By Mordechai Schmutter
This week’s article is about lower-back pain. Never mind why.
Okay, fine. Apparently, I’m getting to the age where I occasionally do something to my back. This was brought to my attention recently at my parents’ house. It was the Friday night after Simchas Torah, and I was on the couch playing a game with my younger siblings, and at some point, I got up to look for food in the fridge. (I’ve been married for a while now, but still, every time I come to my parents’ house, I raid the fridge. To be fair, I raid the fridge in my own house too.) But as soon as I got to my feet, I realized that I couldn’t stand up all the way. Baruch Hashem, my siblings were all very supportive about it.
“You’re old!” they yelled supportively, making sure to yell it loudly in case I was too old to hear them.
They’re always making fun of me for being old, like I should have thought of that before I got old. Back pain is one of the only injuries that you can get made fun of for having.
So I tried to retain my dignity by walking off, with the upper half of my body pretty much parallel to the floor. I’m glad I didn’t walk into any walls.
You don’t realize how much you use your back in everyday life. It’s really an “out of sight, out of mind” sort of thing. But judging from the number of things that I now have to do in slow motion, it turns out you use your back for everything.
So I’ve been racking my brain, trying to figure out what I did to hurt my back, mainly because this is one of the few activities I can do without getting up. Was it the way I got up? Couldn’t be. I’ve gotten up from the couch before. This wasn’t my first time.
I’ve also been reading up on back injuries, and there are lots of exercises you can do, using mainly tools that you have around the house. I personally haven’t done any of these exercises, because my back hurts. But I did read that there are right and wrong ways to sit. So maybe it is an age thing. When I was a kid, I could sit wrong for hours. So maybe that’s finally catching up to me. I should have listened to my parents.
When I was a teenager, my parents spent a lot of time obsessing about my posture, mostly because I walked like a teenager. Their goal was to get me to look like a regular, normal member of society. Some of the things they suggested were: (a) walking around with a broomstick behind my back, held by the crooks of my elbows, and (b) walking around with a book on top of my head. I did try both exercises, though I tried them at the same time. I put the book on top of my head, then I put the broomstick behind my back, and boom! The book fell down.
Then, keeping the broomstick behind my back, I tried to pick the book up off the floor and put it on my head. The only way I could possibly do this was to toss the book in the air and attempt to catch it with my head while squinting and bracing for impact. But my point is that doing this definitely did not help me look like a regular, normal member of society. And anyway, I didn’t want to walk around with good posture, because people with good posture don’t find money on the street.
I also came up with another theory as to why my back hurt: It was right after Simchas Torah, and over the course of the day, I’d enthusiastically lifted my kids over my head for “Moshe Emes” over 14 times. I don’t want to say anything, because I’m their father, but seriously, they get heavier every year. What am I feeding them?
Maybe it’s the way I lift them. A lot of this reading material says that if you want to avoid back pain, you should lift with your legs. See, that’s the thing. They always come up with all these ways to do things properly, but they’re always so awkward. My entire life, I’ve been lifting with my arms. I had no idea. I’m supposed to lift with my legs.
Great. Now how am I supposed to walk while lifting stuff?
Okay, so I know what it means. Sure, I can lift with my legs, although sometimes my knee hurts, thanks to an injury I got from years of kneeling on the bathroom floor several times a week and trying to convince my kids that I won’t get shampoo in their eyes.
Did I just reference two kinds of pain in the same article? That’s another thing that comes with age. Although I do want to point out that both of them were probably caused by my kids.
So maybe it’s from lifting my kids over my head, even though that happened earlier in the day. Apparently, my back is pretty dumb, and it has delayed reactions like that. You’ll do something to hurt your back, and then several hours later, your back will say, “Wait. Did I lift something back then? Ow. Oh, and I’m itchy, by the way, but I don’t remember why.”
It’s very annoying when you have to figure out why your back is hurting, when it’s not necessarily from something that happened right before it started hurting. It’s like playing detective, but with a back injury. “Let’s see, what did I do in the past week to make my back hurt today? I sat wrong, I lifted my kids over my head several times in rhythm to a song, I put away the air conditioners on the top shelf of the garage, I put up a sukkah, and that tarp and those poles are getting heavier every year . . .” See, with shin pain, I know. “Why is my shin hurting? Probably because I banged it on the coffee table just now.” I’m just glad my back didn’t seize up in the middle of shul with my kid over my head and my tallis sliding off my back, right before everyone in the shul started running in circles.
When I finally made it to bed (half of me was already parallel to the floor, so it wasn’t that hard), my wife commented that she’d had that same kind of pain when she was pregnant, which I think is my wife’s nice way of saying that I can stand to lose at least 30 pounds off my stomach region. I think she just doesn’t like that I walk into her in-laws’ house and head straight for the fridge.
But yeah, maybe it is a weight thing. This was the last day of yom tov in a month of basically ten days of yom tov, over which I’d eaten eight pounds of meat, two sacks of potatoes, 65 rugelach, and enough honey to stick a bear to a tree.
So is it my age? My weight? My posture? My kid-lifting? If I had to guess, I’d say it was all those things conspiring at once. That’s how it works. It’s like the time I noticed that, for several weeks, one of my eyelids would occasionally twitch for no reason at all. So I looked it up, between blinks, and it said that eyelids twitch involuntarily for one of three reasons:
1. Lack of sleep,
2. Too much caffeine, and
3. Too much stress.
And I said, “Hey! I have all three of those!” I was stressed because I was behind on deadlines because I was tired from staying up trying to make deadlines that I was behind on because I was tired. And I was drinking enough coffee to launch myself into space. And then the stress of knowing I was in an unbreakable cycle didn’t help either.
And now I’m in a similar position. I’m sitting because my back hurts, but if I sit like this for too long, my back will hurt more, I’ll gain weight from lack of exercise, and I’ll feel older. So if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to attempt to get up. I hope I don’t walk into any walls. v
Mordechai Schmutter is a weekly humor columnist for Hamodia and is the author of three books, published by Israel Book Shop. He also does freelance writing for hire. You can send any questions, comments, or ideas to MSchmutter@gmail.com.