The Direct approach to lower back pain

One minute I was a nearly size 14 in Next, the next I was clutching a display stand in agony.

My back went.

Not for me the tried and tested route to intense lower back pain such as an afternoon’s weeding, clearing out the garage, painting the coving, scrubbing the patio or “sleeping funny”. No, I was simply looking at the blouses when my lower back/buttocks went into excruciating spasm. I had been 5ft 5in; now I was bent into 4ft 10in. I had been 56; now I was 92 and counting.

If you’ve seen Julie Walters in the “sssoup, sssir” sketch playing a decrepit waitress who takes three minutes to cover three yards then you’ll have some idea of my condition.

I tried to make my exit from the store look reasonably normal as I dragged myself from stand to stand, clutching on to any (non-human) protuberance in the proximity of my desperate clawing.


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Lurching on to the street in the throes of great suffering, I pulled my mobile out of my bag and dialled my husband at his office.

“Hello, Lynne.” (His phone tells him it’s me before I speak). “You’re going to have to come and get me,” I whispered through gritted teeth.

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“You sound just like Julie Walters. You know . . . in that sketch with the soup.”

“Yes, all right, thank you. Something terrible has happened to my back and I can’t move. Can you come and get me?”

“Of course, darling. Where are you?”

“Well, I’ll struggle into Marks and Spencer. They’ve got a sale.”

“Okay. I’ll be there in a minute.”

Hobbling into M&S, I had just managed to find a half-price coat when he arrived. “Lynne . . . you’re walking like Julie Walters in that sketch as well.”

“I have to pay for this coat and then get back to the car.”

“Will you be able to drive?”

“I don’t know. If I can’t, I’ll sit in the car until you finish work.”

“That’s five hours.”

“I am a very patient woman.”

My husband carried the shopping and we crept through the town centre and managed to get back to the car before the latest return date for the sale coat.

Four days later my back was definitely improving, although I had a rather odd tingling in my lower limbs and nether regions. “That must be quite pleasant.” My husband attempted to jolly me along. It was not so much pleasant as strange – like having a lower body circulatory system designed by Schweppes.

NHS Direct. They’d have the answer. I found tingling between testicles and tiredness and though there should have been a good joke there somewhere, I was getting a bit fed up with having a bad back and didn’t spot it. I’ll come back to it when I’m better. I selected “tingling”.

Eureka! Like Archimedes, I would have leapt from the bath, had that been at all possible. “Lower back pain in adults. Lower back pain, also known as lumbago, affects seven out of 10 people at some time in their lives.” It goes on to say it can come on suddenly, as in Next, or slowly.

I then went on to the symptom checker and selected my sex (female) and my age, where I discovered I had moved into the top section: “56 and over”. My back felt infinitely worse.

I completed a series of questions including one that would identify whether I was in shock. Of course I was in shock, I was now in the oldest age group. Then it asked if I had any new symptoms such as buttock numbness and loss of bladder control. It didn’t offer the option of the Three Sneezes model of slight incontinence (1 Fine, 2 Danger, 3 Oops) so I moved on only to find my web page had expired. Restart. Dr Direct concluded I could safely look after myself, but should the pain go on for more than six weeks, I should see my GP.

So that’s all right then. Meanwhile, I shall continue to wince at regular intervals to ensure my husband continues to wait on me hand and foot – at least until the weekend when he is off to Plymouth for his son’s stag weekend.

Scant details have been issued about this event, but I understand Mark is to be dressed as a knight and turned out of the car 30 minutes away from his destination. He will be given a map and expected to find his way there.

Let’s hope Mark’s Cub Scout days will stand him in good stead. I believe he may have achieved a badge for performance art which could come in handy when begging West Country locals for help.

I am a bit concerned. The men in my life are about to go Arthurian in the wilds of Devon. I gave my husband strict instructions:

“Don’t let him get drunk.”

“I won’t.”

“Don’t leave him out all night.”

“I won’t.”

“Make sure he’s safe.”

“I will.”

“Thank you.”

But you can’t be too sure . . .

“Don’t let him get drunk.”

“I won’t.”

“Don’t leave him out all night.”

“I won’t.”

“Make sure he’s safe.”

“I will.”

“Thank you,” I said to Ruth’s boyfriend, Kev, as he promised to keep an eye on my husband.

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