Invincible Star Power for Acute Pain

lumbar3Most everyone knows what a star does for Super Mario Brothers characters (and their spin-offs). Touching the star provides a limited duration of invincibility. I’m certain that the programmer who originally thought of this concept back in the ’80s was inspired by a dose of prednisone.

[Prednisone is a synthetic corticosteroid drug that is particularly effective as an immunosuppressant drug. It is used to treat certain inflammatory diseases (such as moderate allergic reactions), some autoimmune diseases, and (at higher doses) some types of cancer. But it has significant adverse effects.]

I write this in my fourth day of prednisone. The severe lower back pain is slightly improved. But I’m definitely running on Invincible Star Power. This is the sound track of life:


“Dad can you get me a drink of .” 

A cold glass of milk slides to a perfect halt on the table in front of my daughter.

“What are we supposed to do after jumping on the box?”

A 12-year old receives a snappy retort for forgetting part two of a three-step exercise series.

Getting tired at 3:00 a.m. has afforded plenty of time to catch up on reading and organizing paperwork. There’s (currently) no daytime ramifications for the lack of sleep, other than  drive-by snappiness. Yesterday I ran into a wasp nest under the shade umbrella on our back deck. Three of them got to me. But they didn’t realize that they were dealing with a human under the influence of Invincible Star Power. I felt only a mild pinch with no redness or swelling. In honesty, I still freaked out and squealed like a little girl. It was minutes before I realized there was no pain, and understood why. This morning I went to the back yard and pulled a stem of poison Ivy up from the ground just to say that I could do it.

I threw it on the ground.


Heal thyself.

Three weeks ago, while helping move a heavy wooden cabinet backwards up a flight of stairs, I felt a significant shift and strain in the left lower back. That event came on the heels of a busy Saturday which began with heavy squats, progressed to cleaning floors, and finished with resurfacing our driveway with blacktop and a squeegee. I entered the furniture moving day fatigued but not hurting. The pain was initially mild, so I finished the job, which involved another hour of lifting and carrying fairly light but awkward pieces of furniture. I went home, sat down to eat dinner and read. Standing up brought a throbbing pain into my left hip.

I grimaced my way through workdays at the office and in the basement, light house work, and playing with the kids. I didn’t train, no lifting, running or jumping. [So what is life worth haha?] Despite taking it (relatively) easy for two weeks, the conditioned worsened. I sat whenever possible and walked with a forward lean. I began taking Ibuprofin but it was too late to stop the crescendo.  I literally flopped and flailed around the living room for two sleepless nights and worthless days.lumbar1

I self-diagnosed a lumbar disc herniation pressing on the L2 nerve root, with extension dysfunction. The pain followed the textbook definition of the L2 “dermatome.”

Sitting upright. Sitting reclined. Hips shifted left with legs up. Laying on floor feet up. Right side over ottoman. Left leg on pillow. All permutations of every position offered absolutely no relief. Finally, I discovered that sitting at the kitchen table with heavy pressure through my ribs and elbows effectively “lifted” the pain. Until I got up.

The prescription of prednisone cost $3. I began taking it and experienced a…third miserable night. But I noticed improvement by the next day. I’m typing this now, only two days later. I still cannot stand for long and my gait appears to be pitched against a stiff wind. But I went to work yesterday and fussed around the house today. I have to count this sitting and typing as therapeutic rest.

What happened and why?lumbar2

Would you say that I had poor flexibility or core weakness? Nah. Although I’m sure there is some gradually progressing imbalance responsible for this. Still, things can go wrong despite maintaining good body mechanics.

Would you say that I had a nutritional inadequacy? It’s possible because much of the time I still eat like a kid. But this is not the root of the current condition. Just to play it safe for the crowd who sees any and every malady through the lens of nutrition: I hereby self-diagnose a manganese deficiency with lyceine sensitivity. I have made the necessary dietary adjustments, the gluten, the GMOs, and the oils, both essential and coconut.

Okay not really. I’m about five steps away from being that desperate.

Would you say that a bone or lumbar disc needs to be cracked back in? This is not the case when nearly every small movement makes the pain worse. A forceful adjustment would have made this more miserable.

Although almost 41, I usually don’t feel or act like it. With all things, there is a cost. Spines, hips, and knees degenerate, and I’m keenly aware that mine are no exception. I still work and play fairly hard. Sometimes you simply must take the good with the bad, and endure the consequences of your choices, be they torn hip and lower back cartilage.

I’m fairly confident to be back on track in a few weeks or even months. At 41, there’s no sure way of telling what “full recovery” will look like. I may have permanent scars that prevent returning to a satisfactorily awesome level of function. Whatever the case, I’m barely out of the acute phase of pain. Hopefully next week I will be able to begin some gentle range of motion and training progressions. That’s when the real “lesson in rehab and sports performance” will take place.

I can already hear the Invincible Star Power Music begin to fade. So for now I’ll shoot for a lesson in patience and compassion for those in acute lower back pain.

At least have a laugh…

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