Category Archives: Health

Well, That Bites…

Time for another brief personal update. The post’s tile is partially a pun. I’ve been sidetracked and away from the blog not only due to holiday stuff, but because I also literally got bit by.. something.

My suspicion after doing some internet research is that it’s a spider bite, likely a black widow or brown recluse. I never felt the bite nor saw any spider though. The first day I noticed it, I wasn’t sure what it was and it didn’t look TOO bad all things considered. I decided to wait a day and see how it progressed.

Image via http://billericky.hubpages.com/hub/poisonous-venomous-spiders-brown-recluse-black-widow-most-poisonous-spiders-images

This is a pic from the internet. For new followers, I’m paranoid about personal photos online, hence this pic as a stand-in. My apparent bite is on my calf and looked similar but the center is darker and hard like a scab.

Getting back to the story, by the end of the day, my calf was showing some swelling, and I wasn’t feeling so good. Long story short, we spent almost 3 hours waiting in the local ER, got literally one minute of face time with an actual doctor (who barely looked at the alleged bite), and sent with some antiseptic wash and a prescription for major antibiotics.

Aside from the lousy ER experience though (and they were not that busy BTW), the whole event has been pretty mild for what was likely a bite by a dangerous spider. I felt lousy for a few days, and slept ALOT, but the wound is slowly healing as opposed to the horrific click bait pics out there of widow or recluse bites just rotting away huge areas of flesh.

At this point, the worst of it all is that the Doxycycline antibiotics make me sick to my stomach, even if taken with food. That’s minor in the grand scheme of things however. 🙂

The big trick is going to be catching up on all the Christmas stuff I still have to do. We’re hosting not one, but TWO dinners this year. Christmas day will be five people, and then Sunday will have 11 of us after the out of state in-laws finally make it to town.

I could have just left everything at Sunday only but Christmas is supposed to be celebrated on Christmas, dangit. 😀 😀

Sleep Number Bed – How It’s Made & Review

Kind of random I know, but that’s my blog.

This post inspired by our battle with our own bed and Sleep Number’s customer non-service department.

Image from Businesswire.com

As you doubtless guessed from my opening and previous post about sleep quality, I have some real gripes here. I’m going to be fair and talk about the pluses we experienced while we owned the bed also. It’s probably easiest to work through things in a chronological order.

We started out looking for a new bed about 5 1/2 years ago when my back was probably at it’s worst, or at least during one of several truly bad points over the years. The advertised fact that the bed could adjust to conform to the needs of a sleeper, and even that sleeper’s changing sleep needs was a powerful selling point for us. You could make it firmer or softer if you had a physically demanding day, etc…

Resting on the bed at the store, it was just as comfortable as a foam mattress like a Tempur-Pedic, but seemed to adapt and support even better as our sleep numbers were dialed in. And that’s the trick; Sleep Number beds are great when you first buy them.

Purchase is where we hit our first snag or grumble though. When you see the commercials and they say “Only X Dollars”, they’re only talking about only the mattress assembly itself. The base costs more, with an adjustable base potentially more than doubling the cost of the bed. Then there’s the topper that goes on top of the air chambers. The more plush or heat dispersing you go, the price goes up, but the topper is disguised as a different model number. “Oh no, the super plush cooling top? That’s our i12 model, not this i8… It’s much more.”

To be fair, the vast majority of manufacturers of numerous products play the “different model” game. Even with other bed manufacturers though, there’s more of a difference in material construction than with a Sleep Number bed. Many of those beds won’t cost you upwards of $3000 out the door either.

Sleep Number Construction:

Let’s get into how the bed is made so that we can actually start talking about where the real problems begin.

Above is our (former) Sleep Number bed. It was a little over 5 years old when we got rid of it. That is about the shelf life for a poor to middle quality inner-coil spring traditional mattress. The reason we bought this bed though is that it came with a 20 year pro-rated warranty. We figured in the end, we’d come out ahead vs buying 3 or 4 supposedly lesser quality beds over that same time period.

If you notice above, the topper or “pillow top” already looks pretty shabby in terms of holding it’s shape, particularly on the right side. The problem is that the topper is primarily just cheap foam:

It’s got the sleep number logo all over it though, so that must make it high end, right? LOL.

Aside from that foam, there’s about 3/4 of an inch (1.9cm) of not very dense or supportive padding in the upper casing. The problem with the foam is that it loses support without you even realizing it IF you’re only judging it’s condition based on it returning to a normal shape after you get off of it.

As a side note, this is an issue I have with Tempur-Pedic; to get warranty replacement of their mattresses, the foam has to show a full 1 inch (2.4cm) of sag or indentation before they’ll replace it, per some internet sources. Foam, even high quality stuff like Tempur-Pedic uses, loses support well before it shows that kind of sag.

Same problem with our topper there. It looked OK if you unzip it, but NO support. Why does that matter? Because the rest of the bed is a glorified air mattress:

Or in the case of our Queen sized bed, two air mattresses connected via a zipper so there’s no gap in the center. This allows each side of the bed to be adjusted to varying firmness levels independent of the other side. If you’re wondering, the construction there is a combination of cloth and some vinyl-like material. Not much different from a decent quality camping air mattress that you’d buy from a department store.

Needless to say, the potential for leaks is there. Unlike those camping air mattresses, these held pressure pretty well up till our move out here from California. More on that in a minute or so.

Oh and of you’re wondering, YES, that IS just a foam block border around the air mattress, on all four sides. The outer fabric shell is primarily what holds the bed together. NOW, for the sake of being complete, here’s what’s under the air chambers:

First, we have about 3/4 of an inch of more foam to act as padding for the air chambers. THEN we have the bottom of the outer shell, secured to the adjustable base via four bolts anchoring wide plastic hold downs:

As you can see, it’s a fairly simple design overall. The air bags provide the firmness level of each side of the bed, and the topper helps the bed conform to your body and feel softer than a basic air mattress would. The hold downs keep the mattress from going anywhere while the adjustable base is in anything other than a flat position.

The air pump’s hoses hook into the head of the air mattress, and keep the mattresses at the desired setting, at least in theory.

Our Actual Problems:

Aside from the topper’s foam wearing out without us being fully aware of it (the air chamber softness can make this harder to notice than with an all foam mattress), the big problem was with air pressure. Customer (Non) Service as well, as you’re about to read.

Twice in the last 4 months we’ve had my side of the bed alternate between not holding pressure and just slowly being completely random in what it would be. I might go to bed at my ideal sleep number, wake up 2 hours later and have the pressure maxed out, and the next time I wake up, it could be nearly flat. This played hell with my back and neck as well as my already very poor sleep quality.

The first time, we called Sleep Number’s corporate customer service. We got told that we could throw parts blindly at it, OR have somebody come out and diagnose the bed. That would cost $100 though. Cheaper than just guessing and going through a pile of parts, right? We went that route.

It took a week and a half for them to get somebody out. We were stuck on our old inner spring guest bed during that time.

Two young guys that barely look out of high school show up, unzip the topper from the main body and take a quick look at the mattress, looking lost the entire time. They call the same 800 number we did, and talk to corporate. Perhaps unknown to corporate, we can hear the other end of the conversation, and they tell the kids to just label it the air chambers and get on to the next call. They sounded quite annoyed that the kids seemed to want to actually do the diagnosis we paid for.

Unsure what to do at the moment due to fatigue and not knowing how to check the other parts ourselves, we throw up our hands and say “fine”.

Here’s the kicker for this first call: Not only did we get charged $100 for a diagnosis that was nothing more than a blind guess, our 20 year pro-rated discount price for the new air chambers was another $200! Being pro-rated and only 25% of the way through our warranty, that means the parts should have been 75% off. MEANING, Sleep Number prices their air chambers at $800 MSRP.

The replacement parts order was also botched, and when we called back a day or two later, the order had never even been placed. THEN it took almost two weeks for the new air chambers to arrive. Yes, if you’re doing the math, that’s a month without the high priced bed. We also told them we’d install the new parts ourselves (it’s really pretty simple). Another three or four weeks later, Sleep Number has two new guys knocking on our door at the crack of dawn saying they were here to install the new parts we’d ordered.

SO, if we’d waited for them that would have been almost two months with no bed.

We put everything together though, and for a short while everything seemed OK. We figured that MAYBE the fluctuations in air pressure were caused by the pump trying to compensate (poorly) for a previous leak and we were good.

Three months later, we were back exactly where we were before.

THIS time, I spend a couple of days online researching things. YouTube and other review sites have several irate reviews about the pump systems on these beds being complete crap, and Sleep Number allegedly deliberately making them that way so they can sell a steady stream of replacement parts.

The crappy pump in question

Between the cost of the parts last time, realizing finally that the topper is worn out also, and feeling very burnt over the diagnostic fee, we had enough. We figured we’d be paying the same inflated prices for a replacement pump and topper, AND that we’d have NO idea how long before those parts or something else gave out again. That was when we opted to replace instead of repair.

Sleep IQ and Questions of Privacy:

Another thing to consider with a Sleep Number bed is their “Sleep IQ” phone app. First, the app is going to want access to quite a bit of your phone’s system. It’s also not just tracking your sleep via pressure sensors in the pump, it’s reporting that info back to Sleep Number’s computers. It will also pressure you to allow the app to monitor your wi-fi enabled thermostat, “to help avoid you sleeping hot or cold”.

All in all, there’s a ton of data about your sleep habits, sleep schedule, and home energy usage, along with God only knows what else from the other phone permissions, that the app data-mines and reports back to Sleep Number. I guarantee you that info is getting sold to third party marketers.

Since the app also claims to stop snoring by detecting it and elevating the upper portion of the bed, one can assume that the app is also using your phone as a listening device. How else is it going to detect snoring after all? Tossing and turning might be detectable via minor, brief changes in air pressure, but snoring??

Needless to say, we never installed the app. WAY too “Big Brother” for us.

Final Thoughts:

First, let me be fair: Our Sleep Number bed was pretty comfortable when we got it. It really helped with my back. MY big issue with the bed is the lack of long term quality and the piss-poor customer service with the company at the corporate level. When one pays a premium for a product, it’s naturally expected that performance and longevity will above average, ideally well above average.

Most fair, independent review sites will show that the Sleep Number bed is at the top of the charts for long term cost of ownership with beds. Even the custom fitted sheets designed to stay put on the unusual construction and movable base are around $250 for a queen set. Sleep Number is as much in business to sell you parts as they are an actual bed.

As you can see from the pictures above, the bed is really just an air mattress surrounded by foam as well. Nothing that justifies a nearly $4000 price tag for the newest models. In short, in my opinion, not only is the quality not there to justify the price, it’s long term costs are too high, AND the combination of foam and air mattress also make it hard to recognize when some parts are wearing out.

It’s also pretty lousy for sex as well. Too much give, and neither side is intended to support the weight of two people.

Buy ANYTHING else, but save your money here. It’s not worth the aggravation.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream

Before anybody panics, I’m taking the words literally, NOT metaphorically as Hamlet did. 🙂

image from thetalko.com

I’ve been meaning to get back to writing here for over a week, but lack of sleep… or quality sleep rather, was doing a number on me. I didn’t realize how bad the problem was, or how much it was contributing to my brain fog until our Sleep Number bed broke for the second time in a few months.

The air pressure was unstable on my side of the bed, resulting in it going from too firm to too soft and back multiple times a night. I’m going to do a separate post detailing the workings of a Sleep Number bed, and why they’re a bad buy in my opinion. For the moment, suffice it to say we got fed up and went shopping for a new bed over the Fourth of July weekend. Yay for sales that commercialize and monetize a holiday celebrating freedom. Sarcasm duly noted, I hope.

We tried different manufacturers and models, and ALL of them felt better than our old bed, which convinced us we were making the right choice to replace vs repair. We decided on a Purple brand Model 4 mattress, with Tempurpedic coming in a close second. The Purple brand had better lower back support, although the Tempurpedic with the new cooling technology was a bit cooler (I sleep HOT).

Purple 4 mattress deconstructed. Image from Sleepsherpa.com

We got the new bed yesterday afternoon, and last night was probably the best night’s sleep I’ve had in YEARS, if not my life. I’m not ready to outright endorse the mattress YET. It’s expensive, and I want to see how it’s going to do over time. I’ll keep reporting on it occasionally however.

Quality, REM sleep time was off the charts for me though, and I awakened feeling mentally and physically recharged. I expect to be doing a good deal more writing in immediate future if I keep getting this level of rest. 🙂

Those of you who think that you’re managing some sort of life hack by cheating yourself on sleep, especially quality REM sleep… You’d be amazed how much better you feel with REAL sleep. A saw has to be sharpened regularly to work at it’s best (as Stephen Covey liked to point out). Your mind and body are exactly the same in that regard.

Another Quick Personal Update:

There’s precious little to report over the past couple of days, BUT I wanted to let readers know that my back is “back” to normal, heh. After a trip to the chiropractor yesterday, I slept for about 12 hours and feel fine now.

The Chiropractor didn’t feel confident making a diagnosis on the situation. He’d only say that with the nerves running through the spine controlling so much, and multiple areas of my back being a problem, it could be a combination of factors (ie multiple parts of my back out of alignment.).

It makes sense. We all want easy answers; X is caused by Y. Life is rarely that simple though. Take cancer for example: My own suspicion based on reading is that it has multiple contributors. Excessive sugar consumption, pollution / toxins, stress’s effects on the immune system, etc… No reason the back problem couldn’t be a “Twist A this way, pinch B that way and knock C out of whack” kind of situation. I will admit it’s annoying though, because without being able to identify the cause, there’s no easy way to prevent or fix it.

All I can do is double down on the known good practices (stretching, diet, etc…) and hope that keeps things good. Thankfully this situation has been really rare to start with.

In other news, there’s our 1994 Ford F150 pick-up truck.

It developed a fuel leak in the engine compartment. Turns out that the fuel rail (metal fuel line that brings the gas to the injectors) has sprung a leak. $800 to cut out the bad section of rail and clamp in a high pressure hose as a bridge. Why THAT route? Because apparently there’s no way to get an actual replacement part anymore.

THAT blew me away and I did my own checking online. Sure, it’s a 27 year old vehicle (doesn’t look it, does it? 🙂 ), BUT it’s also the best selling vehicle in the US for decades running, and it’s 5.0L engine is the most common variant.

I think the problem here is that the fuel rail is one of those parts that should theoretically last forever, so there’s been little call to manufacture replacement parts. It’s stainless steel after and more than thick enough to handle the 30 to 40 PSI of pressure a fuel injection system delivers.

Something really odd happened here for sure.

Help; Have You Ever Heard of This?

This one especially for any Chiropractors or similar medical professionals.

I’ve been trying to get back into the groove of things here, but I’ve hit a physical problem that’s all but stopped me in my tracks. This is NOT the first time it’s happened either although it’s thankfully rare. The situation is this:

I have this Ultra-weird thing that goes on occasionally with my back.  It’ll go out of alignment in a sort of subtle way (in that it doesn’t cause pain), but my energy is literally all but non-existent.  I can’t stay awake more than 4 hours when it happens.  The really odd part is that I can only sleep for 4 or so hours at a time also.


None of my past chiropractors have ever heard of anything like it either.  If I could figure out exactly what’s happening, I might be able to come up with some sort of stretch or something that undoes it.  The closest I’ve got to a clue is that I *think* it’s somewhere in my mid back, like at the bottom of my shoulder blades.  I google it though and all I get is crap for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. 

This ain’t it, and the way my body reacts and only will let me sleep 4 hours at a time also, it’s almost as if some nerve is getting pinched in a way that’s over taxing my adrenal gland.  That’s just speculation though, based on being fine for the first hour or so after I wake up from those 4 hours of sleep.

Funny thing too… Before this and few other things appeared, I used to really wonder about those spinal charts in the chiropractor offices that map out how the nerves at each vertebrae control various bodily functions.

Looking at that chart, I’d say it’s *possibly* something in the C4-C5 area (sore throat also lately) or the T9. It bothers me that even the chiropractors I’ve talked to seem lost about this. I know it’s spinal though. I feel an almost immediate change in energy level when things fall back into place.

Where Do You Draw The Line?

Yes, I’ve been away for a few days here, but trying to at least answer followed posts. I’ve been dealing with the fallout of yet another battle with my mother. I’ve tried for years to get along with her, and when she gave me her wedding (ring) set, I’d hoped we’d truly rounded a corner in a lifetime long shitty relationship.

Image from depedkto12.blogspot.com

This time around, it was over my spinal problems and how I’m supposedly not doing anything to contribute to the household here. I’ve shown the woman my first MRI report from years back, tried to explain it over and over for almost a decade, and she refuses to accept any of it. At best, I should just got get surgery because I have insurance. As if it’s that simple.

After dropping hints repeatedly, trying to explain the problem and it’s side effects, etc… I finally had enough after our last phone call. I snapped and sent her a fairly strongly worded email saying I was sick of it, and if she spent not even half the time she did researching my grandfather’s alzheimers, she’d know what I’ve been going through. Also that I was sick of her efforts to bully me and destroy my self respect.

Her response was that “maybe we shouldn’t talk anymore since she always seems to piss me off”. Typical emotional manipulation and playing the victim card. If she’d listened the countless other times I tried to explain it all, it never would have hit the point it did.

I shouldn’t be surprised. She reacts poorly to any criticism. I’ve cut her out of my life for years at a time on two previous occasions too. This is the woman who ripped into me verbally if I brought home a B and had my first step dad beat me for Cs while I was in school. When I went to college, I was supposed to take double a full time load and work full time at a “real” job. I got crucified for any little mistake to the point I went from a major extrovert in elementary school to an isolationist level introvert from about the fourth grade on.

Oh yes, and I was told I was too much of a wimp to go take martial arts so I could learn to defend myself from all the bullies that I attracted. Belts in 6 styles later (Shou Shu Chi, Tae Kwon Do, American Sport Karate, Parker Kenpo, Tracy Kenpo and Wing Chun), I guess she can kiss my ass on that one.

Never got any credit for it either after I’d achieved it.

At this point, I want to just tell her “Fine, kiss off!”.

All the self doubt she beat into me over the years always seems to factor into situations like this though. *I* should be doing more, I should do something different, word things better, be more understanding.

She’ll quickly point out this verbal abuse goes back generations also and blame her behavior on that. It’s as close as she comes to taking responsibility. Otherwise she just blames me for not tolerating it.

I’ve worked hard to grow the last few years. Longer than that really, but it’s been a snowball; slowly picking up momentum and mass. Every time I start to do better, she seems to want to throw a boulder into my calm pond. I’m at a breaking point here, or rather the relationship is.

So, yeah… When is enough enough? Because where I’m sitting right now:

Re-Farmer’s Kitty Still Needs YOU!

I reblogged a post a couple of days ago about Re-farmer‘s cat Ginger who broke a leg and is in need of surgery.

Picture of Ginger, ruthlessly bootlegged from Re-Farmer’s blog.

The MINIMUM it’s going to cost is $1300 Canadian. She’s trying to raise money to help cover the bill via Ko-Fi donation site. Thus far, she’s only raised 43% of the minimum cost. Canadian dollars are lower than U.S. dollars too, so even a single Dollar or Euro donated goes farther then it would at home. Yes, you can donate that little also, and with no service charge

Re-Farmer and her husband are on a fixed income, so this is a case of legitimate need, NOT somebody who wastes cash and wants others to clean up their mess. If she didn’t need it, she would not have asked.

If every reader donated just that single dollar, Ginger would be well on his way to having his surgery. We bloggers are a community, so I’m asking all of you to pull together and help, even if it is just $1.

I Got Stabbed on St Patrick’s Day!

with a vaccination needle. Nothing like a dramatic headline to get attention though. 😀 It works for the media. 😛

Being married to a diabetic with a heart murmur pushes both of us a little further up the priority list for getting the vaccine, it seems. We were told a few weeks ago that our group was now open for getting the vaccine, and we managed to snag an opening yesterday.

For the record, I’m still a bit wary about the vaccine and if it may have some long term side effects, etc… Given the high risk in the household though, I figure it’s best to play it safe and hope for the best as opposed to waiting and watching a while longer.

Thus far I have not spouted goblin ears, nor started ranting that Biden is too conservative, so it SEEMS some of the fears regarding it are unfounded, LOL

In fact, the only issues from the vaccine thus far were a bit of soreness at the injection site, and some fatigue. I’m not even sure how much of the fatigue was from the vaccine either given that I only got about 5 hours sleep the night before. I used to thrive on that level, now I’m old and get cranky without 7 or 8. 😀

We got the version from my least favorite scumbag megacorporation also:

That means, among other things, we’ll have to go back for a second shot. April 7th is the soonest we can do so, and that will probably require another appointment. I suppose the bright side is that we’re not getting as heavy a dose as the single dose versions, which theoretically means less chances of some of the body aches and other symptoms after getting the shot.

Interesting note also… We got vaccine cards showing we were vaccinated along with the vaccine manufacturer and lot number, AND expiration date. MUCH was made of how short a shelf life this vaccine has, and how the previous administration bungled so much around it (which is partially true). The lot we were given though doesn’t expire for over 3 months:

If you listened to the news, you’d easily get the impression this stuff has a shelf life of days, if not hours. There you see it though; Expires June 30, 2021.

Need I even get back on my “media bias and hysteria for ratings” soapbox? Didn’t think so. 🙂

ANYWAY… The whole vaccine site was weird. They needed an area that could serve as a LONG LONG drive through basically. They chose a hiking trail park in the hills at the edge of town:

There yah go; rednecks don’t take COVID serious. Just ask the news.

The whole park was a long narrow hairpin going back miles in one direction and then swinging back around and heading right back to the entrance. We drove so far down the road I was starting to joke they wanted a spot to hide the bodies more easily.

About 1/3 of the way back, we hit the big drive through tent and got our shots. The 20 minutes we were supposed to wait afterwards was taken up just getting to the last checkpoint before the exit. We had a 1pm appointment and got out of the park at 2:40pm.

Oh and did I mention the off and on monsoon level rain all day?

We’re going on 14 hours now and so far no real symptoms or side effects at all beyond mild annoyance at the thought of enduring that line again. So much for the doomsayers. Of course, if I start to turn into a chicken or a goat, I’ll be sure to let folks know. 😛

As you saw, the line to get a shot was crazy long also, and apparently stays that way. I see more folks than I’d like without masks, BUT people are taking it seriously. Even the “poor dumb people” down in the South.

Pfizer Planning on COVID Vaccine Price Hike

And I sometimes ask myself why I despise megacorporations….

Yes, you read the headline correctly. Per Business Week, Pfizer execs told investors there was a “significant opportunity” to hike the price of its vaccine.

They also said that it was possible that people would need a third dose to combat emerging variants of the virus, AND that yearly booster shots might also be needed. THAT, I can understand. Such is the nature of rapidly mutating viruses.

However, per the article, once the pandemic downgrades to just an epidemic with smaller hot spots breaking out here and there around the globe, Pfizer thinks that they will have room to boost the price of their vaccine.

Haven’t we seen enough Zaibatsu profiteering in the pharmaceutical industry already? Look at how the price of insulin has skyrocketed as one example:

I respect that businesses exist to make a profit. I’m generally very pro-business Crap like raising the price 700% on insulin that hasn’t changed at all in that time however? NO! Even more so when there were stories and pictures of one of the insulin companies executives proud as hell that he had done it.

Now Pfizer wants to do the same thing with a product they got government (ie taxpayers; the people they’re selling it to) help to create?!?

I’m bringing back my call to have people caned and flogged.

Spinal Decompression Treatment; 6 Months Later

I got asked a very legitimate question a little while ago regarding if I thought my spinal decompression treatment was worth it. Given that I’m still having issues with my back, *I* consider it a reasonable question anyway. 🙂

The very short answer is YES.

The detailed answer, with all the wheres and whys takes a little explaining however.

First, let me start with the obvious caveat that lawyers have none the less made mandatory anymore; your medical professional is the best person to advise you if ANY form of treatment is suitable for you Specifically.

Likewise everything I’m going to write here comes from a layperson. A moderately well read layperson who has put the advice given to personal use and seen benefits, but I am NOT a licensed health care professional in any form. Everybody’s physiology and biochemistry is a bit different too, so results may vary.

A Little Background:

Yes, I am still having troubles, but they’re largely focused on my lower back at this point. The area that I had decompression on was my neck or cervical spine area.

My neck was worse off, which is why the doctor decided to try it first. The degeneration there caused all manner of problems. I had sleep issues, severe headaches that were a mix of extreme tension headaches and migraines, brain fog and trouble focusing, and probably a dozen other issues, including a Parkinson’s-like tremor in my left arm. All that from pinched nerves in my neck caused by the spinal degeneration. My neck was at stage 3 spinal degeneration per the diagram below.

My lower back / lumbar region, on the other hand was at phase 2.

I had the headaches since the mid 1990s also. Since there was no real neck pain to accompany them and the other symptoms, I had NO idea for years that it was actually a spinal issue. Flair ups were bad enough and I was scared enough of addiction to opioid pain killers that I was taking 8 extra strength Advil pills at a time. If I didn’t have a constitution like Charlie Sheen’s, I probably would not have a stomach or liver left at this point. DO NOT do what I did there.

The real breakthrough came about 9 or 10 years ago. I was sitting at the PC, suffering through another severe headache when I heard something on the balcony of our apartment (probably just a bird or the neighbor’s cat). I turned my head to the left, and my neck popped so loud it sounded like a gunshot going off. My pain almost instantly went from an 11 on a 1 to 10 scale down to a 2, and a zero within minutes.

Over the following years, we tried multiple treatment options. Chiropractic treatment was variable. My first chiropractor actually tore a disc in my neck! The one after that was much better, but could only hold the situation at bay pain-wise. Acupuncture did wonders for the pain itself but nothing to fix the actual degeneration either.

By the time I was considering the spinal decompression, my MRI scans showed I was getting close to the point of either surgery or letting the bones fuse themselves together.

Side Note: You can see that process in the diagram above. it’s the body’s answer to protecting itself when it can’t actually heal the compressed disc(s) on it’s own. The vertebrae will literally grow out towards each other and try to fuse together.

Surgery, as I pointed out in previous posts, is expensive and has a very high fail rate over time. Decompression is $4000 vs anywhere from $100,000 and frequently more for surgery that fails regularly, and typically transfers the strain to other parts of the spine. I also saw enough benefit from the earlier alternative medicine that I had legitimate reason to believe decompression could work.

So, LONG story short, I was in nearly 25 year, long-term bad shape and out of options when I tried decompression. It still helped me.

I’ve never told that whole story in 3+ years of time here because I try to avoid personal drama online. It’s toxic and it focuses on the problem instead of moving forward. In this case though, it’s important to understand how bad off I was before treatment.

The Right Doctor Makes All the Difference:

The reason the lower back pain is still there and there are a few minor ongoing neck issues is that I chose the wrong doctor. He was very hands-off, letting his office staff run the computerized automatic decompression table, didn’t communicate well, etc…

We also got off on the wrong foot when we did my initial test treatment to see how I’d respond. The treatment did OK for my neck but he refused to look at my lower back that day, and sent me home in so much lower back pain that I could barely get in and out of the Mustang. I verbally lit him up when I showed up for the next treatment and told him if he did that again, I’d cancel treatments, get a refund for the balance and trash him on every review site I could find.

I didn’t have a treatment problem after that, but needless to say, we were politely cold to each other from then on. My original neck treatment pack was 24 treatments with a review of progress at that point and possible continuation for the full normal package of 36 (12 extra treatments).

He also just gave me the vibe of somebody more interested in dollars than patient well-being, but that is only a personal opinion.

So second long story short, assuming you have options in choice, is to find a doctor you feel comfortable with, will answer questions, and gives the vibe of caring as opposed to wishing you’d hurry up so they can be off to something else. In the case of the greater Nashville area, I had at least 4 other clinics I could have looked into beyond the local one.

My actual progress, combined with my dislike of the doctor meant I never even went back in for the re-evaluation or possible lower back treatment.

The Process Will NOT Be Fun, At First

I wrote about this in my earlier posts. I had quite a bit of subdermal scar tissue along my spine at the neck. Normally this kind of scar tissue only forms as a result of surgery and other “invasive” incidents or procedures. It DOES happen otherwise though, and the longer term your injury is, the more likely the scar tissue is there, or at least fibrous tissue that VERY closely resembles surface scar tissue. In the case of spine problems, the tissue will or may form to try to protect and reinforce the area around a damaged or compressed disc.

Even if you don’t have any subdermal ‘scar’ tissue, keep in mind that you’re still stretching muscles, tissue, etc… that have been constricted and tight for a while. Discs will try to expand to their natural shape also, and nerves will shift. It’s all going to hurt.

With all the scar tissue that broke loose in my neck, I was miserable for the first week. I lived with a cold pack on my neck. I could feel the difference in the type of pain though, and a reduction in the secondary issues I was dealing with. No brain fog, muscle ache pain vs severe migraine pain, etc… The cold packs really did help also and are important for fighting inflammation caused by the treatment.

About half way through the treatments, the pain was minimal, and I was “Hell yeah! let’s keep the ball rolling!”. By treatment 24, my neck felt like it did when I was 20.

Post-Treatment Makes ALL the Difference:

If you want to make sure you get your money’s worth out of treatment, doing the right things afterwards makes ALL the difference. Lead a dumb lifestyle and stress your back, and I’ll guarantee you’ll reverse everything you gained in a matter of mere months. Our forced move away from Nashville (mainly doing it ourselves), and a few other events put a definite strain on my lower back and neck so I’ve felt it first hand.

I’ve also stuck with the therapy and other habits that are undoing that strain and continuing my healing progress.

Here’s the work you’re going to expect to have to do:

Dietary Changes: Simple and sometimes obvious. If you’re overweight, that puts an extra burden on your spine. Sugar causes inflamation. Highly acidic food leach calcium from your bones. Changes do NOT have to be instantaneous. It’s awesome if you can quit cold turkey. If not, work on slowly reducing unhealthy foods while you search for healthy alternatives and ways to cook them where you enjoy eating them. If you’re a sugary drink junkie, like me, slowly reduce them and substitute with water. I do NOT recommend the vast majority of diet drinks as their artificial sweeteners often cause more issues than they fix. Stevia and Monkfruit ‘sugar’ being notable exceptions and natural.

Nutritional Supplements: specifically those designed for bone health and nervous system support. Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium in particular are important, if not outright vital. Get them naturally via food as much as you can. Use high quality supplements otherwise. That means no junk sold at the local drug or grocery store.

Personally, I take Animal Pak vitamins intended for competition bodybuilders. I’m anything but a bodybuilder. However, the vitamins and minerals are top quality and sourced from easily bio-absorbed sources. There are no nasty fillers or binding agents either. Did you know that many cheap vitamins use Plaster of Paris as a binding agent or silicon dioxide (ie sand) as a filler ? Think either of those are good for your digestive system?

Solaray is another good supplement company that I can recommend. Anywhere my main multivitamin falls short, such as the aforementioned Calcium, Magnesium and Potassium, I supplement with Solaray.

At Home Physical Therapy: It will take work to finish rehab of your injured spine. Because my back and neck were in such bad shape initially, I have two home traction units I use (updated reviews on them coming soon). Overall, I think they’re a worthwhile investment if you get the right ones and use them properly and regularly.

If your spine wasn’t in as bad a shape or suffering for such an extended period of time, you can possibly get away with with a massage wand, stretching, yoga and relaxation exercises. If you’re inclined to label yoga as some new age BS for soccer moms, consider that Diamond Dallas Page’s yoga program has literally saved the life and restored the health of some former big name wrestling stars. Scott Hall being the biggest success story.

Bottom line is that you have to maintain flexibility and range of motion as part of maintaining and strengthening your back.

I should include using proper lifting techniques and such as part of the general category of “therapy”. Continue lifting with your lower back instead of your knees and you’re just asking for a return to back pain. Trying to lift more than you safely can; also trouble. Take care of your body and it will take care of you. 🙂

LASTLY; IF You Were Long-Term Sedentary Because of Your Injuries: Remember it will take time to undo all of the muscle loss and weight gain. DO NOT push yourself in some blind determination to return to your glory days overnight. At best, you’ll be so exhausted you can’t do anything. At worst, you’ll re-injure yourself.

Go slow, keep your exercises as low-impact as possible (which is why I like rowing), and progress at a rate your body is comfortable with. Save the macho, “no pain, no gain” stuff for the military, and kids who will end up with their own back issues eventually. You’ll get stronger and more active, it just takes time and a sensible approach to it.

ALL of this should be considered life long stuff also. The biggest mistake that people who injure their backs make is to only do these kind of things until they start to feel better. Inversion tables are a great example. They’re frequently bought by people in the early stages of back pain. They really work too so long as you don’t have bad knees or a couple of other medical conditions that can make them unsafe.

The new owner will use them for a few weeks, feel better, and immediately toss the thing on Craigslist though. Inevitably they end up hurting again eventually too because they didn’t change the habits that got them hurt, or continue doing what they needed to rehab and strengthen their back.

Yes, the exercises and therapy takes time. Quality nutritional supplements cost money also. Consider the alternative of an unproductive, pain filled sedentary lifestyle though.

PAST SPINAL DECOMPRESSION POSTS:

Treatment, Days 1 & 2

Spinal Decompression; Day 5

Where I’ve Been; Grappling with Changing Realities

Spinal Decompression; Day 14

Pronex Traction Unit Review / How I’ve Learned to Use One

Brief Spinal Decompression Update

One Last Spinal Decompression Update