Sunday, November 20, 2011

Back Pain and my OCD.

Bent Spine

I put my back out this week. I struggle with the presence of physical pain and the OCD that swoops in to complicate it. The first time I hurt my back, I was all of 24, and visiting my father for vacation. He asked me to vacuum the floor, and by the next morning, I couldn't get upright without my muscles seizing up. I'd never felt anything like it, but I knew that it had to be my imperfection and general deficiency that caused it. Having compassion for myself was not something that came easily, if at all. I had recurring back pain all through my 20's and into my 30's. I did have some physical therapy finally, when I was starting grad school, and the MacKenzie back exercises helped. But I went everywhere with a back pillow, and sat near the aisle so I could go stand up during concerts or lectures. I lived in fear of situations where my back might go out and there would be no way to get relief, or that I would be humiliated by my weakness.

I planned everything around how long I had to sit. I knew where the straight hard chairs were in any place I went to frequently. Once I graduated, and started a new job, my back seized up to the point that I had my husband drop me off a few blocks early to give me a chance to get fully upright before I got to the front door. I was depressed. I was anxious. Once my health insurance started, I went to a physiatrist, and got a referral for more physical therapy. This calmed my back for awhile, but the flare ups continued for a few more years, and then slowly, as I was doing therapy for my depression with Molly, my back stabilized. It seemed like a miracle.

On occasion, my back would get stiff, but recover quickly. But this week, after many situations of uncomfortable chairs--getting my hair washed at the beauty shop(which I do about once a year), meetings, long car trips--and lots of time in the studio, my back protested. I've started my Mackenzie exercises again and that has given me some relief, but I still have 3 more craft shows to get through, and the place I feel worst is in my studio, which is frustrating me, and I feel sad that what I love to do most, make art, is where the pain is aggravated. My OCD is all over this, and the more anxious I feel, the more I do things that make my back hurt even more, rituals of sitting at the computer too long. Slowing myself down is hard. The perfectionism is always in the background shouting about my need to do everything exactly right(whatever that means, since the standard always changes). I am working on it though. And know I may need to go back to the doctor and ask about occupational therapy.

If you have chronic pain and OCD, what helps you? I'd love to hear.

9 comments:

  1. I first threw my back out at the age of 16 on a ride at a local amusement park. I've had trouble with it ever since. Combine that with my bursitis in my elbow and hip and the arthritis in my knees and ankles, and I completely understand what you're talking about with the pain. The only thing that has ever helped me was the wonderful therapeutic massage therapist I went to. Yes, there were many OCD anxieties, but in the long run, her combination of deep tissue massage, reflexology, acupressure, etc. really did make a huge difference.

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  2. I too have back problems - 2 herniated disks in my back to be exact. Last year is when it all came to a head and I really hurt myself. Right at the same time that my OCD was through the roof. Lately - my back has been vulnerable too. It's frustrating for me - because I have to be so careful and because I really feel old and handicapped - not only mentally but physically too. I find massage and physiotherapy to help the most. I was going to a chiropractor regularly but that was a big deep hole of wasted money. Exercise is a big one - and core strength really seems to have helped me.

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    1. Thanks for sharing this. I have Pure O and now I have back pain. So I am obsessing about the back pain now. Worry about future

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  3. I don't have any answers. I also have back pain and have thrown my back out once before. Back pain makes me anxious and stirs up my OCD health anxiety.

    I go to the chiropractor regularly and that keeps it pretty well under control.

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  4. Oh, no! I hope you are feeling better soon.

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  5. Thank you everyone for your responses! I finally decided to find a teacher of the Alexander technique--a choir director had once mentioned it. The teacher has been helping me with how I stand and sit and work in my studio, and I'm starting to get a better sense of what I've been doing that puts stress on my back.

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  6. it is always important with OCD to acknowledge that some of what you feel is reality based. it is not all OCD> you are not crazy. you know what is normal and abnormal. you know when you are in pain and what relieves your pain.

    with my back injury it has been important to be validated in the fact that i have a legitimate injury that must be managed, and some of the ways i have to manage it appear to be OCD, but the physical reality in this situation, i.e. the importance of being able to physically function, trumps to a certain extent the instinct to resist taking care of myself because im being "OCD". taking care of your body is not "OCD".

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    1. Taking care of myself was not second nature, but I've been taking Alexander lessons for a year now, and have learned so much about how to be kind to my back, and release unnecessary tensions. I agree that it's important not to attribute everything to OCD, but to manage the OCD in the midst of taking steps to take care of myself.

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  7. A chronic pain alone is already distressing. What more if it is mixed with another issue like OCD, which you already have. It must have been terribly hard for you to manage. But I can see that you did well on both. Anyway, the occupational therapy that you mentioned might be of great help with what you’re experiencing then. As long as you have a doctor’s guidance, I’m certain that you can do it and that everything will go well.

    @ Fort Lauderdale Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine

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