Wednesday, April 8, 2009
This is a new word in my vocabulary, and a diagnosis I have been dealing with for the past several weeks. For quite a while now I have been experiencing pain and instability in my right leg and foot when I sit for prolonged periods of time, especially in straight backed chairs. But when I flew home from my Arizona trip last month, the discomfort became a plague for most of the two and a half hours that I was trapped in my seat. Then I could barely walk off the plane. I decided it was time to consult a doctor. I made an appointment, was seen, and referred for xrays. Then I went home. The results came by email. Our Group Health Cooperative Medical System is very techno savvy. The diagnosis was "that word", which I will call "spondy" for short. Included was a brief definition, and a referral for physical therapy. At Physical therapy I learned that I should never sit without lumbar support, and airplane seats are the worst. So what is spondylolisthesis? Essentially it is displacement of a vertebra in the lower spine, literally "spondyl" = vertebrae, and "olisthesis" = slip. How did it occur? Probably wear and tear, complicated by arthritis, of which the xray showed "lots" in my knee and back. Goody. Why is it a problem? Because the spine can press on nerves, especially the sciatic nerve running down the back of the leg. What I'm experiencing is a form of sciatica. So what do I do about it? Well, too much pressure on a nerve can cause real damage. I only have to look at my mother to see the effects. The pain, burning and weakness in my leg are my barometer to know when it is happening. I have some core strengthening exercises to do each day, and I have invested in several lumbar supports for my chairs. Now every time I sit I feel like I have lump in my back. I have back aches from the treatment that I didn't have before. I find myself constantly monitoring for leg/foot sensations. Out gardening I wonder if I am making it worse. Because of her trip and then mine, it's three weeks between physical therapy visits. I'm over fixating and it's making me depressed. Time for some self help: It took a long time to get this way and it will take time to figure out how to live with it. Knowing is better than not knowing because you can take action. I have medical insurance. There is always surgery. I can still walk and talk and garden and have fun, but I am excused from the heavy lifting. These are all good things. Now I need to lighten up. Literally, losing weight wouldn't hurt either.