November 3, 2011

Back Pain + Stroke = Disaster

I herniated a disc in my back 20 years ago so I've been stretching my back for years.  Since my stroke I've been stretching before I get out of bed in the morning.  This is a great excuse for staying in bed fifteen minutes longer.  Yet I had to shorten my walks on the boardwalk at Point Pleasant because my back ached.  This recent bout of back spasms taught me that stretching is not enough. 

I was shocked to learn that I repeatedly arch my back because the abdominal muscles on my hemiplegic side are weak.  This weakness lets my pelvis tilt forward (bottom half of red line).  To stop myself from falling I lean back (top half of red line).  So my back arches every time I lift my hemiplegic leg to walk.  When I lift my leg, my hip muscles (arrow on leg in diagram) need a stable anchor to pull on (triangles in diagram).  Abdominal and back muscles have to be strong to hold my pelvis and spine in a straight line (white line).  

It gets worse.  My PT discovered I arch my back when I lean down to pick up an object, like when I reach down to get a pot from a bottom cabinet, get milk from the bottom shelf of the refrigerator, or pick up something from the floor that I've dropped.  It gets worse.  When I rinse a dish and brush my teeth I arch my back so I can lean my stomach on the edge of the counter for support.  I arch my back when I stand with one foot in front of the other in the check-out line when I go shopping. Thank goodness my PT showed me how to fix my back problem.


  1. Thanks for this post!! I have a lot of lower back pain especially since my stroke and increased moving. As you explained what you do for tasks, makes me wonder if that is what I do and what I need to change. Wow!! My lower back hurts so much after brushing my teeth and moving between squat and stand. When I do laundry or dishes loaded/unloaded. Yes thankful I can do things one 1/2 handed but that lower back throbs. After I sit for a minute or two feels better but this happens a lot.

  2. Sorry your back is sore

    I have already done a great deal of damage with this weak sided business in the past 3 years. I had some moderate amount of arthritis before but now my weak side is a real mess because of bad gait and posture issues.