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Back Pain, or Lack Thereof

The day we came back from New England was a tough one on my back. Lugging our bags, carrying Charlie, and sitting in uncomfortable plane seats all took their toll. Getting up at 6 am (3 am Seattle time) didn’t help matters much, either. So it came as no surprise that I woke up the next morning with a sore lower back. Nothing debilitating, mind you. A little Advil and a few days of taking it easy and I’d be fine.

Or so I thought. Life with a two-year-old makes taking it easy a challenge. So after a couple days of improvement, my back took a turn for the worse. Monday evening, my back pain started to radiate down into my right leg. It felt a little like my leg was on fire… or that I really needed to stretch every muscle in my leg. I’d set the alarm for 4:30 am to check the barbecue that had cooked all night. Even in my bleary-eyed half-asleep state, I noticed right away that my back pain was gone. As I swung my legs out of bed and stood up, there was absolutely no pain. Amazing! Unfortunately, there was no sensation at all in my right leg. Completely numb. I managed to hobble my way out to check on the barbecue and back to bed and hoped that whatever was going on would resolve itself as I slept. It didn’t.

When I got up a few hours later, my leg was still numb. Not quite completely numb, as I’d thought, but pretty close. My big toe and the inside side of my leg felt pretty normal, but everything else was numb. I could feel pressure okay, but not light touch. I could walk without much trouble (though with a little limp), but unless I paid close attention to how I held my foot, it would gradually flop out to the side. I first realized this when I tripped on the dragging left edge of my shoe which had become the front edge by my rotated foot. And so it is today. It’s pretty weird. I have full control of my foot, so if I pay attention, I can hold it straight and walk more-or-less normally, but I can’t just walk and have my leg do the right thing on its own. I’ve found that if I hold it just right, I can get into a groove and barely even limp. Yipee.

As alarming as it is to go to sleep with back pain and wake up with a numb leg, I wasn’t too concerned about it at first. I figured that whatever had been causing the back pain shifted a little and a couple weeks of taking it easy would probably resolve things, just as it probably would with the pain. Later in the day, I was driving and my foot slipped off the brake pedal. I thought it was squarely in the middle of the pedal, but it was apparently just on the edge. That freaked me out enough that I called to make an appointment with my doctor right away. I couldn’t get in to see him until the 20th, but managed to get in to see someone else in the same clinic (it’s at the UW) the same day. The appointment was full of the same fun neuro-screening stuff I’d been through leading up to my laminectomy ten years ago (has it really been that long? Maybe it’s only been nine years.). “Can you feel this? How about this? Does this feel hot or cold? Am I pressing harder on the right or left? Walk across the room… now on your toes… now on your heels… etc.” The only thing I thought was strange was that I absolutely could not walk on my right heel. I could hold my toes up, but as soon as I put weight on my heel, my whole foot would just flop down. Anyway, in the end, the doctor recommended taking it easy for a few weeks to see if it resolves itself. Oh, and some Naproxen to reduce inflammation.

I feel old.