November 3, 2011

Back Pain + Stroke = Disaster

I herniated a disc in my back and had sciatica 20 years ago so I've been stretching my back for years.  After my stroke I was worried my back pain would come back.  It did.  A recent bout of back spasms taught me stretching my back every morning is not enough.  Freezing in place when a back spasm hits and hoping I can walk slowly to sit down without dropping my cane is scary. 

My PT showed me I arch my back because my abdominal muscles on my paralyzed side are weak (bottom half of red line on left).  To stop myself from falling forwards while standing I lean back (top half of red line).  I also arch my back every time I lift my leg to walk.  Leg muscles (small arrow pointing upwards) need a stable base to pull on.  Abdominal muscles (arrows pointing downwards) are suppose to hold the pelvis and spine still when my leg moves.  

It gets worse.  I 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.  I arch my back when I wash a dish because I am leaning my stomach on the edge of the counter for support.  

My PT taught me to do leg lifts with bent rather than straight knees.  I decided to intensify the workout.  I clasp my hands together, lift both arms over head, and lift my head while twisting to the left until my right shoulder blade lifts off the bed.  Before I start doing a leg lift I press my low back against the mattress and take a deep breath.  When I move I slowly let my breath out through pursed lips.  Holding my breath would increase my blood pressure.  I was dismayed that my NDT certification course did not teach that hand function comes from my gut.

Bottom Line: It takes both stretching my tight back and strengthening my weak abdominals to keep back spasms away.

2 comments:

  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.

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  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.

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