A Violent Sneeze . . .

I walked through the open glass doors of “The Orthopedic Institute”.  A bit perturbed because I didn’t understand the source of the pain I was in. 

I had rushed to an Urgent Care two days earlier, and although I told the doctor I felt the pain on the left side of my waist, she claimed it was actually coming from my stomach. 

After being injected with a pain killer, given a prescription for a muscle relaxant, and spasmolytic, the pain still persisted. 

My attempts to stretch my lower back muscles availed no relief, which is why I was at the aforementioned orthopedic institute. 

I became cantankerous the minute I crossed the threshold. All around me was elderly individuals, hunched over as they sat or walked. The waiting room was packed and from vantage point I could see a rehabilitation session on a makeshift runway. 

The receptionist in a friendly tone asked me for my driver’s license. I snapped that I provided the information online, but she kept her composure and notified me that while I had added my insurance card, they do not take driver’s license through the link. 

I realized my abrasive tone, and changed to a more genteel disposition. I waited for 30 minutes even though my appointment had been scheduled for 11:45. 

A diminutive nurse called my name and led me to one of the examination rooms. “What brings you here today?”

“This makes no sense,” I told her. “I feel foolish even talking about it. I lift tons of weights, and I injured myself sneezing.”

She laughed wholeheartedly. “I want to thank you.”

“What for?”

“I’m not laughing at you,” she smiled. “I was having it rough today. Your story made my day. I hope you feel better. The doctor will be with you shortly.”

The doctor came in, introduced himself, and asked me why I was there.

“I was seated at my desk. I sneezed violently. I felt a sudden pain shooting up my back. I could not get up from the chair. I sat there for thirty minutes until I was able to move.”

He began testing my mobility. I have a high tolerance for pain, and through the series of bends, twists, and pulls, I merely grunted.

“Does it hurt?” he repeatedly asked.

“I can feel it.”

“Let’s get some images, and see what we see.”

I was led to the X-ray room. After a series of X-rays of my abdominal area and back, I was again seated in the examination room.

The doctor came back in. Sat down and looked at the images on his tablet. Still seated, he rolled his chair closer to the examination table and began drawing a figure on the medical exam table paper.

“The good news,” he began. “Your discs are all stacked on one another. However, the source of your pain is this last one. It is much smaller than the others. You have what we call a herniated disc.”

“What? This from a simple sneeze? The same thing happened ten years ago. The doctor gave me some pain killers. Never said anything about my discs. How do I fix this?”

“The disc won’t return to its original size. The only thing you can do is strengthen it through exercise. No need to put you on steroids. I see no neurological issues. I recommend three weeks of physical therapy. If there is no improvement come back and see me in a month.”

I thanked him while tearing the diagram of my spine off the examination table. The Urgent Care doctor believed the pain was from my abdominal area. This doctor thought the pain was from a herniated disc. I’m not a medical professional, but in my study to become a Certified Personal Trainer, and knowing my own anatomy, I believe the source of my pain was an oblique strain.

Nevertheless, I took the script from the receptionist, and was eager to see what exercises the Physical Therapist would teach me, to strengthen my lower spine . . .



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