I threw out my back two weeks ago. I always figured that if this happened to me, it would be because I was doing something I shouldn’t have done. Something that seemed important at the time, but in retrospect was not. Lifting a car off an injured guy who was changing his oil, for instance. I could handle a Yugo, but you don’t need to change the oil in a Yugo- you simply wait until it leaks out. Or carrying 5 or 6 boxes of paper over to the copy machine. Which would be a wasted trip since I don’t know how to clear the paper jams. Or changing out the empty jug in the water cooler.
In reality that describes my injury exactly. As I was about to play a game of doubles tennis, I hurt my back performing what would have been a very very funny and topical imitation of Serena Williams chasing around that little Chinese lines judge at the US Open semifinal. As you remember if you saw it, the lines judge inexplicably calls a foot fault on Serena at 15-30 in the final set, which costs her the point and brings up match-point. Serena walks over to her, and says something to the effect of, “I wanna stuff this tennis ball right down your friggin throat.” And she actually shows her the tennis ball, so that she can see how big it is. The lines judge is a small Chinese woman, with a small friggin throat, and even a squash ball or a racquetball shoved down there might have killed her. So she runs over to the umpire’s chair, because Serena is friggin’ huge, and she is armed with a large tennis ball. Then Serena goes back to serve at double match-point down, thinks about it again, and walks back over to the lines judge and points her raquet at her, presumably to also shove that down her throat. The lines judge runs away again and hides under a plant. Serena returns three of four times, each time with something bigger to shove down the girl’s throat, and chases her around the umpire’s chair, or at least that’s how I remember it. Then the US Open officials come out and tell Serena that she has defaulted the point, and so the match, on the grounds of unsportsmanlike conduct and attempted murder. The next day Serena is told that she must forfeit an entire moment’s pay, never go within 50 feet of any lines judge, and not grunt so loud that it scares people. She immediately issues a heartfelt apology through her agent, saying that she is sorry she foot faulted and had to pay all that money, and that she is very passionate about her sport and might hurt anyone at any time in the future.
So my imitation would have been very important, since comedy often has a healing effect. In this case it had quite the opposite effect, since I felt like I dislocated my back. Once I located it again, it hurt like hell and I should have left it where it was. I was writhing around the ground looking like I was break dancing, and the rest of the foursome was laughing at me, marveling at how lifelike I was.
So I could hardly stand up, and everything I did for the next two weeks was extremely painful. I was walking around at about an 80 degree angle, and on the plus side I never stepped in any gum. In order to put on my pants I had to lie on the floor with one leg up, throw the pants into the air and stick my leg underneath it, hoping that the right leg would land in the right leg. There is still a pair of pants hanging from one of our overhead lights because we don’t have a ladder that tall.
So I finally went to the doctor. She poked me in the back and I went, “AAAHHHKKK!” She said, “Was that painful?” I said, “No I am ticklish there.” So she tried another place and I went, “AAAHHHKKK!” And she asked, “Is that ticklish?” And I said, “No- painful.” So she thought I should get an X-ray. I asked, “For my back?” And she said, “No, for your brain- you seem like an idiot.” She also prescribed muscle relaxants, and after two of those I resembled a large puddle, and had to be poured into bed. And then at physical therapy they made me lie on my back and move my legs in a way that if I was a girl on “Melrose Place” would be hot, but for a guy just looks embarrassingly dumb.
The moral of this story is that there isn’t anyone on the planet who doesn’t have a remedy or advice for back pain.
“Try my chiropractor! He doesn’t take insurance so just give him your ATM PIN number!”
“Go to an acupuncturist! Don’t drink any milk for a couple hours afterward!”
“Get a massage- you don’t need the happy ending, but don’t get the UN-happy ending!”
“Put heat on it!”
“Put ice on it! For god’s sake don’t use heat!”
“Lie on your side and lift your hand and leg up and down simultaneously for two minutes straight!”
“Go onto your hands and knees and make a noise like a raccoon!”
“Swallow an entire glass of water, then hold your breath until you start to get a little hungry!”
That last one might have been for the hiccups, I forget.
Even before the injury my wife was constantly badgering me. Before tennis: “Don’t forget to stretch!” I am 6’2” tall, and I think that’s tall enough. And every time I would bend down to pick something up, she would yell: “Use your legs!” I tried and tried to use my legs to pick things up, and sometimes I was able to, but often I just gave up and used my hands.
Incidentally, Astronauts in space can grow 1 ½ to 2 ½ inches, as zero gravity causes their spines to lengthen. Their noses can also grow if they lie in the spacecraft.
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