Monday, June 21, 2021

Bucking and Bridling

 How my mind bucks and bridles, when fixed on the matter of my back pain! Now I am a disciple of Stuart McGill, religiously doing my "big three" exercises, an apostate from the "pain is an opinion" faith. And then I fall into doubt, and whisper that it's not working: and work myself up into a fret about it, when all the while I have not even done the simple assessments that McGill requires as the first step in his Back Mechanic book. 

The correlation between back pain and psychosocial stress is as plain as can be, in me, and in the literature. But that doesn't mean that we understand either the causation or the mechanism. Maybe we move foolishly, under stress, and ignore our own perceptions, and injure ourselves in quite physical (if not necessarily measurable) ways. There is something charming about McGill's insistence that there is always tissue damage. And it sets a red flag. How the hell does he know? He doesn't.

But anyway, I must force myself to complete his assessments, first. My symptoms are puzzling to me, and it seems to me that this pain is not like the pain I have had before: I may have two injuries, one old and one new, the old one having to do with flexion of the lumbar spine, and the new one to do with extension and torsion of the thoracic spine. Or it may, of course, simply be free-floating pain inspired by grief and anxiety about my father's state of health: which of course I can hardly help taking as prefiguring my own future. No way to isolate the variables, here, that I can think of.

In the meantime, I've maybe rashly extended credit to McGill, and altered much of my exercise regime, in order to bend my spine less and spend more effort building up the strength and endurance of the "guy-wire" muscles of the spine. My working McGillian hypothesis is that my original back trouble was caused by flexion, and I addressed it historically by erasing the lordotic curve of my low back, and building the flexive strength of my abdominal muscles, all too successfully. Now I must restore some of that curve and train up the opposing extensive muscles. But I'm suspicious of how exactly the "normal" curves of the spine were determined, or whether there are good reasons to think that this "normal" is actually relevant to anything. Really the value here is that I'm trying different things and interrogating my daily movements and postures. 

If there is value. Probably if I changed nothing and just waited, the pain would just go away anyway.

"You think too much: that is your problem." Well, yeah, but it's also the only strength I've got. Might as well use it. And anyway, don't declare defeat before the troops have even been deployed. Do the damn assessments.

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