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Sunday, August 30, 2015

TMI time, but you'll thank me


You know your physical therapy on lower back pain is working when sex pain dramatically decreases.

Sex and Low Back Pain
Best and Worst Sex Positions for Back Pain

I've been in and out of physical therapy for low back pain for a couple of years, and this round is more fine tuning specific weak spots because I started getting shooting nerve pain down to my foot several months ago, on top of a few other new pains. It wasn't exactly back to the drawing board, but I'm evidently still doing something that triggers enough extra nerve compression at L5S1 that it felt like everything suddenly got way worse. Well, they say it's a little worse, but still manageable, and the two big things I'm working on now are being aware of what I'm doing so I avoid the trigger movements (no more picking up little kids, basically) and tightening up my core strength around the muscle areas allowing the compression to worsen. Some people have more damage than me and less pain, others have less damage and more pain, so low back pain is a very individual experience.

I bet a lot of you didn't know that sex pain can be caused by nerve compression in the lower back. Even if you have no other back or leg pain, whatever position or movements you're doing could be all it takes, and wham, it feels like someone ripped a new hole or a stab goes down your leg, or suddenly your hip locks up and you're beating out a charley horse in your glut.

When my lower back first flared back up again, I couldn't tell it was my back. I had nasty pain all around my pelvis and it kept feeling like I had a terrible bladder infection. Over time I've been checked and cleared for several things, including cancers and tumors. Nothing was ever wrong. It wasn't until I went to physical therapy and started core strength training that I could tell (feel) it actually started in my back. The nerve compression made that spot in my back feel numb. I could tell, though, that simple things like sitting or standing too long made all the other pain worse, and I had to learn all over how to properly stretch, move, and even walk.

Part of all that was sex pain, and it got pretty excruciating off and on. I could never tell when it would be bad, and it would hit so hard and fast in the middle of it that I'd double up in pain. I blamed it on aging, a mild cystocele that my gyno assured me wasn't a problem, hormones, fibromyalgia- but it always gets better with physical therapy for my lower back.

The L5S1 is the most common site for lower back pain because that joint connection takes the most weight, and the nerve there branches out in such a way that all kinds of weird sensations or pain or numbness can travel around in the oddest ways, even if you still seem to be fully functional and capable.

Describing a new syndrome in L5-S1 disc herniation: Sexual and sphincter dysfunction without pain and muscle weakness (click)

"A syndrome in L5-S1 disc herniation with sexual and sphincter dysfunction without pain and muscle weakness was noted. We think that it is crucial for neurosurgeons to early realise that paralysis of the sphincter and sexual dysfunction are possible in patients with lumbar L5-S1 disc disease."

That basically means that sex pain and/or dysfunction might be a first warning sign of disc degeneration years ahead of disc damage showing up on x-rays or MRI. This goes for both men and women.

I can tell you from experience that pain meds and sitting around on a couch do NOT make this any better, even if the pain lessens. The only thing that has genuinely improved this kind of pain for me is core stretches and exercises specifically designed to strengthen the muscles that support the spine. (That is why it's called core.)

Even if you normally don't work out and hate exercise, you will love core if you spend a little time getting through the tough first day or week, and after that it becomes the tough first few minutes, and over time your body will almost beg you to do something core. Like hang a leg off a bed a certain way. I didn't know that was a core stretch that can relieve pressure right there on that spot, and after I've done the core stuff, which takes about 15-20 minutes if I do everything I'm told, the pain lessens quite dramatically, especially now that I've been using physical therapy somewhat regularly to control my pain. No pills I ever took made the pain lighten up like that, and I've taken handfuls of gigantic and very colorful pills in my life. I was even crippled for a couple of years because the pain was so bad. My worst year I thought I'd never be able to dress myself again.

Or have sex.


I'm having sex, guys.