Sunday, 24 July 2016

Spine, down my spine

A few years ago, while reading results of my medical general check-up, my GP told me by the time I reached forty problems with health would not afflict me, but if I looked after myself well, I would stay healthy until I turned fifty. Then it would all go downhill anyway, since only a tiny fraction of population aged over 50 can boast about excellent health.

I can drop in on a dentist once a year to have my teeth checked preventively or at worst have one of them mended. I visit ophthalmologist at least once in two years to have my eyesight inspected. I get a medical check-up at least once in three years and wait for a spot-on comment that I have my car thoroughly serviced at least once year, so why do I care more about a depreciating tin. The last time I was on a sick leave was in October 2013, after a food poisoning, since then not a single cold caught. I am doing fine, so what’s the point in seeing doctor “just in case”, as some of my peers, who just like me have medical care packages paid by their employers, do.

This might be the thing of the past… Before each warm long weekend doctors advise people who lead sedentary lifestyle not to overstretch themselves. I heard those warnings also before the late-May Corpus-Christi weekend, but did not take them to heart. April and May were stressful, I sat long in the office to meet deadlines and once I saw the back of the dreadful streak, I wanted to make the most of days off. Swimming, cycling, garden and house works in abundance have put a pleasant strain on my muscles. On Monday following the weekend I barely got up from bed, being stricken by a pain down my lumbar spine. I thought the strain, just muscle soreness, would ease off after a day or two. It did not. With varying intensity the aches kept me company for four weeks; being a nuisance at work, at home, during business trips and private travels… I carried on, though there were days I could not remain sitting for more than half an hour; a limitation bearable in the office, yet uncomfortable during conferences or workshops when I could not stand up whenever I wanted.

Having returned from holidays I finally signed up to see my GP at Medicover; on the next day I had my spine X-rayed as prescribed. With the results and a relevant referral I marched to a physiotherapist. It turned out my spine, though not in pristine condition, is not ruined, yet if I do not want it to cause me further pains, I should take up regular exercise and change my habits. The former will not help if I do not pursue the latter.

The very sitting, inevitable if you work in an office, is not a natural position for a human spine, therefore it is crucial to minimise negative effects of sitting long hours. Firstly, do not sit on the tailbone (the Formula-1 driver position). There are two bones around the middle of your buttocks which should absorb the burden of your body as you sit. Secondly, your spine should be vertical as you sit. To allow for this, you should have a chair with properly shaped armrest, monitor ahead of your eyes (not lower, otherwise you will hunch), keyboard and mouse close to you (so that you don’t have to reach out for them and hunch).

Everyday habits also need to be changed not to strain the lumbar spine excessively. If you want to lift something heavy, bend your legs and let your thighs take the strain. Generally, I am switching from squatting and bowing down towards sit-ups and kneeling. I have quite strong legs (riding a bike a lot as a child) and they should take the strain off my spine, yet have to be careful about the knee joints. In other words time to live normally, but without encouraging the pain to keep me company. Unfortunately, over the coming weeks long (> 25 kilometres) bike trips have to be given up. Though I have chosen the bike in size corresponding to my height (XL; 180 – 195 cm), longer cycling takes its toll on my still sore spine, therefore I will most likely enjoy longer rides in late August at the earliest… Today I cycled to Zalesie Górne and back (total distance of around 20 kilometres, one snap on my fb profile) with a short break at my destination and felt I could do with a little bit longer trips, yet my spine calls for a break after some 45 minutes (or 10 kilometres) of recreational cycling…

Oddly enough, Wisła resort today had few visitors, despite conducive weather.

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