Non-painless gains…

I’ve been doing the exercises assigned by my physical therapist for a week now. So far, the net result has been to see the pain near my lower back and raise it occasional mid-back spasms and, rather inexplicably, a sore left shoulder. I’m not entirely sure this is going according to plan. I’m sure all will be revealed to me tomorrow at my next appointment. Or not. If my track record of these things proves consistent, what we’ll really do is add new and different exercises so I can get sore and achy in even more places that were previously pain free.

I’m sure there is plenty of evidentiary proof behind why physical therapy is a good thing, but honestly, I’m always going to be more appreciative of the medical sciences that involve a pill or a jab and send me on my way. Yes, I want the easy way out. Sue me.

Oh, don’t worry. I’ll keep up with this new assigned routine through the four or five weeks it’s set to run. I’ll bitch and complain about it the whole way, of course, because that’s just what I do when something comes along to interject itself into my well-honed routine… especially when it also brings me new aches and pains for my trouble. So far, I’m willing to withhold judgment on this process, but if we get into week three and four with even more new stuff hurting, we’re going to need to have a long think about where we are and where it’s headed.

In conclusion, whoever coined the phrase “no pain, no gain,” was a putz. I’ve achieved many painless gains and I rather wish this could be counted among them.

I want my money back…

I’m going to a few weeks of physical therapy in an effort to resolve some lower back issues. I don’t love it. Being laid out flat on my back (or front) in an open bay storefront getting worked over by a perfect stranger just isn’t my idea of high jinks. That’s not the worst part, though.

The worst part is the five pages of “homework” that I’m supposed to lay down on the floor and do three times a day. Firstly, have you ever tried laying down on the floor in a home occupied by a young dog who lives for attention? Yeah. Then thrown in a cat who thinks he’s a dog and insists he should also be part of the program. Something that’s supposed to be 30 seconds and three repetitions takes approximately nine minutes to get through. Then there’s four more pages of things to do, each more ingeniously designed to provoke more attention from the resident canine who’s determined it all means uninterrupted playtime.

I’m pretty sure I dislocated my shoulder trying to keep the dog from licking my eyeball this afternoon. I guess that’s something I can bring up with my new PT guru next week. Maybe there’s some other kind of supine bend-twist-arch-single-elbow-tuck I can try out to get after that one. 

I can’t believe we’re living here in the 21st century and this can’t all be solved with a pill or a shot. This isn’t the future we were promised and I want my damned money back.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

Since Saturday I’ve been in near constant pain. Ice, heat, icy hot, stretching, pain killers, alcohol, and the chiropractor seemed to all have minimal impact on correcting that issue. Even so, I’m feeling better tonight than Ive felt in six days.

“Why’s that?” you ask. Well, let me tell you. As I was hefting my 55 pound dog into the truck this morning, my back gave off three mighty pops. I’m surprised the neighbors didn’t hear it. Immediately afterwards, though, I could once again move my neck like a normal human being.

Sure, it’s not 100%, but in comparison to where I was before picking up the dog, there’s no contest.

If I’d have knowing doing squats with one flailing dog-weight clutched to my chest was the answer, we’d have had this all sorted out days ago and this little vacation week of mine would have been far more enjoyable.

Don’t think for a moment I’m not more than a little annoyed at how the whole thing has developed.

My neck, my back…

Sometime on Saturday, I did… something. I don’t know what, exactly, but the net result is steady pain in my neck and upper back, with occasional twinges in the shoulders. As long as I keep my head straight forward it look slightly up, it eases considerably. Looking down, say to use your phone or read a book, is somewhere between uncomfortable and agonizing.

Forced to decided between increasing pain or no books over a three day weekend, you can well imagine that I’ve opted for physical pain rather than emotional trauma. It’s probably not been one of my better long term decisions.

Seven or eight years ago I let a local chiropractor work me over after throwing my lower back. If only the placebo effect, it brought at least a little immediate relief. Unless I’m miraculously cured when I wake up tomorrow, I suspect it’s time to give that brand of quackery another shot.

That or I’m going to have to rip out my spine and start over with a new model. Either way.

The cost of getting the job done…

I moved into my current house five years ago. Sure, the movers got everything through the door, but my job was making sure once it’s was in that it was situated in the right spot. Over the years I’ve acquired some cheats and tools – a vast collection of furniture dollies, hand carts, straps, and plastic sliders – to make moving large objects easier. Working smarter, not harder, is an absolute necessity when you’re an army of one.

I was more than capable of slinging my big oak bookcases through the house five years ago. That was 37. This morning I’m finding that getting them across the room left me twisted up in a curly que and just barely able to put down fresh water for the dogs. Yeah, I definitely pulled something. This is apparently 42. 

I still feel strong as a bull moose… and I still got the job done, though it seems there’s an increasingly high price to pay for brute strength-ing things into place. I’ve always tried to work smart, but it looks like I’ll have to work smarter yet to keep from wrecking myself.

If anyone needs me, I’ll be over here popping ibuprofen and and reeking of IcyHot.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. The bridge into North East, Maryland. It might be a mild exaggeration, but it feels like various companies have been working on the bridge that provides the only direct access into “downtown” North East for about 87 years. The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall, spanning the width of Britain in about 14 years. The Empire State Building took one year and 45 days to build. But the state and the county and the original contractor who got his ass fired off the project and everyone else wants to cry the blues that it’s “only” taken five years so far to replace a fairly straightforward two lane bridge the crosses over a railroad track. What we have to show for that five years of effort is the northbound lane – and that hasn’t even been opened for traffic yet. When I’m out on the weekends and run into people, I often wonder how they function in the day-to-day world. I’m increasingly convinced that they actually don’t.

2. This is probably too much information, so if you’re feeling overly sensitive, it may be best to skip on to the third weekly annoyance. You see, recently at work I hurt my back standing up after taking a shit. It was showing marked improvement and I really thought it was well on the way to being serviceable again… but I know the inability straighten my back completely for those few minutes means it’s going to be twitchy for at least another week or two. That’s ok. It’s not like I have a list of spring yard work tasks that need to be accomplished anytime soon. It seems that this is your 40s.

3. I have a dream. I dreamt the lottery pool I participate in won the Cash For Life jackpot. I sprung up from that dream fully awake with the shit-eatingist of shit eating grins on my face. You can well imagine the disappointment on really waking up and realizing that a) the pool doesn’t play Cash for Life; b) It wasn’t even the correct night for the Cash for Life drawing and; c) it was all my brain’s little way of saying “fuck you very much.”

Another lost weekend…

After three days of sitting here relatively quietly and trying to give my back the time it needs to unkink, I can say with authority that I’m absolutely over the part of this process where I sit around and don’t do much. As much as I like reading or watching entire seasons of television in one sitting, the fact is if I don’t get out of this house tomorrow and go to work I might just go stir crazy. Strictly speaking that’s not violating doctor’s orders, since he told me to “take it easy”. It’s not like I’m in a warehouse tossing around boxes or working out in the oil shale fields somewhere. I know, I know, it’s a sad state of affairs that I’m ready to get back to work. Rest assured, it’s mostly a function of wanting to be somewhere other than in my own living room than having a burning desire to get back to PowerPointing and endless meetings. If I’m going to be groggy and uncomfortable, I can do it there just as easily as I can from here.

This has basically been a lost weekend – just another one added to the list that’s already gotten to be too long. With spring coming on and weeds popping up all over, it’s looking more and more likely like I’m just going to have to start playing hurt. And don’t get me started on the cleaning that’s getting put off because of bending problems. At some point in the not too distant future, this damned traitorous back is going to have to learn that it works for me. Either it can cripple me right and proper or it can get with the program and start cooperating. Either way, I’ve had it with just nursing it along. It’s reign of terror is coming to an end. If the pills and the chiro can’t get it right, I’ll default to my usual approach and trudge through it by virtue of sheer force of will.


The last time I was on muscle relaxers, I remember sitting at my desk listening to a phone ringing… and ringing… and ringing… and ringing and looking around in frustration wondering why someone wasn’t picking the damned thing up. Of course it was my phone. Sitting three feet away from me on the desk. Ringing off the hook while I was busy being blissfully unaware of pretty much anything going on around me. It’s a good time, but it’s safe to say that productivity levels suffer as a result.

The hardest thing I do on any given day is keeping the thoughts that pop into my head from simultaneously popping out of my mouth. I suspect for the next week or two that task is going to become even more difficult. If anyone catches me with a look on my face like I’m about to say something ragingly inappropriate for whatever environment we happen to be in, please give me the benefit of a jab in the ribs instead of just sitting there waiting for the punchline. There’s a very, very good chance that I’m going to be far too relax(er)ed to judge that sort of thing on my own.


I’ve been ignoring it for a little over a month and mostly expecting that the situation would resolve itself, but the sad reality is during the last big snow I did something to jack up my back in more than the usual way. The fact that I literally had to roll out of bed this morning was enough evidence that my usual ignore-it-until-it-goes-away plan of action was proving insufficient to the challenge. I knuckled under around lunch time and made an appointment with my angry Germanic doctor in the hopes that he’d have some sort of snake oil that will let me stand or sit for more than 15 minutes without my whole lower back locking up.

I’d probably be willing to let it ride indefinitely, but with spring weather coming on fast, I’m in no condition to even think about using a weedeater or hedge trimmer. Just thinking about it makes me cringe just a little. Whatever the problem is, we’ll need to get it resolved quickly, because a look outside shows the yard isn’t waiting… and if anyone reading this thinks I’m going to let the place look like a foreclosure just because of a searing pain in the back, you clearly don’t get my level of OCD when it comes to lawn care.

Hopefully by this time tomorrow we’ll be on the way to knowing just how badly I screwed myself up. Sadly, I don’t think the answer is going to be “just go ahead and keep eating ibuprofen by the hand full.”


Having spent my formative years in Maryland’s snow belt, there’s not much in the way of winter precipitation that really bothers me. Of course it helps having a large 4×4 vehicle, too, but mostly it boils down to being confident in the knowledge, skills, and abilities earned while driving hither, skither, and yon through everything form a dusting to a couple of feet of the white stuff. I don’t go looking to drive around in it (like I did when I was young and more risk tolerant), but I don’t really shy away from it if there’s something I need to go out and do, either.

All of that logic goes out the window, however, when it comes to freezing rain. Even the mighty Tundra isn’t going to get traction when that starts building up on every flat surface. Freezing rain is that thing that shows up unseen until you stride onto the deck first thing in the morning ready to grab the world by the throat and then suddenly find yourself laying flat on your back wondering how they hell you got there. Sigh. If anyone needs me, I’ll be on the floor trying to get my back to unkink.