My battle with spinal stenosis

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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 [1].  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.


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