July 22, 2024
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July 22, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Ever since I wrote a couple of articles this past summer about my herniated disc, readers have been writing in to ask how it’s doing.

Though that’s not how they ask it. Mostly, they give suggestions, all of which conflict with each other. And with my doctor, whose suggestions I’m going to try first if they don’t mind. Though I do appreciate the thought.

Okay, I guess some readers might need a little bit of background (oy):

According to experts, “80 percent of the population, at some point in their lives, experiences back pain.” That might sound impressive, but the back takes up about 50 percent of your body, give or take (my stomach is pretty big) so odds are pretty good that it’s going to hurt sometimes. I could also tell you that 100 percent of the population, at some point in their lives, experiences headaches.

So in my ongoing attempt to be a regular, normal guy with problems we can all relate to and laugh about, even though laughing hurts our back, I slowly, over a number of years, developed major back pain, which, on top of everything, was very stressful, which made the back pain worse, which made things more stressful, and so on.

This all culminated at the beginning of the summer, when I collapsed a few times, and I realized how bad I am at commando crawling. I can’t get anywhere. I should have gotten my kids to smear me in butter so it would be easier to drag myself around the house. But then everyone would fall and hurt themselves, and before long we’d all be dragging ourselves around on the floor. We’d also be very milchig.

It turns out that what I had was a herniated disc. The human spine supports our entire upper body, including our stomachs, and it’s made up of more than 30 small bones stacked precariously on top of each other, like Jenga pieces, and these are held together by spongy discs made out of, in my case, marshmallow fluff. And sometimes the fluff herniates, and it gets all over the place, and your back sticks. And then the Jenga pieces start sliding around, and you’re out.

So now I go to therapy twice a week, where I shell out a small co-pay, and in return they try to kill me with stretches. Basically, the way therapy works is that you come in and lie down and they have you stretch yourself in various comical positions, then they massage you for a few minutes, and then you get up, collect the change that tumbled out of your pocket, and go home.

They also give homework. I have to do stretches at home twice a day. In fact, I made the mistake of calling it “homework,” and now my kids want to sign a paper saying that I did it and write whether the job I did was “excellent,” “very good,” “good,” “fair” or “other.” Either way, I now have the longest getting-up-in-the-morning process ever. Yes, most people stretch when they wake up, but I have a regimen of carefully selected stretches that I have to do a certain number of times. And they keep adding new stretches. They never take any off. I’m up to like 45 minutes of stretches. And I do them in bed, so I keep falling asleep.

But I’m not sure about this whole physical therapy thing. Will it really get rid of the problem? People seemed to say that it would, such as the testimonial I read that said, “The exercises healed me! Now, every time my back hurts, I just do the stretches!”

Wait. What do you mean “every time”?

They’re actually very nice at the physical therapist’s office. They basically give me a bunch of stretches designed to push my marshmallow fluff back into place. It’s like working out, except that none of the exercises are particularly difficult, unless you’re injured.

Here are some of the stretches they make me do. Don’t do these stretches unless you’re first evaluated by a competent physical therapist (as opposed to an incompetent physical therapist who keeps dropping patients, tripping over the medicine ball and walking into the broom closet):

-Band stretch—For this one, I take a humongous exercise-grade rubber band and tie it around my legs, and then I pull my knees apart and snap, the rubber band goes flying across the room, and someone who was just visiting has to now start going to physical therapy.

-Bicycle stretch—For this one, I lie on my back and pretend I’m riding a bicycle. Up a very steep hill, apparently. I never get to go downhill.

-Leg Lifts—In this stretch, I lie face down and lift my legs, one at a time, like I’m walking into the ground.

-Superman stretch—For this stretch, I lie on my stomach and that’s it. Just my stomach. Like a teeter totter.

The therapist also constantly keeps reminding me to breathe. Because when I do the stretches at home, I forget. That’s why I keep losing consciousness. I also come in so he can remind me to do the stretches slowly. He is totally obsessed with this. I have to move slowly and savor and enjoy them. He has to keep reminding me of this, because it’s boring, I’m doing it twice a day, and I just want to get to the part where he actually massages me. So I’m doing leg lifts so fast that it looks like I’m running into the ground, trying to win some kind of race.

“Breath!” he says.

“How?” I ask. “I’m lying on my stomach.”

So the short answer is that I’m getting better. But slowly.

Maybe I should try something else. Fortunately, I have those suggestions from my readers. Stay tuned for next week’s column, in which we’ll discuss some of these suggestions and try to figure out why there are so many of them.

By Mordechai Schmutter

 Mordechai Schmutter is a freelance writer and a humor columnist for Hamodia, The Jewish Press and Aish.com, among others. He also has five books out and does stand-up comedy. You can contact him at [email protected].



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