to back and that about did me in!
People were looking at me
Yes, I definitely got some weird looks which is unfortunate. When I used my kids as crutches I think some people thought that was “cute”. When I was walking out in public without a cart or a kid to hang on to, people definitely stared at me.
Sleeping was really hard
I had to sleep in a position that mimicked me bent over at the waist. I spent the first 6 weeks propped up on the couch and that was no fun at all. I didn’t get much sleep during that time. I finally got to the point that I was able to sleep in the fetal position in my own bed for a few hours. Gradually things got better and I would wake up flat on my back. Progress!
Finally, after months of chiro visits I was able to use my inversion table and then my recovery sped up pretty quickly. I was able to stand up straight for part of the day and I only got better from there.
It was a really long road, and I know there are people out there in worse shape than me, but this is my story with spinal stenosis.