A Strong Back

A farmer friend of mine once joked that if you want to be a farmer you need two things:  a weak mind and a strong back.

He’s wrong about the weak mind, but he’s definitely right about the strong back.

Saturday morning when we arrived at the farmer’s market I parked, opened the door and stepped out of the vehicle.  When I did my back went out and I almost collapsed.  I wasn’t lifting anything or doing anything that should put one’s back in jeopardy.  All I did was take a step. I made it through the morning with my back hurting the whole time.  The pain lessened in the evening and by yesterday morning I’d forgotten about it.  I left the house early to do my chores.  When I bent over to scoop out some chicken feed, my back went out again, this time worse than before.

This experience has me reflecting on how precarious this life is.  Should my back give out on me, then I couldn’t farm.  Everything I do requires a good back.  I suppose in the distant past a bad back could be a death penalty.  Hopefully whatever is ailing mine isn’t serious and I’ll be back to full speed soon.  There is way too much work to be done this time of year for me to be hobbling around.

We’re taking a break from deliveries this week as we transition from spring gardens to summer gardens.  Over the next couple of weeks our tomatoes, peppers, squash and green beans will start coming in.  What a great time of year.

We have a couple of big events on the horizon for the following week.  On the 26th Cherie and I will be speaking at the Wild Goose Festival, an event we look forward to every year.  On the day before that Dorothy McAuliffe, the First Lady of Virginia, will be visiting and touring the farm.  I’m pretty sure that will be a first for White Flint Farm.

Let’s hope my back is healed by then.


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27 comments on “A Strong Back

  1. Yikes! I hope it’s something easily corrected and you’re feeling better soon.

  2. Jeff says:

    I’m sure women would say there are worse pains than a bad back, but as a man, I don’t think there is anything worse. If you can, try lying on your back, sans clothes, and raise each leg, alternately, straight up and then lower it slowly. Do that 10 times for each leg and then, as best you can, try bringing both legs up, clasp your hands behind your knees and rock to and fro for 10 more times. It will be painful, but it should help.

    In my experience, those sudden onsets of back pain are brought on by stress. Your back muscles are tensed, for whatever reason, and one move in the wrong direction and bam!!, you’re doubled over in pain. It might be worthwhile to investigate that idea. I’ve had those incidents many times over the years and have found that they are almost always caused by stressful situations. A heating pad sometimes brings some relief, if you have one.

    I feel for you and I hope you get better soon!

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Jeff. I appreciate the advice and will give it a try. I haven’t felt particularly stressed, but I haven’t been getting enough sleep so that may be contributing to the problem. I’ve been trying to rest more and move a little slower.

  3. I can certainly sympathize with you there. So sorry. Hopefully you’re back up to full speed soon. Personally I’m a fan of chiropractors, but I know that’s not everybody’s cup of tea.

    • Bill says:

      Thanks. My brother in law is a chiropractor. Too bad he isn’t closer. If he was I’d have him take a look. I’ve never been to a chiropractor, but then again I can’t remember the last time I went to a doctor either.

  4. Martha Caldwell-Young says:

    My remedy for a chronic lower back problem – before starting my day, warm my back with a heating pad to relax the muscles and then do a series of yoga stretches. Care for our backs is pretty critical, regardless of lifestyle. Hope you’re on the mend. :)

    • Bill says:

      Thanks. I’ve had recommendations to use a heating pad and to do yoga. I like you idea of using both.

      • Martha Caldwell-Young says:

        It’s worth giving a try, Bill. The key to a healthy back, IMO, is a disciplined practice of morning stretches, and maybe some strengthening exercises. I recently add “the plank” to my morning routine. It takes time to find what works for you, but it’s well worth the effort to be more pain-free than not. :)

      • Bill says:

        I started this morning with a heating pad on my back and some sun salutations. I plan to keep at it. I appreciate the suggestions. Thanks.

      • Martha Caldwell-Young says:

        I just read Jeff’s suggestion of leg raises. While this might help to strengthen your abdominals, and strong core muscles will help to support your lower back, IMO, if something hurts, stop doing it. Pushing injured muscles to perform may well just set the stage for more injury. Slow and ease, letting your pain set your limits, you’ll likely find, over time, your strength and range of motion has increased.

  5. will you put your wildgoose lecture onlin? Would be nice! :-)

  6. Stretches. If you can spare the time, visit a physiotherapist. He/she will probably do a bit of massage, and then teach you some stretches that will loosen up all the tightness. I agree with Jeff, this has happened to me more than once, and I’d say probably stress or being too busy has brought this on.

    Yup, there’s nothing like a little incapacitation to make you realize your vulnerability. When it happened to me, I couldn’t help thinking what it would be like to get too old to do what I love to do.

    • Bill says:

      Thanks. The pain and discomfort is hard enough to deal with, but what’s been bothering me most is anxiety worrying about what happens if it doesn’t get better or what would happen to my life if something else happened to disable me. It does cause you to think. Hopefully I’ll use the experience to cause me to start doing the right kinds of stretches/exercises/warmups.

  7. Judy says:

    Yoga! Be well.

  8. valbjerke says:

    You’re doing the right thing – just keep moving. 😊

  9. Seeking Joyful Simplicity says:

    I agree with the others – taking care of the back on a regular basis to ensure a long, active life doing the work you love to do is so very important. AND, you need to work those abdominal muscles too – together they and the back muscles are the “core” of your strength.

    I can send you a link with exercises to do at home, if you are interested.
    Take care of yourself, don’t wait.

    • Bill says:

      Thanks. My wife says crunches are important and that this kind of thing can happen when your abdominal strength doesn’t keep up with your back strength. I’m fit and thin, I eat well and get plenty of exercise. I wouldn’t have thought I was in any danger of having my back go out.

  10. Steve says:

    You need to rest your back, even if for a day. The key to preserving your back is to strengthen your stomach muscles. Good luck.

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Steve. I’ve heard from several sources now that I need to concentrate on strengthening my stomach muscles and staying flexible. I see now that I can’t take back strength for granted. It’s been a good lesson for me.

  11. shoreacres says:

    I understand perfectly your concern about keeping yourself fit. I’m in the same position. I’ve been very lucky – one torn rotator cuff, one rolled ankle, two falls into the water and (yes, indeedy) back problems.

    My back became so painful I couldn’t walk more than a half-block without having to stop and bend over to relieve the pain. I finally went to an orthopedist, who provided a diagnosis of spondylolisthesis. The reason I even mention it is that it’s one of those things that can lurk. The damage to the spine can be done even in childhood, and not appear for decades.

    Repetitive actions sometimes set it off. In my case, it was bending at the waist and twisting to varnish the underside of hand rails on the boats. After about ten years of that, my back said, “No more.”

    Here’s the good news. The orthopedist sent me over to a sports therapist, who gave me a set of specific exercises designed to realign everything. Within a week, I had very little pain. Within a month, I was completely pain-free, and have stayed so. Every time I feel the twinge again, I just remember how I’m supposed to sit and stand and all is well.

    Everyone always wants to say, “I know you’ve got what I’ve got!” when that may not be true at all. But I can imagine that there might be some repetitive motions in the course of your work that might have set something off. It’s worth thinking about, anyhow. And you have a big word you can throw at medical sorts. ;)

    • Bill says:

      Mine is really bad in the mornings. Over the course of the day it seems to improve and isn’t bad at all by night. I’m hoping it goes away because I (like you) need my back to be healthy to do my job. I have hundreds of garlic plants to dig up tomorrow and honestly for the first time ever I’m not looking forward to it. I love the thought that an exercise regimen could make it better. Cherie had a severe back problem once and she diligently did the prescribed exercises for years and has no real problems now. I’m hoping to figure it out without having to go to a doctor. We’ll see how that works out. :)

      Thanks a lot for taking the time to pass along this advice and info. I was reluctant to post about this (afraid of seeming whiney) but I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback and comments. I appreciate that.

  12. avwalters says:

    I’ve been there, side-lined by pain. I resolved to keep my body core strong–not to force my back to do the work that was designed for my knees or my belly. For the most part, it’s worked. (And walking is nature’s cure for most of what ails you.)

    • Bill says:

      I walk miles every day. But I admit that I haven’t always been smart about how I use my back. It isn’t 100% but I think it’s getting better now. I’m sure I’ve learned a valuable lesson.

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