My apologies for posting nothing yesterday. I’ve had a particularly bad flare-up over the past few weeks and trying to get back to work was taking all my energy. It was quite painful to sit up and type, and I don’t have a laptop, so skipping a day became necessary for survival.
Today, I want to talk about back pain. Some side-effects of endo are embarassing, annoying and/or painful, but few are as truly debilitating as backache. It can paralyse you. It can make every single little movement send shocks of agony through limbs, lungs and pelvis. It can render walking absolutely impossible and standing up straight a delirium dream.
I already have spinal problems to start with. I split and bulged a disc in my lower back when I was 18 in an embarrassing series of incidents involving a back-bend, the splits, and a sneeze whilst buck nude in the shower. My mother, as per usual, was the hero of the story. The split and the bulge have long since normalised but I felt ongoing pain there for years. During my endo flare-up in May, I experienced such horrific lower back pain once more that I was genuinely concerned I had torn every disc I possessed for a while. Walking was incredibly painful. Even shifting position on the couch required a lot of bracing myself mentally. It was very close to as bad as when I first hurt myself, when I was paralysed for a day (unfortunately still naked but for a towel having been rescued from the shower. If you are going to injure your back, I recommend doing it clothed).
Doctors were less than helpful about that, including an emergency department doctor who insisted I must have done some sort of injury to my back despite me clearly not having done so, and despite the back pain moving in lock-step with the severity of my endo pain. The only thing that was even coming close to reducing the pain was Mersyndol Forte (a prescription-only combined painkiller and muscle relaxant), which of course meant impaired cognitive function, fatigue and lots of constipation. My surgeon later confirmed that yes, endo can and does cause backache because it can fiddle with your back nerves.
But enough of my whinging. What should you do when your back starts acting up because of endo? (Please note that whilst some of these tips may apply to a genuine back injury, not all of them will. If you have actually injured your back, hie thee to a physician). As usual, I am not a doctor and this is not medical advice; this is stuff that I have found through experience has really helped me. My first tip would always be to see a doctor to ensure that there isn’t actually an injury there.
1) Apply heat
Get yourself some of those glorious Deep Heat patches and wack them on the sore bits.
The back pain size is really big and will comfortably cover most of the sore bits. If you need to, wear several to cover all the pain. I would recommend keeping a few of these in the medicine cabinet at all times.
The heat penetrates the muscles around the spine and I find it helps keep them a bit more relaxed, which in turn reduces the pain a little. Stiff, tense muscles bunching up to protect the perceived injury makes it all worse.
2) Find a comfortable position and stay there
If you can, push yourself through prepping a couple of meals, fill up a large water bottle, put them all within arms reach of the stop you intend to lie, and then collapse there. I would advise finding a bed or couch as close to a toilet as possible. Have devices charged and remotes within reach.
3) IF the pain allows it, do some gentle stretching
If every single movement is agony, don’t do this. However, if it is a deep but bearable ache, move your back gently. A very gentle cobra position, cat/cow pose, and some gentle side-stretches will help prevent the muscles locking up and may even give some relief.
4) Avoid sitting for too long
When you sit, all the weight of your upper body presses down on your lower back. If you are going to sit for a long period of time, because you have to for work, for example, consider a medicine ball. That gentle bounce can help relieve the pressure on the lower back (although may case some muscle tightness in your upper back as you do have to work to keep good posture without the back of a chair to slouch against). This was one thing my sports medicine doctor was very keen on me doing after my back injury and it was less painful than an ordinary chair.
If you must sit and can’t have a medicine ball, consider whacking a cushion under your bottom and behind your lower back for lumbar support.
5) Consider a TENS machine
I know I’ve harped on about the glories of TENS machines before, but it is with good reason. They are so effective about cutting through pain. If you have one in your bag or to hand when pain strikes, slapping it on may just allow you sufficient relief to get yourself home or into a state of sufficient preparedness for a day-long hibernation.
6) Have a warm bath with muscle relaxants
This is assuming you can safely enter and exit a bath, of course.
When I say muscle relaxant, I’m not talking powerful prescription drugs, I’m talking epsom salts. They can help tense muscles release, particularly combined with the warm of the bath.
7) Drink herbal teas
Again, this is all aimed at relaxing. Chamomile in particular is known to relax the body.
8) Take your supplements
Vitamin D and magnesium both help reduce spasms and cramps and keep all your muscles functioning normally. Valerian is a particularly stinky relaxant that can also help aid sleep.
Speaking of sleep….
9) Gets lots of sleep
It’s the body’s natural healer, so they say. Also, when you sleep, you aren’t in pain, which is always nice.
10) Take anti-inflammatories (including food and supplements)
Be careful with ibuprofen to avoid stomach problems – don’t use it long-term or exceed recommended doses, but if you are ok with it definitely take some to reduce any swelling in your back. Smash down that turmeric tea, eat your leafy greens and fresh fruits, and keep up with your good fats (hello, avocados).
Those are my top ten tips for a sore back. What are yours? Have I missed anything? Have you experienced back ache with your endo? Let me know in the comments.