When back pain strikes it may seem sudden in its beginning but the truth is that often the origin may have been accumulating over a period of many years.
My story began on a dairy farm in rural New York State. Chores and grown-up responsibilities became a part of my life at a very young age. Hard work and long days were the realities of life as I knew it. I grew up strong of body and blessed with a resourceful and capable mind.
Little did I know that many of the things I did in those early days were setting me up for back problems down the road. Lifting heavy objects was an everyday activity. Long hours wielding a shovel or pitch fork, pounding fence posts or handling hay bales took an unseen toll.
My first indication that my back wasn't invincible occurred when I was about 13 yrs. old. I had jumped off a rock into our favorite swimming hole at a nearby creek, and struck the bottom of the creek-bed stiff-legged. By that evening I was hunched over like an 80 yr. old man listing to one side. By the next morning I could hardly move and my mother took me in to see the chiropractor. After several adjustments my health returned and I soon forgot all about it.
Upon graduating from high school I took a job working for a local building contractor and soon began hanging drywall full-time. Holding these heavy sheets of plasterboard over my head at awkward angles added to a steadily growing "back" account. But, I was young…I was strong and didn't notice.
From there I moved out west to Montana to fulfill my dreams and soon I was working as a logger. I loved working in the outdoors and welcomed the hard work and the new skills required to wield a chainsaw and fell timber with precision. The strain of using a chainsaw while twisting and bending over was deposited straight into my "back" account…but hey…did I mention I was young and strong and didn't notice?
Soon I graduated to heli-logging where powerful helicopters were used to lift and fly the logs to a distant landing where they could be loaded onto trucks. We were the professional athletes of logging...hard, strong and invincible. We worked on the most treacherous terrain, the stuff no one else would or could touch. Ten years of this abuse; the brutal falls, the bangs and bruises, the strain of packing the heavy steel chokers, all took its toll. But, I was still young (although I was starting to feel old) and I was still strong. I cheated death on a daily basis and so far I had gotten the best of it. But, that would change very suddenly.
I never saw the tree that struck me on the head but the compression that occurred to my spine would haunt me for years. That fateful day changed my life forever.
So was it the sudden injury or the accumulated effects of years of hard work that contributed to my demise? In all likelihood it was both. A healthy back can take a lot of stress, but that stress can catch up to you. My experience taught me that maintaining a healthy back is far easier than repairing a damaged one. If you find yourself sliding down the slope of accumulated back trauma it is vitally important to take steps now to reverse that slide, before it becomes a life altering experience.