My #1 advice (of the moment): look after your back

When you’re young you often hear the same kind of advice: ‘these are the best years of your life’, and ‘enjoy it while you still can’, and ‘all this stuff will be trivial when you have to grow up and adult’. I think I had a pretty astute inkling that life was damn good when I was younger. Sure, there were the usual trials and tribulations, and while in the moment they can feel intense and devastating, usually I look back years later and have a good laugh at myself. But overall life has been pretty good. And I did my best to absorb it and live in the moment and count myself lucky. Or maybe I enjoyed myself too much. Because somewhere along the way it seems I didn’t pay attention to the other thing that people always tell you when you’re young: look after your back.

Back pain happens to other people. Not to me. Not to someone like me who’s always been relatively healthy, sporty and slim… right? Perhaps it’s over enthusiasm that’s the problem. These days, it’s hard to recall a time I wasn’t thinking about the way I was standing, sitting, getting out of bed, brushing my teeth… I see other people bounding around limbs akimbo and I think… how? And I want them all to start doing back exercises.

I don’t think I’ll ever know what started it. Was it the car accident? The bungy jumping? That time I slipped down the stairs in Florence? Bad posture? Or just plain bad luck?

There are some nasty stories out there of what some people have to endure on a daily basis. From back pain or from the many other evil kinds of chronic pain that exist. I’m thankful for all the things I don’t have to deal with. But even as I tell myself it could be worse, it’s still hard. Chronic pain isolates you, and exhausts you, and it’s also exhausting for those around you.

Some days I’m energetic and feel sure my strict regimen of physio and vitamins is helping, other days I’m on the verge of calling my doctor and demanding an operation. The nights are the worst – it’s true what they say – especially since my pain morphed into the kind that doesn’t necessarily stop when I lie down.

I never thought I’d have to deal with something like this. And in having to deal with it, I wouldn’t have imagined I would be able to. I would be a crying mess. And sometimes I am. Sometimes I’m resentful of everyone I see running around the streets, and other times I’m happy just to walk in the sunshine. My fingers and toes are always crossed that it’s not going to get any worse… hey, maybe that’s part of my problem.

So as an older person now, my number one advice is… look after your back. Think about your posture. Don’t ignore that niggling pain. Get it checked out. Demand an MRI. Get another opinion. You’ll get there. I’ll get there too. Baby steps. One at a time.

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