And when a thunderbolt of back pain prevents you from getting out of bed, it's time to visit the chiropractor.
I used to see one in Canada from time to time to keep things on an even keel (beginning with a horrific car accident that should have killed me, but that's another story) as x-rays revealed a couple of issues with my spine: an extra cervical rib, and a coccyx that isn't fused between the fourth and fifth vertebra as it should be. Added together it meant long-term back trouble.
Eventually I learned to live with the pain, which for the most part could be classified as minor discomfort. So when I moved to Hong Kong I didn't bother to find a new chiropractor, which in hindsight was a bad move. Losing weight and getting regular exercise helped stave off a recurrence of pain severe enough to send me tottering for an adjustment, but I couldn't outrun aging, which, you guessed it, sucks.
Cue the bed scene. Somehow I'd messed up my lower back so much that intense agony caused me to collapse when I tried to stand up. Not cool, but I was fortunate to have met a chiropractor at the gym and thus had a ready contact that didn't have an office in Central. He also wasn't a typical Chinese bonesetter, who treats or sets broken or dislocated bones but most often isn't a licensed physican.
Not a person I'd be willing to trust. So off to the chiropractor I went.
A fresh x-ray confirmed the existing conditions but turned up another: additional bone growth on one side of the L5 lumbar vertebra. A simple test with a pair of industrial strength scales showed that although I felt I was standing evenly, in truth I was putting 18 pounds more weight on the right leg than the left. When I lay prone, my right leg was almost an inch longer.
In short, my lower back was royally twisted. Hence that thunderbolt.
Several visits have been productive; movement is much easier and far less painful, and weight distribution is evening out as the muscles relax. But it looks as though my days of swordplay are coming to an end. That, and I'm going to need a tripod better suited to my height so I won't have to hunch during photography expeditions.
Still, that doesn't obviate the incessant need to bend everywhere else in this town. Since I got here I've been bowing, dipping and stooping: getting on and off the minibus, folding myself into a taxi, riding double-decker buses with six-foot clearances, picking my way through the passengers aboard low-ceiling trams ... the list is endless.
Crouching to avoid whacking my melon while climbing or descending many staircases has become a habit. Even the sinks in our house are too low, but that's what I get for living in Hobbiton.
Some folks may write off chiropractors as quacks, but I'm not one of them. I don't buy the claims that chiropractic adjustments will solve all sorts of illnesses, but short of invasive surgery they're the best way to ameliorate my inveterate spinal problems; correcting obvious misalignments makes sense, and my lower back agrees.
But aging still sucks.
January 29, 2008
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