Spinal flux, Irish BBQ, and the Fourth from a distance


Happy Fourth! I’m sitting outside, gagging on the smell of citronella-torch smoke, wiping rain off my iPad screen, but certainly enjoying the occasional wafts of heavenly scent coming from our Weber grill.

I’m beginning to wonder if I should have imported my husband to America, instead of exporting myself to Ireland. He goes craaazeee for American holidays. We don’t have a big US flag, just a tiny one onna stick, but we do have two flag bandannas. One of which is hanging in our front window:

With, of course, Neko the American Akita standing guard under it.

The Fourth wouldn’t be complete without a barbecue. We are back on the low-carb diet (not because of the scale, but because our clothes weren’t fitting any more – been off the diet since April, whoops) so tonight is a meat-feast. Craft butcher sausages from our local butcher, ribs from him also, and best of all, beer-butt chicken. Here’s the scene before cooking:

Chicken is rubbed inside and out with butter, olive oil, lemon, and my mixture of spices from our garden: sage, thyme, garlic, basil and oregano. And, of course, there’s a can of beer shoved up it’s arse. Or what used to be its arse… Oh and the tuna-can has wood chips in, for smoking. Nom!

We’ve never made the chicken before. Never had a grill big enough until he came home one day with his much-lusted-after Weber. I can’t wait to try it! It takes a while, and hubby made a huge mess during prep. Better be worth it…

So… We both took the day off today, because today happened to be the day I got to talk to someone about the results of my MRI. Finally. Been ages since this journey into WTF is wrong with my back started.

And as it turns out, not very much. I do have one disc that is dried up and cracked and so is squishing out through the crack and bulging a bit. To the right. My nerve issues are nearly all on my left side. Doc couldn’t see any reason that the bulge on the right would be pressing on a nerve on the left. So, surgery was 100% ruled out. Nothing to operate on. He did offer what I had been told were ‘shots’ but actually is an epidural. I agreed, even though I have no idea what they might be pumping into my spinal fluid, and it probably won’t help. If it does, then they know a nerve is indeed being squarshed and that’s a valuable bit of knowledge, to me. Because if the nerve isn’t being pinched at the spine, just what the hell is the issue? Cuz my leg burrrns. Or aches like it is bruised, or itches in a way that can’t be scratched.

But I can live with the leg being wonky. I can’t live with this backache. I can’t do anything! I’m only 40, not too chubby, and like doing things with my hands. When I can’t even do the things I have to do, like the damn dishes, without needing to go sit down for a while, what chance do I have for doing fun things like vacuuming the car? And YES, dammit, that is fun, sort of – I love me a clean car, and I’m in the bitch more than anyone else these days.

Oooooh the sun just came out! I can taste it! Seriously, I can open my mouth and feel the sun on my tongue and oh, I need the sunshine. My current music (hubby testing songs for tomorrow’s radio show, with a USA theme, surprised?) is The Pogues, The Body of an American – “I’m a free-born man of the USA” first heard by me on The Wire. Apparently it’s a wake song; if so – play it for me when I go, please?

Back to the back. Needle in 4-6 weeks, and probably another day off of work. Be interesting to see what result, if any, I get. In the meantime they said my issue appears to be muscular. My lower spine has very little curve to it. Doc said this is because the muscles are supposed to pull tight and make the curve, but mine are weak and haven’t been doing the job. I asked about any options to strengthen the muscles that might be provided by the HSE – none. So Pilates on my iPad it is then, I guess. I can’t afford classes with someone to show me how to do it right – even though I have never done regulated exercises and I doubt I do them right. Only time I ever tried anything close was the Haidong Kumdo and that is what really, really fucked my back up! Even with an instructor. Imagine what I can do to myself, by myself!

Right, just had a looong pause while taking the chicken off the grill. I love crispy skin – the only fatty thing I eat and like – only if crispy! Had to run in and peel the chook, because if you leave the skin on the bird it goes soggy. I have to say the crispness is a bit lacking, so I scraped off the oooky fatty bits and we’ll put the skin back on the grill for a bit, because the ribs and sausages aren’t quite done yet. Last photo before I went inside:


Had a little taste of the chicken. WOW. Oh yeah, baby.

Nothing in there for dogs, sorry Neko!

20 responses »

  1. Epidurals have worked magically for a few of my clients. But the lack of a lumbar curve is a huge hint. Actually, I tend in the same direction, and it is a fairly maddening problem.

    I’ve never been madly impressed with Pilates. Have you ever toyed with Yoga? Of all the things I’ve worked with, that’s the one system of body culture that seems capable of re-orienting dysfunctional muscle patterns, even if you need a daily touch-up. Special attention to the extension poses — things like the Cobra, Bow, Locust or Camel — will go right to that hyperflexed lumbar region. I suspect a shortened psoas muscle and abdominal wall when I see that pattern (look up the psoas online; you’ll be overwhelmed by information). Yoga involves static poses, so you are able to assess the gradual effect as you perform them, and back out of anything that feels genuinely painful (rather than simply an intense stretch).

    I’ve just done a cursory surf on YouTube, but this looks like the kind of thing.

    and the related site strikes me as useful.

    • Thank you, ever so much – I hoped you’d have a few cents worth of advice for me! I have yoga on the Wii but I doubt there’s much that involves lying down 🙂 It will be hard for me to implement any excercise regimen, after 40 years of never, ever. I guess that is why my back is feiced! I have to say I was totally impressed that a doctor in a primarily Catholic country had the guts to say, out loud, that humans aren’t meant to walk on two feet and our backs suffer for it! Immediate respect from us for that 🙂

      • I have to second sledpress on the psoas. (It’s pronounced So-Az.) After years of suffering, it turned out that both of my ileo-psoas had spasmed and were stuck that way! arrrrgggh! huge muscles that nobody ever thinks about. Yay Sled for bringing it up!

        Me, too, the muscles that held my back in place had become weak so my back was carrying the load alone! It’s not too hard to work on those other muscles, just can be a bore. However, my life changed dramatically when I fixed both the psoas issue and the weak muscles.

        I have a print-out (I think!) that I could send you with specific exercises. I’ll go look.

            • Oh the dire piriformis!!!

              It tends to get blamed for a lot of things that involve other nearby muscles, but fortunately the same movements help release all of them. (Can you say “obturator”?)

              I’ve always said the upright posture is a work in progress. Look at gorillas sometime — evolution hadn’t invented the lumbar curve when their DNA came off the assemble line, and they can only stand up for a few seconds at a time.

            • Yep standing is killer!

              That’s good that the piriformis gets released with the others. Wasn’t sure. I was thinking pigeon pose for Spiders, but it can be way too hard for very tight muscles. It made a difference for me.

              Whaddya say we put together a program for the girl and help her get stretchy in the right places?! Of course, “we” means I’ll pipe up, but it sounds as if you have the expertise.

  2. So, a small amount of barbecued food for the two of you then? Or did you let some friends share?! Goodish news on the back front – do take care what exercise you do without advice. Do you have an Alexander Technique practitioner near you? That can really help with wobbly discs.

    • Heck no, we pigged down most of it 🙂 I’ve never heard of the Alexander technique – should I google? I can’t afford to go to anyone, it’s just not an option for us after me being out of work for so long. Still trying to make the mortgage payments on time! And failing, usually…

        • Ms. sled, what’re the muscles that run up the spine called spinatus-something-something? Seems to me I did some work that strengthened those to hold my lumbar/sacrum in place. Ah, how quickly we forget!

          • Paraspinal muscles. That covers loads of ground. Longissimus thoracis, quadratus lumborum, multifidi…. any movement that maintains the spine in extension (arch) recruits them.

            Bow Pose, Locust Pose, Cobra Pose, Camel Pose or, in the gym, deadlifts and things like upright rows.

            It really isn’t rocket science — just stretch in any of several directions and you feel the muscles contracting. After that, it’s just follow-up.

            • I forgot to add–and how to direct Spiders so she can un-flatten her back? One or two stretches for her to try? It’s overwhelming otherwise. >:-D

            • Ah. I’m not really sure what contracting muscle feels like. Yep, I’m intimidated. And in a ton of pain today because I did stuff like a normal person. Sigh. This is going to take a really, really long time to fix, isn’t it?

            • Sometimes not. Anyway, knowing the names of muscles isn’t necessary, just illustrative and interesting.

              If Yoga seems intimidating, looking up demo videos about Feldenkrais work on YouTube might help. (I have to go hunting, because that is not my strong suit but I know how mild and therapeutic it can be.) The movements are gentle and almost imperceptible sometimes but can break up spasm patterns; Feldenkrais loved his soccer game and originally was motivated to find a benign system of body work because of the pain he’d managed to inflict on himself, or so the story goes.

            • Bean at catself is a practitioner of Feldenkrais and I recommend it highly. As does minlit!

              Here’s what I’d suggest: pick a couple of stretches that we’ve provided here and try them. GENTLY. If they’re OK, make a deal with yourself to do those GENTLY before and after “normal person” activity, but as often as you can during the day. It only adds up to a few minutes. Remember that I’m speaking from (horribly painful–with morphine) painful.

              Maybe try the 2 stretches regularly for a week and see how you’re feeling.

              Contracting muscle: the muscular system is really spectacular. It operates on contraction and extension in opposition. In other words, for example, when a muscle on the front of your leg stretches/extends, the theory goes that a muscle on the back of your leg will contract, in effect shorten/contract. This gives us balance and strength–and we don’t go all floppy cuz all the muscles are extending at once! See that picture in your haid?

              —> try this–sitting, rest a forearm on your leg, palm up. be sure you relax so you know your shoulders are down and the arm is sitting there all dead ‘n’ shit. Now, VERY slowly, begin to pull your hand and only your hand up off your knee. You should feel something happening in your upper arm, which is contraction. (The opposite side is extending!)

              Ooo, ooo–when you ride your motorcycle, you have to contract muscles when you use the throttle or when you shift with a foot. Approximate those moves and you should see what we mean.

              Also–try moving in slow motion and you’ll begin to see/feel when muscles are contracting. Or have hubby point out a muscle that is doing something!

              I agree with sled that this may not take a long time. It does depend on you slowing down, which is terribly difficult with your energies. But try. Notice how you sit and stand.

              Incorporate 2 more stretches–see what we’re doin’ here–stretching out contracted/spasmed muscles, which then gives the extension muscles a break–they are overworked right now.

              The yoga moves that sled suggests are pleasant and effective–Bow Pose, Locust Pose, Cobra Pose, Camel Pose. Go GENTLY. That means if you can’t get INTO the pose as illustrated, just go TOWARD the pose and hold. Do not be supergirl (she said, with experience).

              I KNOW that this is overwhelming, Spiders. Start small–make your own tiny routine and stick to it. Honestly, you are young enough to have a bunch of spring in your step that could very well return quickly!

              And email me if you want. I’m sorry for this tome here, but I’m so hopeful for you and want to narrow down the choices (overwhelm-ed-ness) just so you can begin.

        • Ah, no. I’d be hearing Stuart Smalley the whole time. “because I’m good enough, and smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!” This house already has one person who talks too much…

Thoughts? Gardening tips? Cocktail recipes? Don't just like and leave, please - I can talk for Ireland and would love to prove it!

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