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The day my brain forgot where my back was (lucys-backbreak.blogspot.com)
43 points by gdee on Apr 16, 2010 | hide | past | web | favorite | 35 comments

Taking a bigger picture:

Muscle atrophy is one of the biggest causes of reduced quality of life in the elderly (and also the not so elderly). Women in particular are susceptible to this due to their smaller amount of muscle mass to begin with and the general cultural aversion to women undertaking resistance exercise. My own experience (as a man and admitted gym rat) is that resistance training sorts out my back problem (and generally improves my life in other ways).

So, who's for deadlifts? :)

I've (male) been going to they gym almost a year, after 30 years of sloth, it's made a huge difference.

I've heard some concern from women who don't want to work out too hard because they don't want to bulk up. I'm no expert, the responses I've heard have generally been something like most women aren't genetically prone to bulking, you're just going to get more fit, stronger and toned.

In case there are any women here who have had similar concerns. IMO you're much better off being strong and fit. Working out is not (necessarily) about body building, it's about health, ability and quality of life.

> they don't want to bulk up

This is probably just an excuse for not exercising. I have never seen a woman in real life who would become more attractive by losing muscle, except professional sportswomen (and there's a reasonable chance that those women are using some kind of drug to get more muscles). Actually unless you're fat free you will probably bulk down rather than bulk up.

Skinny Jessica Biel = just another actress.

Jessica Biel with muscles = hot.

I for one welcome our new amazon overlords (overladies?) and think there are worse ways to go than death by snu snu.

Agreed- indeed, some of the cutest girls I know could become more attractive still by putting on some more lean muscle. As for whether it's an excuse or not, probably a mix. It could be for many women, fashion trends are convincing them skinny is more attractive than lithe (I love that word, describes it perfectly).

I strained my back a couple of years ago, causing a cascading pain reaction that locked up all the muscles in my back and resulted in a trip to the ER, pumping me full of muscle relaxants.

The simple, best and most effective treatment has been ab crunches and back extensions, a couple of times a week at the gym. As long as I do them, I'm perfect. If I skip them off for even a few weeks, I get the warning twinges of another cascade.

You don't have to be a crazy gym person, kids: just do something, anything, physical with your body on a regular basis, and it will repay you many times over.

I'm in!

I spent years under the misconception that being skinny (but not scrawny) meant I was fit. It wasn't until I started a proper weight/interval training routine that a) I realized how out of shape I was and b) my lower back stopped being so damned fragile.

My experience matches this as well.

I used to see a chiropractor for back pain, and honestly it did help a bit.

But I started exercising for other reasons, and that marked the real change. I felt better, even without going to the chiro.

I can still feel the difference today. If I go on vacation, say, and skip exercise for more than a few days, I can feel soreness and stiffness returning. But once I pick back up the exercising (and stretching, too, I suppose), the discomfort dissipates.

I used to see a chiropractor for back pain, and honestly it did help a bit.

The real question is not whether it helped, but rather whether it helped more than the equivalent time to heal and possibly a massage would have.

And that's ignoring the risk of injury from a chiropractor's "corrections".

I'm with you! With the caveat that your form needs to be spot on to avoid injury. There are other benefits to resistance training as well: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/06/health/06real.html?src=sch

I've just got to chime in with an oo-rah for the deadlifts... they hit your whole body, and really improved my climbing performance.

The clean-and-jerk with Olympic weights was awesome, too... anybody know of a place in the bay area where one might find some used rubber weights, cheap-ish?

responding to csarva(http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1271567)(I can't seem to reply to individual messages anymore):

>[re-]building core strength

That's [re-]building strength in core muscles (the ones that hold your skeleton together)... as opposed to motor muscles(those who move your limbs)... that is the crux of the whole article, and I think it makes a lot of difference. The way you put it leads to think to core moral strength.

Edit: The excruciating pain is also not core to the article. In her case, damaged nerves lead to muscle fatigue being manifested in lack of power and quite pointedly lack of pain in certain circumstances when pain was to be expected (though she also describes experiencing said excruciating pain).

Edit2: Actually, although the article is interspersed with passages of personal drama (it /is/ a blog post, on /her/ blog) it is also filled with too much information to be easily tl;dr'ed... Also, the post itself is a postmortem style post in which what happened over a long period of time is condensed. Further compression runs high risks of being lossy I think.

Does anyone have a link to further information on the muscle repair stuff she cited? The part about how after 25, your brain might just give muscles up for lost?

Well I was going to make some comments on specific parts of this blog post but there is just too much crap. Don't do anything the woman did in this article. Not even what she settled for at the end. She kept looking to quacks for quick-fixes where she didn't have to do any work when in reality all she needed was some physical therapy (which is hard work and a longer process and actually fixes your dysfunction).

If you don't want to get into this situation in the first place there are even preventative physical therapy programs like egoscue and specific types of yoga. Avoid joint/bone "manipulators" and all that other new-age BS, though.

Sounds to me like her muscle atrophy was preceded by a long period of intense pain due to one or more herniated discs. A proper course of treatment would have included pain killers and muscle relaxants simply to get her to the point where there was less spasm. Then she could have done physical therapy to build up her strength.

The Chiropractors here are the most to blame -- they took a bad situation and made it much, much worse. Note that the last guy in the UK who called them out for quackery spent years fighting a libel suit.

when i was in high school, i had problems with my back and neck.

we were referred to a doctor about this. he sized me up in 5 minutes. then he revealed to us his chiropractor nature and said he'd do his thing. i wasn't asked if that's what i want. it didn't occur to me either, because he's an authority figure, right? so he did his thing. and it got worse. my neck felt bent out of shape and weak.

we had to see another doctor who prescribed muscle strength work. because that was the problem. fucked up muscles.

why the heck do people still believe in chiropractors? they're all frauds, every single one of them.

my tl;dr summary - After seeing several doctors and chiropractors for her excruciating back pain, Lucy found that exercise and [re-]building core strength was the answer. The problem was her muscles, not her bones.

and what is it with "waiting months to see a doctor"?

i live in germany (socialized health care) and if there's something wrong with you, you either see your GP or walk into the next (teaching) hospital. whatever further referral you need is just days away, if not just an elevator ride and a knock on a door.

waiting months, docs who dismiss your opinion, trusting chiropractors... what is wrong with you?

England. They beat you in the last war.

For those in the bay area, did you have similar success with muscle training treatments? If so, can you please refer me to a few sources where I can get help starting my regiment?

After reading this article I am determined to get my neck and back stronger, just don't know where to start.

The treatment she got from the government doctors was horrible.

This bit gives me chills: "We were told that we would wait at least four months for an NHS appointmen"


I'm glad that we still have free market doctors here in the US.

Well, at least for the next four years.

Yeah. My former technician, who I still keep in touch with, needed surgery to remove a long shunt that had been surgically implanted when he was a child, due to hydroencephaly.

It took months for him to even get the first appointment, an x-ray which did little for diagnosis. Months later, he got an MRI, which supported the diagnosis of calcification of the shunt, but wasn't completely conclusive. More months later, a biopsy was taken, and again, that wasn't entirely conclusive, but at this point the doctors were suggesting that it be surgically removed.

So, he goes in for surgery -- nearly 6 months after the last round of tests. The surgeon begins removing sections of it, but it's slow going because the shunt keeps breaking apart and falling back into the body.

The surgeon actually runs out of time to finish the job and sews him up, having only removed around 6 of the 18 inches of shunt.

Then, only a couple of hours after the surgery, my tech was asked to leave the hospital, because they were out of recovery rooms and couldn't put him up any longer. They also couldn't spare a gurney or, apparently, a wheelchair; he was walked out of the hospital while still groggy.

Now he'll have to go back in for more surgery, all at further public expense, to finish the job that should have been finished last year.

...Oh, except for one thing: this is in the U.S.

He's a young kid by the way, and the only reason that he isn't completely bankrupted by all of this is that he's covered under a public care option specifically for children that had hydroencephaly.


I've done my best to respond calmly and civilly here; I know that it's easier to win opinions that way. At least, that's what I want to believe. However, this "free market health care" nonsense absolutely infuriates me. Its proponents will point to any weakness they can find in socialized health systems, while simultaneously wearing rose-colored goggles for our own ailing health system. They're lying to themselves, and they're lying to other people, and it's absolutely embarrassing that a modern, first-world country doesn't consider health care to to be an import aspect of an advanced society -- one that, like education, should be provided to the greatest number of its citizens possible.

I've had an aunt die of stomach cancer, and my grandfather slowly dehydrated away in a hospital because that, apparently, is how congestive heart failure is handled in the U.S. I keep in mind that most doctors do the best they can, and most hospitals are understaffed and overbooked. But, to ignore the ills of our system here and be "glad" for it is preposterous.

It's also preposterous to pretend our system is "free market". It's a highly regulated market with significant barriers to entry, as well as substantial government intervention.

It's sad that whenever the topic comes up, half of all people seem to think the blame lies with the "free market", while the other half seem to think "at least we're not socialist".

We can do so much better. We can make sure that more of our citizens have access to health care. We can improve its quality. We can reduce wait times. And we can reduce costs. Some of those things can be accomplished by taking a more socialist approach to certain parts of health care, and others can be accomplished by taking a more free market stance to other parts. Use socialism where it works; use free market principles where they work; don't get so caught up over the "evils" of either system to dismiss it when it's actually good.

A better way to measure a health care system might be "how many stops does the money make on its way from patient to doctor?". You can name it socialist, capitalist, or Dr. Suess, but if the money has to go through dozens of thieving and incompetent hands on its way to the doctor, the system is a failure.

My fear for the "new" US health system is that we're just trading one set of middle-men for another (likely equal) set. People already trained in 2-party thinking will decide that neither works and health care is actually impossible and give up.

> he's covered under a public care option

So you're arguing that the British socialized system is good, and free market systems are bad ... and the evidence you hold up for this is about a horrible event in socialized portion of the US health care system?

That sounds like a pretty defective argument in favor of socialized medicine.

No, that wasn't my argument at all.

Maybe your habit of describing these things in "good" versus "bad" has stunted your ability to understand this situation.

I'll try just one more time: unless you're independently wealthy, U.S. citizens are subject to much the same wait times for specialized care as British citizens are -- or, I suspect, the citizens of most other first-world nations. And, again, unless you're independently wealthy, the quality of care in the U.S. is not any better than other countries -- and may even be worse, by some measurements. The usual counter-example that gets trotted out here are the various people that travel to the U.S. from abroad for various serious procedures; but, those people tend to be financially resourceful, and we're not talking about health care for the rich here -- we're talking about the level of health care available to most people.

In my technician's case, the "public care option" part of the anecdote merely covered most -- not all -- of the expenses after the fact. Short of having enough money to bribe hospitals and buy doctors, his experiences wouldn't have been any different if he were paying entirely out-of-pocket, or if he were covered by insurance, or if he were in his sixties and on Medicare.

The idiots that keep spreading FUD about "socialized medicine" keep trying to say that the quality of care will go down, or that our wait times for care will become terribly bad -- without bothering to notice that we aren't exactly the envy of the developed world in terms of either quality or speed. They also fail to ever explain exactly why a socialized payment system should have any negative impact on actual treatment; I for one would actually expect the opposite in a well-run system.

I'm pretty sure that all of the arguments against "socialized" health care pretty much boil down to, "the poor don't deserve health care", which stinks.

Where in the US was this?

I ask because the health-care system varies from state to state,

California. Surgery was in Davis IIRC.

Let me finish that quote for you, since you didn't seem to like the second half of it: "We were told that we would wait at least four months for an NHS appointment so for the first time in both our lives we went private. We were told we would get an appointment in about six weeks."

There are free market doctors in the UK, I shouldn't worry that all yours will vanish.

This does not seem unusually high for me. I live in the U.S, in a city with some of the best hospitals in the country, and it looks about median.

Back when my son had some kidney problems, the wait in the States would have been 72 days to see a specialist. In the lousy Hungarian public system, he saw a specialist the week we arrived. (Dual citizenship hath its privileges.)

Later, we lived in Puerto Rico, also cursed with a public healthcare system that had us in a specialist's office in two weeks.

We're in the US proper now (the real estate is just so damned cheap here and the school system is good for both our kids at the moment) but the lack of working health care will probably drive us out again in a couple of years.

The only people who think US health care is good are people who have never experienced any other system.

My wife and I always refer to our multiple citizenships as "the backup plan" for exactly this reason ;)

Agree. I live in a mid-size city with a couple of world-class medical facilities. The waits for specialists are about 3 months.

Which is about the same time (well, a little bit more) as the wait times in public hospitals in awfully socialist Norway. State covers 62% of the cost up to a maximum copay, after that they'll pay the rest for you. Having various chronic illnesses, I don't mind this at all.

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