Lumbar what-a-opathy?

A couple weeks ago, I tweaked my back. Tweaked? Yes, tweaked. That’s the medical term used for when you bend over to do something seemingly innocuous only to straighten up to a sharp pain.

At the time, it wasn’t a big deal. I’ve tweaked my back on a number of occasions. Usually, it’s from playing tennis or snowboarding. Sometimes, it’s from fighting the forces of evil. In any case, these tweaks can manifest themselves as intermittent hip pain later on. Again, not usually a big deal. A couple days of taking it easy and everything is back in fighting form.

This time, however, the hip pain has lasted for three days and hasn’t gotten better. As a matter of fact, it’s gotten progressively worse and more constant. I also have new symptoms… numbness around my knee and infrequent muscle twicthing. Last night, it was bad enough that I had trouble sleeping. So at this point, I’m thinking, “I think they’re going to have to cut my leg off. How am I going to play kick ball with my baby? Can I install a finger throttle on the go-kart?” So I did what any self-respecting 30-ish person would do and self-diagnosed myself with the internet.

After a quick search for “hip pain nerve” I found all sorts of links to sciatica and other peripheral neuropathy (numbness at the extremeties) kinds of problems. There were also some sites that talked about osteo-necrosis (dead bone), but I ignored those given my vast knowledge of osteoporosis and other metabolic bone diseases (yay pharmaceutical sales training!). Of course, this was at 3:30 am so I wasn’t thinking all that clearly. Even so, I was convinced that it was some sort of pinched nerve.

Fast forward to this afternoon when I have my first Kaiser appointment ever with Dr. Sdao. (Pronounced Se-day-oh… not Chinese, white guy from Niagra Falls). Having never been to Kaiser before, I had no idea what to expect. But it was actually a very good experience. The check-in line was short, efficient, and polite. I was only in the waiting room for a couple minutes before the guy came to check my vitals. And the wait for the doctor was only a couple minutes after that. And to tell you the truth, I was very impressed with Dr. Sdao. He was very nice, very thorough, and spent an appropriate amount of time with me. I even found free parking right outside.

Anyway, his diagnosis was pretty much what I expected… Lumbar Radiculopathy, also referred to as sciatica. That basically means I have some irritation of the nerve root at the lumbar spine (lower back). In my particular case, the irritation is ocurring at the L2-L3 vertebrae indicated by the numbness in my knee. This is a relatively rare scenario. More often, the L4 and L5 vertebrae are the problem which typically causes numbness and loss of strength below the knee, down the calf, and even down to the ankle and foot.

Anyway, after some reflex tests and strength/flexibility tests, he basically summed up by saying that I shouldn’t be lifting 80 lb bags of concrete but I should be able to remain fairly active without worrying about aggravating it. As far as medication, his recommendation was 800 mg of ibruprofen every six hours. Otherwise, as the saying goes, time heals all wounds.

So, do I need to worry about my back hampering my professional motorsports career? Thank-goodness, no. Should I take it easy the next few months to make sure I can pick up my newborn baby? Probably.

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