Diagnosis: Insouciance

February 10, 2016

insouciance“I blew my knee out skiing,” the middle-aged man with dark hair said. He was flipping through a magazine waiting for his physical therapist.

“Yeah,” the younger guy sitting next to him said, “I torqued my ankle playing lacrosse. Hurts like hell.”  The two of them looked over at me, expectantly.

“I bent over to pick up a Macy’s box,” I confessed, “and threw my back out.”

Maybe I should have made something up. But yeah, the morning of my flight to Maui, I bent over and that was that. The muscles on the left side of my lower back went crazy and I could barely walk for the mother of all back pain.  It wasn’t the box. The box wasn’t even heavy. It was the bending motion.  

Should I even get on the plane? I wondered.  Momentarily.

I popped three ibuprofens and went.  A five-hour flight, having to actually stand up (ouch!) and squeeze into the tiny restroom, and then having to get up from there (owww!). Not a pretty scenario.

The pills hardly touched the pain. My vision of long walks on the beach were gone with the tropical wind. But still, I was in Maui.

As the languid Maui days passed, I felt no real improvement. And then girlfriend and I headed over to the Grand Wailea spa, where I sat in a very hot hot tub for about an hour, and had a great massage by a masseur who knew what he was doing. When I got off the table, my back felt perfectly normal. Hurrah! So we headed off for a casual dinner. We sat in tall chairs at a tall table talking and munching our appetizers, when, out of nowhere, I felt a spasm in my back and it was out again.

How could this be? I was just sitting there doing nothing!  I was doomed to spend my week in Maui also in Pain. Because Pain is a location. It’s one you don’t want to visit. Trust me on that.

Give me drugs. Good drugs.

It was no better when I got home. At the two-week mark, I saw my doctor, who prescribed a whopping 800 mg of ibuprofen every eight hours along with a muscle relaxant. Now, I love me a good down drug, but this was not a recreational scenario. I NEEDED those drugs like a junkie needs his needle. The problem was that I couldn’t take it on an empty stomach. One must eat before ibuprofen or risk a stomach bleed. So every night I’d have to set the alarm and lay out half a sandwich, which I would force down in the wee hours so I could take my pill.

Doctor also sent me to physical therapy and threatened further investigation if that didn’t work. Physical therapy? I almost swooned with delight.

Dean, my physical therapist, examined me to assess the situation.  After a few pokes and prods, and a few exercises he made me do, he said, “Your pelvic girdle on the left is out of alignment.  We need to reset it.”

My pelvic WHAT?  Re-SET it? That did not sound like fun.

“You aren’t going to crack me, are you?” I asked, with obvious trepidation. “Because I don’t let anyone crack me.”

He laughed.  “No, we can reset it with exercise moves.”  I brightened.

At his direction, I did about half a dozen exercises and he felt around again and pronounced it much improved. My homework was to do the moves at home and come back every few days for rechecks.  To my delight, he also prescribed an ice pack and some “Stim.”

My new boyfriend, Stim.

I knew “Stim” from another set of visits to physical therapy a couple years ago. It is electrical stimulation of the muscle.  Better than morphine, better than sex. No joke.

They hooked a few electrodes up to my back, asked me to recline with two plush pillows under my head… and sent buzzing electrical current to my back muscles.

Oh. My. God.  There is nothing better. It feels GREAT.  And it really does something to the muscle.

My Stim session was all too short, but when I got up from the table I was much, much improved. My doctor had approved 10 visits, so I had nine more dates with my new boyfriend, Stim. YES.

“So how do you think this imbalance happened?” M. asked me when I got home.

“You how I stand around all insouciant, bearing all my weight on my left foot? I think that’s how. Or at least a contributing factor, according to Dean.”

I have never, EVER used  insouciant before, but obviously, it had been lurking somewhere in the recesses of my aging brain just waiting for an opportunity. Clearly insouciant is taking up brain space that I used to use for people’s names or the location of my cell phone.  They’re gone, and insouciant has moved in.

Oh, wait. You want to know what it means?

Insouciant: showing a casual lack of concern.

I was, of course, referring to the casual way of standing with one leg and hip taking the brunt of body weight. Sort of cocking my hip. It’s a bad habit of mine. But it contributed to my pelvic bones going all cockywompus.

It might not have been exactly the right word. Well, to be honest, it WAS the right word. But once I used it, I couldn’t stop using it for days.

I’m a few sessions into PT and it’s working well. Thankfully.  I really look forward to my dates with Stim.

This aging thing? It’s a bitch, ain’t it?



47 comments on “Diagnosis: Insouciance
  1. Unfortunately I’ve been there, done that. Pain stinks. A great leveler. We do what we must but I hate those strong drugs. Glad you are feeling better. Glad about your new word!

  2. Carla says:

    Amen,Sister. I have been there with IT band/back pain and I need to keep reminding myself aging is a bitch but it beats the alternative aging is a bitch but it beats the alternative 🙂

  3. Laurie Oien says:

    This is why our mothers always told us to stand up straight! Posture is pretty important and especially as we age. Been to PT for shoulder and neck pain. Standing straight and stretching is now a daily routine. Good luck and thanks – I learned a new word! 🙂

  4. Robin Herman says:

    I’ve found that back pain is pain that cannot be simply IGNORED, SHRUGGED OFF, PUSHED THROUGH. It’s basically an electric shock. Pain that stops you in your tracks, lays you out, makes you terrified to move. But, it will, eventually, pass.
    BTW, insouciant is a great word. I can picture you hand on hip. Add “irreverent” which is how I’ve described you to spouse. And why I knew immediately we could be galpals!
    p.s. I met Stim back in the Paris days … he was working for the French healthcare system 🙂

  5. Insouciant is a great word, but I think cockywompus us the real winner in this post. Love it. Getting out of alignment is no fun and just like our automobiles, sometimes we have to get an adjustment. So glad you are better.

  6. Laura Ehlers says:

    Yikes! Back pain is the worse. I threw my back out years ago as a new nurse and did what most 24 year olds did back then – went home, drank a couple beers and ignored it. Now and then the Spasm will return out of nowhere when I am doing something completely benign like sorting laundry or breathing – I take it as a reminder to return to yoga and light work outs.
    Glad to hear your STIM is helping! keep up with those exercises too.
    and remember – only you and a busy sidewalk cafe on a sunny day can prevent insouciance!!

  7. Brenda Pace says:

    Oh no, Carol!

    How awful for that to happen right before your trip! I’m glad that your exercises are helping you and hope you find long-term relief.!


  8. The oracle says:

    Ouch! That’s brutal! I hope things are better now

  9. Sorry for your pain – but is an electric shock really better than sex? I’m tempted to drop my blow dryer in the bathtub just to find out…

  10. andrea says:

    feel better soon! (and i’ve learned a new word today – insouciance…. 😀 )

  11. Joan stommen says:

    Loved this and the word insouciant! Sorry about your painful Hawaii getaway but it all led you to helpful Dean and Stim! I too stand this way without thinking…poor posture my mom always said! I stand tall in yoga…but it’s a hard habit to break! Feel better soon! Great post!

  12. GiGi Eats says:

    While I am not exactly OLD… I am definitely noticing tiny things that make me feel as though I am certainly getting older. It’s crazy!!! Ha! I don’t like it, but it also just motivates me to continue living as healthy as I possibly can!

  13. Love it. Ever seen Dana Carvey’s https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I8e1iszcZes Squatting with Monkeys? It addresses this issue PERFECTLY. All we have to do is turn around and WHAM! Ouch!

  14. Wow! I have never heard much less considered uttering insouciant! What a great word! Thank you!

    I’d like some STIM asap! I’m glad it worked for you. I dread the days when the aches and pains aren’t so easily stimmed away. Take care of yourself!

  15. Paola says:

    Now that is a word I had never heard before, and neither had my husband (who prides himself about knowing so many words in English)… heheheh

  16. Haralee says:

    I love that you did not make up how you hurt your back. I get so tired of one up sport casualty stories! I empathize with your plight. Plight is not as good as insouciant by a long shot! Last year when I was suffering from my old lady sciatic problems, my PT said you walk funny, and we worked on my gait and I am fine! He could have said I was insouciant about my gait and I would have loved him more! Hope you are pain free soon.

  17. Liv says:

    Physio helped me to walk again after the accident. I’m close to normal now, very little gimp. Physiotherapists are gods. Good ones are anyway.

  18. Kate says:

    First – hurray for actually using insouciant in a story. We’ll done! Second, I met Stim here in Ohio and it was love at first buzz. Had foot surgery in July which caused me to walk funny for weeks to compensate, aggravating my back and hip. Oh, yes. Getting old sucks.

  19. Alana says:

    Been there, done that except in my case it was 10 minutes before spouse and I were to leave on a car trip of about 830 miles. I can’t imagine traveling on a plane right after a back going out episode. Stim was my friend, too, along with physical therapy. Now, I depend on occasional deep tissue massage plus doing the exercises the PT taught me. Yet, it still happens. I spent part of December with my husband having to dress me from the waist down every morning so I could go to work. Yes, getting old sucks.

  20. If I sleep on my right side, I can’t walk. Or at least I will be limping and in pain. Such a pain to get old.

  21. Gary Sidley says:

    ‘cockywompus’? – I’m definitely going to steal that word!

  22. Lexie Lane says:

    Insouciant is a big word, never heard that before! Worth to read.

  23. Jeanine says:

    ouch! that is awful. Insouciance, now that is a new word for me. I’m going to ask my husband he seems like a human dictionary so I’m curious if he knows. I’m only 30 but I feel like my body needs lots of extra love and attention because it’s feeling old.

  24. I am sorry to hear about your back pain, but I’m glad you found something that works. This happened to my mom before when she bent to pick up my daughter who was only two then. She went to a chiropractor to realign the lower part of her spine.

  25. Jenn says:

    Ouch, that sounds like a real bummer. Glad you have some exercises and treatments that are bringing you relief! Pain is never any fun.

  26. Carolann says:

    So glad to hear you are doing better. I’ve had a treatment like that for my pain too and yes, I can totally relate. Love that word!

  27. Tara says:

    Glad you are feeling better and that PT and Stim are working for you!

  28. What a great word, never heard before! And I hope things are better now.

  29. I almost fell off my chair laughing when you mentioned your boyfriend STEM! Haha… we had a brief affair a few years ago when a nerve in my back went out and I miss him every day. The nerve never really got better so I should really get it checked again. I hope you feel better! Thanks for linking up with us at Welcome Home Wednesdays last week… we can’t wait to see what you link up with us tomorrow!

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