Climbing out of Pain

I had my back X-rayed to help identify why my intermittent back pain hasn’t gone away despite visits to a chiropractor, some physical therapy and working out once again. The pain comes like a phantom late at night. It wakes me up and the pain persists until I sit up for a little while or maybe practice some yoga moves — something that, until recently, considered unmanly. Then the tension relaxes enough and I can continue sleeping.

I visited my primary physician for a check-up and to go over the X-ray results. I’m in my thirties, so back pain is already somewhat embarrassing. While I’m not a hardcore mountain man in the alpinist sense, I do want to maintain a level of health and fitness that I can at least jump into some moderate climbing, hiking and skiing for recreation. So what the X-ray report said worried me —  something about degenerative disc changes. I didn’t understand much else on the report, but I knew that meant arthritis.

The doctor assured me that it was mild. I said okay, but as I left I didn’t feel better. I didn’t know what mild meant. For some people mild hot sauce was hot. So wouldn’t this be relative too? Plus, I’ve always understood arthritis to be a slow path to increasingly worse pain and restrictive movement. It was a weird moment: I could see the future — five or ten years from now — and it was me sitting hunched over at a chair at my daughter’s ice skating competition, unable to comfortably sit back, and not being fit or flexible enough to climb since last weekend and unable to walk — or hike — long distances.

I was given marginally qualified comfort from my doctor and a referral to see a spine specialist to be safe and determine what else needs to be done. I made an appointment for as soon as I could based on my existing family and work commitments, which was yesterday morning.

The arthritis — or the trace amount that the X-ray actually showed — wasn’t causing my pain. I felt my shoulders fall back and I probably exhaled in relief. It was something else, but it wasn’t a flaw noticeable in the report. It wasn’t arthritis or anything more severe, as far as it showed. The spine specialist thinks he can treat the issue, which seems more muscular from an old injury flaring up — which we think was related to when I was unfit just a year ago.

But the arthritis in my back could be an issue one day. The prescription was welcomed with glee: Keep moving. Ski, hike, walk, run, and climb! Movement itself lubricates the joints and actually helps fight off becoming inflexible. I was given an excuse — or maybe even a mandate — to workout, stay active, and have fun!

I was reminded of the Forbes piece (yes, the financial magazine of all publications) on the 10 healthiest sports: Two of my favorites scored highly: Cross country skiing and rock climbing. These two inspire me to workout. Hopefully between training right, well and good treatment, I will finally loosen the reoccurring knot in my back and I’ll be sitting upright — with good natural posture at my daughter’s skating competition and looking forward to our weekend in the hills.

Thanks for stopping by, as always. If you enjoyed this post, please consider following the Suburban Mountaineer on Facebook or Twitter, if you haven’t already. Happy reading and carpe climb ‘em!

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