– photo by Mitch Waxman
As mentioned a day or two ago, your humble narrator is currently incapacitated due to a lower back injury. Manifestations of my inferior physical robustness such as this pop up occasionally, serving as reminders of a weak and sickly childhood. Seldom does one go more than a few weeks without some new complaint, which when compounded with the diminishment of advancing years, paints dire portents about long term survival.
Back pain is regularly cited by national governments as having a major impact on productivity, through loss of workers on sick leave. Some national governments, notably Australia and the United Kingdom, have launched campaigns of public health awareness to help combat the problem, for example the Health and Safety Executive’s Better Backs campaign. In the United States lower back pain’s economic impact reveals that it is the number one reason for individuals under the age of 45 to limit their activity, second highest complaint seen in physician’s offices, fifth most common requirement for hospitalization, and the third leading cause for surgery.
– photo by Mitch Waxman
Those around me grow increasingly wary watching this process working upon me. Extraordinary effort at maintaining an appearance and facade of bon vivant and vigor fall apart when these sudden spells occur. Unfortunately, this is my true self- timorous and wracked with an inconceivable number of physical maladies. For the moment, it is difficult to surmount a shallow set of stairs, let alone perform a perambulation.
The lumbar region (or lower back region) is made up of five vertebrae (L1-L5). In between these vertebrae lie fibrocartilage discs (intervertebral discs), which act as cushions, preventing the vertebrae from rubbing together while at the same time protecting the spinal cord. Nerves stem from the spinal cord through foramina within the vertebrae, providing muscles with sensations and motor associated messages. Stability of the spine is provided through ligaments and muscles of the back, lower back and abdomen. Small joints which prevent, as well as direct, motion of the spine are called facet joints (zygapophysial joints).
- photo by Mitch Waxman
Pain, aside from the psychological torments and thwarted ambitions which are part and parcel of my daily round, is something I am quite used to. The particular complaint in my lower back has all the appearance of something temporary, a visitor for the holidays sent to remind me that time is short, and that despite all- I am human, all too human. At least I still have a heated and electrified house to live in, which seems to be a blessing in the New York City area these days. My little dog, however, seems quite concerned about me and has been sticking to my heels.
Before the relatively recent discovery of neurons and their role in pain, various different body functions were proposed to account for pain. There were several competing early theories of pain among the ancient Greeks: Aristotle believed that pain was due to evil spirits entering the body through injury, and Hippocrates believed that it was due to an imbalance in vital fluids. In the 11th century, Avicenna theorized that there were a number of feeling senses including touch, pain and titillation, but prior to the scientific Renaissance in Europe pain was not well-understood, and it was thought that pain originated outside the body, perhaps as a punishment from God.