After a Slip, I’m Recommitting to Self-care for My Pain
Old injuries force a columnist to prioritize her back injury treatment strategies
Like many people with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), I have numerous old injuries, including some I didn’t know about until after I was diagnosed. One of these involves scar tissue that’s developed along my spine. Recently, I’ve noticed that this area of my back seems to be more likely to flare up than it has in several years.
Before I was diagnosed at age 22, I played contact sports. Soccer was my sport of choice, and I played boys’ travel, so injuries, lumps, and bumps were simply part of the game. I also played goalkeeper at times, and my massage therapist, Kim, thinks that the combination of falling while running at full speed and hitting the ground while playing goalie put pressure on my spine to stay in alignment, creating scar tissue in my body’s attempt at stability.
I had no idea any of this had happened until Kim started working on me. Since then, she’s made a lot of progress with softening and loosening this overly intense scar tissue, which has improved my comfort level.
I don’t know why, but in the past month or so, I’ve seemed to aggravate an area in the middle of my back, where the scar tissue is the worst. It’s sore, and the pain radiates out from there to muscles that either run through or connect near that region. The result is that I end up with muscles near my shoulder, ribs, and hip all irritated due to the flare of one small portion of my back.
I don’t know why this has happened; like many incidents with EDS, there doesn’t seem to be a cause I can pinpoint. What I’ve learned is that getting frustrated, which used to be my go-to emotion, isn’t helpful. Rather, I now try to take a deep breath, acknowledge my feelings, and then try to improve my pain level through some of my tried-and-true tricks. In between massages, my best weapon is definitely my heating pad.
I’ve been extra busy recently, and with my “plow-ahead” mentality, I’ve mostly been ignoring my pain, which can make it worse. I need to take the time to use my heating pad. I’ve learned that when I have this kind of pain, it only takes 15 to 20 minutes each evening before bed to make a difference. But sometimes I just run out of steam at the end of the day.
The past few weeks have been a perfect example of me not always practicing the self-care that I typically try so hard to prioritize. Just like everyone else, though, sometimes life gets away from me and things slip through the cracks. Moving forward, I’m recommitting myself to my self-care so I can get my pain flare under control — and hopefully keep another one from cropping up soon.
Note: Ehlers-Danlos News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Ehlers-Danlos News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Ehlers-Danlos.
Jane Willoughby Woods
I can identify with your story. I have had so many injuries caused by hyperextension. I herniated a disc in my low back which caused the radiating pain you speak of. My Physical Therapist helped me get back to work with a simple traction unit (Lossing 90/90 Bactrac which I've used since 1990). I use it at home for 15 minutes twice a day when I have a back attack. I also have disc injuries in my neck. I soak in the bath with Epson salt using an inflatable travel pillow to provide gravity traction for this. It works so much better for me than the over the door water bag traction, which I couldn't tolerate. These small moments of self care have made a huge difference in my pain level.