Sunday, 3 August 2008

Lower back

Amazing apparatus the lower back. I survived our last move with nothing more than a slight stiffness after moving boxes of books and sundries from the house to the car; up and down dodgy steps; repeat process at other end or destination if you prefer.

I've had neck and back problems for years and years and years. My very first sign of the weakness of the human body - weakness despite, or perhaps because of, the evolutionary process - was the tearing of the fencer's muscle after a vigorous bout of digging and raking when I was a beardless youth of nineteen. For those of you who haven't experienced this little joke of Nature it goes something like this. You walk along the street, any street, any town, no matter, then Whap! The upper body is suddenly and painfully folded at the waist and your chin rushes down to greet the knees, a pair of fellows it has not been acquainted with for a while.

Being a young man and not long married I was much afraid. I had left school at fifteen without completing my medical degree so had no idea what was happening. Cause and effect had not entered my reasoning at this tender age so I went and saw a man who had stayed on at school and then spent long years at medical college, to wit, a doctor.

As I was making my appointment with the secretary I was seized round the middle and once again my upper body was folded rapidly towards the same kneecaps my chin had chatted with not two hours ago.

"Oh," she said as I disappeared from view below the counter. "You are in a bad way." She waved me into the waiting room without consulting her Book of Appointments for a date two weeks away when most illnesses have safely passed their self-limiting period and there is no need to bother Doctor.

When I got into to see Doctor I explained the symptoms. He looked at me like I had killed someone and got me to stand and bend, touch my toes or something. I could do that without any problem. He then launched into a diatribe about work shy youths and something else I missed or have forgotten while being escorted out the surgery door.

On the way home I managed a grim impotent smile as my body jackknifed again: "Told you I was hurt."

My sweet and trusting nature has always made excuses for that Doctor and his behaviour. The same Doctor told my wife she was pregnant when she wasn't. In nineteen seventy whatever it was there were only four doctors practicing and they would not take patients from one another.

As I read that last sentence I am struck by how much power these people had over the rest of us. I think it was about ten years or so before new younger Doctors appeared in our towns with strange ideas like listening to patients.

When I appeared in one of these doctor's surgeries with the same symptoms I had earlier reported the injury was immediately recognised, described for me and treated correctly. And so was I. Treated correctly, I mean. What a difference that made to me and doubtless many others breathed a sigh of relief when the cartel retired and the new helpful medics appeared in our midst.

Where was I? Oh yes. Lower back. I moved a whole pile of stuff on Saturday, rolls of carpets among them. Got away with it, I thought. I was sitting on the edge of the bed after my shower the next morning, singing along with my earworm (Deep within my heart/lies a melody/a song of old San Antone ...). I leaned forward to pull on a sock and Aaaaaaaaaaaaagh! Instant pain and a shocking inability to do anything but shuffle after the first agony slowed down to a bearable ache punctuated with sharp intakes of breath and out-loud-ouches as something somewhere in there not far away from the surface pinches and nips.

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