After much though, and fear that this is going to be bad news, I decided to pay the local Ortho a visit. But first I had to get the bike fixed for the reserve light being on all the time. It was a crowded time, and the supervisors weren’t too keen. One, however asked me to come on Monday morning as it might take a while.
I went along to the doctor and even that was crowded. After a wait of half an hour, I was in. What problem? Neck pain for a while. He did a lot of pressing, pulling, making me resist, making me move this way and that. Two X rays, of the right shoulder and the neck were ordered. The giggling nurses did that over 20 minutes.
Once the reports were ready, it was time for the low down. Turned out to be spondylosis, degeneration of the intervertebral discs. Also turns out to be surprisingly common among the jantha with sedentary desk jobs. Occupational hazard I guess. In my case, he blamed it on the long travel. Is it because of lifting the laptop bags? Apparently not. Weights go to the shoulder, not to the neck. Quite likely reading on the metro, constantly being in a position of putting the neck down and reading constantly. After all these years, it takes its toll. Neck needs to be moving at times naturally, one position for a long time will hurt.
Also happens to be that this isn’t the first set of discs to go out of commission. The lower back had gone for a toss years back. I have been managing with exercises since then. Once again, it is surprisingly common with a lot of people. Our roads do their bit too.
So what’s the route ahead? More exercises, this time for the neck. A lot of medicines – he loves getting his patients to visit his pharmacy and racking up a bill there. Most of the medicines were supplements like Calcium and vitamins, with one NSAID. A cervical pillow for the neck and head, and a neck brace. Why the brace? Wear it when traveling. When riding the bike, or in the car or in any form of travel. That should look interesting. A bill of Rs. 3700.
Get an MRI too. How much would it cost? Around 7k. Last time my father had got that done, he had asked him not to bother with the MRI, and to go for it only if the pain does not dissipate. The referral was written in the letterhead of the place which does the MRI, which kinda gave me my clue about why he was insisting this time.
So, the plan is to add the exercises to my existing routine, wear the neck brace on the bike or on the bus. The decathlon bandanas come handy now, can be worn on top and look perfectly normal. And also travel less to work, maybe once or twice a week. I barely feel any pain on days I WFH and weekends. It is always the travel days that suck. It might even be necessary at some point to look for a job closer home.
Thankfully no restriction on things like walking, running, swimming (which I anyway don’t do), and cycling. So am good on those things. Continue with the good things that people should be doing, and avoid the bad things. I played a round of tennis in the morning, and it didn’t hurt much. The shoulders have a lot of radiating pain though, which might take a while to go.
Thus it goes. One part of the spinal cord is being managed over the years, another gets added to it. Things we have to learn to live with!
As I speak more, I hear more about others, same age or younger, and their issues with slip discs and having to live with it. I wonder how many things we exchanged for a desk job – heart disease, obesity, diabetes, spinal issues. The list keeps growing. What price development, eh?
And as for the city, as travel gets worse every day with increasing distances and burgeoning traffic, who bears the cost for all this? And what does it all lead to? Where does it all end? How many parts can continue to run without management? Turns out even the brain needs to be managed with interesting activity to avoid dementia or alzheimer’s at an older age. Means we are not getting stimulation even there?
I guess the only truth is in exercise. Exercise, exercise, exercise and live happy. No other options. And if possible, commute less.
After 4 days of struggling with pain, mainly from the cervical pillow which takes some time getting used to, I decided to get an MRI done. I found an online code for the nearest MRI place which was to give me a 25% discount. Except that when I got there, turned out that the offer had elapsed a long time back. So I had to pay the full Rs.7000 and lie down absolutely still for close to 30 minutes inside a cylinder while it made all kinds of loud noises.
The report came in 2 hours and said that there was “NO DISC BULGE”, and “LOSS OF CERVICAL LORDOSIS”. This meant that the doctor was completely wrong on the slip disc diagnosis. Loss of cervical lordosis means that posture has created some straightening of the usually curved neck vertebrae. Bad news, but not as bad as it was assumed to be. The doctor suggested taking 4-5 physiotherapy sessions and continue with daily exercises of the neck. Also, don’t sit in one position for too long.
I started physiotherapy yesterday and after all the machines were done, the therapist held me at the nape of the neck where the skull begins and pressed hard. The pain was unbearable! But after he released me, he asked me to turn left and right. The relief was immeasurable! Hadn’t felt that way turning my neck for years. All those years had accumulated inflammations in the muscles. Today had another session where he worked on some more muscles there. The feeling is a lot better, but he ruled out bikes for a few weeks. The doctor however didn’t disallow, only suggesting short distances while wearing a neck brace. I guess I’ll just drive around then.
Anyway, this is the story. Thankful that it wasn’t such bad news. But then, this is a proper warning call about taking posture and exercise seriously.