I was traveling through India in early December 2010 when ye ol’ back starting acting up again. The years of backpacking across the globe had taken it’s toll on my spine, and somewhere between Pune and New Delhi, I was hammered by pain in my lower back radiating down my leg. It began with a dull ache and a few days later I was in a familiar position; laid out on a bed, this time under a ceiling fan in Chandhigarh. While visiting my grandmother in the city that I was born, I was suffering through another bad flare up and wondering how I would make it back home.
On this trip back to the ‘motherland’ I was with my cousin, who luckily for me is a highly skilled doctor. As we whisked across India traveling by planes, trains and rickshas, he was constantly scoping out any hospital that could broaden his knowledge in medical research. The trip was in part an opportunity for him to speak at various conferences to extol the virtues of Evidenced Based Medicine and I was about to learn the hard facts about my own medical condition.
So while banged up in Chandhigarh he suggested I walk down to the clinic and grab an MRI. Yup, let that settle in for a bit. Walk down the street, into a small hut-like clinic and get a magnetic resonance scan. He noticed the place advertising X-rays, Cardiograms and of course MRI’s, while we were out and about the day before. So after breakfast, I sauntered down to the local strip mall, plopped down 3000Rs or $65US, and got hooked up with some imaging.
The results weren’t good. The hard truth about my back was clearly spelled out on a lab report. Protrusion this, degenerated that, there were a multitude of issues, all pointing to a life of chronic pain. I had finally come to grips with what a ‘bad back’ really meant.
The MRI back home reached the same conclusion, and things eventually got worse before they got any better .
It’s not a surprise to be surprised by irrefutable evidence of a degenerating spine. Many people think that backs, like knees and hips get a bit rusty as we age, but otherwise should keep the body well supported for years to come. However, as Alice Roberts discovered in this recent article, wear and tear on the back during early adulthood can take it’s toll and lead to serious issues later on in life.
If you do have an ‘I didn’t know it was that bad’ moment, find comfort in knowing that it’s probably not going to sideline you completely unless you ignore the scientific facts. And knowing is half the battle, right?