Bad backs

Thanks to Adan for the idea for this post.

First of all this isn’t about me, my back is fine. I did have a scare once but that’s an aside maybe for another day. This is about my dad. I feel a bit weird posting about my dad on the internet without his knowledge but with my slight anonymity hopefully that makes it ok. My dad’s a bit of a big deal in the island, he even has his own wikipedia page. Not everyone revives a dead language after all. If this post disappears one day you’ll know why.

My dad has a terrible curved spine, as in hunchback of Notre Dame type hump. I can’t say if it’s scoliosis, or excessive kyphosis or some combination of the two or something else entirely because I’m completely ignorant of the label that would be attached to his spinal curvature. Worse, so is he. My dad was born just before the war, as in the Second World War (my parents were getting on a bit when they had me) during a time when checking children for spinal problems and treating them was not a priority. I don’t know when he first became aware of his spine being curved, sometimes he says he noticed when he was a child, sometimes he says it was caused by a garage door hitting him on the back when he was a young adult. He just doesn’t care, it doesn’t matter to him.

Now he’s an old man and the curve is getting worse month on month. He’s frequently gasping with pain although he says the pain is intermittent and not constant. Sometimes his breath comes choppy as though it’s hard to breathe but then he still does his radio programme and he has a fine singing voice. It’s all a bit of a mystery to me.

What’s more of a mystery is the way that up until the curve was so bad as to become debilitating he did nothing about it. No X-rays, no doctor’s visits, nothing. He barely even talked about it until it became too obvious to not talk about. Recently, under the combined nagging of both me and my mum he has been to a doctor, had an X-ray (and promptly forgot what it showed), been to an acupuncturist and had an occupational therapist come to look at his home office.

Herein lies the problem: he spends all day working at the computer, with his only breaks involving sitting in chairs watching TV, sitting in chairs reading the paper, sitting in chairs eating, sitting in chairs drinking tea and sitting in chairs moaning to my mum. The latter being his favourite pastime. He has a bad spine to begin with and he fully knows all this sitting with the constant flexion of his hip muscles, the pressure on the back combined with the rigidity that sitting for a lifetime does to your lower back is even worse for him. But he does nothing.

Enter me, the fit, young, healthy yoga enthusiast daughter. What do I do? I am very much a ‘live-and-let-live’ kinda girl. This is how my parents raised me, they never nagged when I spent hours and hours of my teens online and developed a hump myself. Mind you they don’t usually congratulate me on my healthy spine either but that’s besides the point. I know that his lifestyle and lack of movement is making the pain worse. I know that yoga would help him. Even the pranayama would help him. Yet I do nothing. Why is this? Because it’s easier for me? Because I’m scared that I’ll come across as a know-it-all? Because I want to respect my father’s autonomy? It’s a problem that every grown up child has to deal with I know.

I just can’t understand how it is that he doesn’t want to learn more about his spine and learn how to cope. He says there’s no point because there’s nothing anyone can do, he’s too old. But this isn’t true, he can lessen the symptoms by doing gentle movements. I tell him this and he seems to believe me but yet he still doesn’t do it! What am I to do? The most I’ve done so far is let him borrow my Tai Chi dvds and strongly hinted that they’re very good. Is this enough? I just don’t want this lack of action to be something I come to regret.

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2 thoughts on “Bad backs

  1. goodness, glad i got to this finally

    first, thanks so much for the hat-tip as i’ve heard it expressed here, though i think my contribution was simply to have mentioned my own (mild) scoliosis, and it evidently happend to match up with a very serious problem, or sets of problems, you seem to have challenging you

    and challenging it is, my own mom is 84, and has her own challenges she presents to us 😉 along with her many many gifts of joy i have to add

    you say, “I just can’t understand how it is that he doesn’t want to learn more about his spine and learn how to cope” – there’s so many possible reasons, and only your dad will ever really know

    suggestions as to why, that might help you, at least in understanding, are, as you say, how he was raised around the war time and post war years (my own dad, in the mid 60’s, was simply told to strengthen me up with work, no x-rays, etc); that he’s coped and succeeded in his own accomplishements “as is” – so why rock the boat with questions now? ; and fear the solutions and/or non-solutions would take away the freedom he still has, his dignity, a sense of comfort he may feel as he is right now –

    so many possibilities why he doesn’t, if he “really” doesn’t – we do all also play our own games of appearing one way and wanting someone to prod us a bit; and when dealing with family, oh boy, the proddings go in all directions, including into ourselves it seems 😉

    my own solution that’s had “some” success, and i wish i’d done more of w/my own dad when he was still alive, is to do some of what my mom needs with her

    a ten minute chair routine to start, and that start was for a very long basing time

    i included some chest openers, trying to remember some humor – “oh, i’m opening the cubboard and finding my keys! / money i’d forgotten about / a favorite snack item”

    and for my mom, taking her on slow walks looking at things along the road and in yards, feeling the atmosphere and heat and cold and breeze or lack of it, birds, things left lying in yards, anything, it’s all awareness anyways

    but you’ll find your own things to attempt, it’s obvious you’re tenacious

    and, as you say, “I just don’t want this lack of action to be something I come to regret”

    your efforts / “action” is, i believe, your love in motion…

    the details are all yours….

    best wishes 😉

    • Thanks for the suggestions! Yes I think that he gains comfort from just getting on with it which I find hard to understand because I’ve had to build up myself after this depression and I don’t settle for anything less. If there’s something I can make better, I do it no matter how hard it is. I tow a hard line which can cause problems.
      The thing is with my dad is he’s a very young 75 year old, it’s hard to accept he’s an old man. His body may be failing him but he has one of the sharpest minds I know. I suppose I just can’t bring myself to care for him like that. Something to work on! Thanks again.

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