Back in the Saddle Again – OK, Sidesaddle, Riding Very Slowly

sidesaddle me

Well, I’m pleased to let my readers know that I’m back in the saddle again. Ok, maybe not fully in the saddle.  Maybe I’m riding side saddle and very slowly right now, and gingerly.  According to some in the family, I shouldn’t even be on the horse…but I am.  Or, in my case, perched on a rock.

My husband was gracious enough to make me a temporary office on the main floor of the house – probably because he got sick of me whining about getting texting hand injuries from trying to function entirely on my iphone as I lay flat on my back on ice packs. Let’s just say it has been a very long 5 weeks and my family has been just wonderful – beyond all expectations.

And this walk outside – it was glorious. Being cooped up inside (5 weeks today, not that I’m counting) is so difficult when I know those weeds are growing and needing to be pulled up by the roots!  The beautiful phlox is in bloom, the cherry trees are just finishing, in the background…nothing as beautiful as springtime!  And the sunshine – it just felt SOOOoooo good.

In all seriousness, back injuries are no joke and excruciatingly painful, especially if you cannot take narcotic drugs.

However, ice, heat, rest and time help a great deal (In addition to my wonderful family) and my neurosurgeon has told me that I just need more of the same. I’m improving every day and have informed my husband that the surgeon said that I cannot do yard work nor housework, and I have a witness.  In fact, I’m likely to never be able to do those things again, ever.  Miss Mary, my quilt sister, accompanied me to the appointment and she swears that’s exactly what the doctor said!  She’s got my back, pardon the pun.

Right Miss Mary???

The funniest thing about the doctor visit was when the doctor said, “Well, you can’t change your genetics” and Miss Mary piped right up and said, “Well, if anyone can, she can.” He looked very quizzical of course and we all had a good laugh after discussing how different medicine, including genetics will be in another generation or even another decade.

This of course made me think about the past and wonder what happened when my poor ancestors encountered this type of situation.

The history of spinal cord injury reaches far back into history, with some insight and a lot of myth and mystery – not to mention misery and experimentation.

Spinal surgery had begun in England in the early 1800s, and yes, without anesthetic. It’s no wonder so many patients died.  They wanted to.

The first successful laminectomy which removed a disc which was compressing a nerve which resulted in paralysis from a fall from a horse was performed in Kentucky in 1829 by a doctor who had studied in Philadelphia.

That’s probably because while there was no anesthetic, Kentucky had plenty of moonshine.

In the 1800s, and before, back pain that was not a direct injury was thought to be a form of rheumatism. In fact, according to the book, “Occupation and Disease: How Social Factors Affect the Conception of work-Related Disorders” by Allard Dembe, it wasn’t until about WWI when the US passed the major worker’s compensation laws that back pain was considered to be a result of trauma, meaning an injury, not rheumatism, which was considered to be an illness.

There was also considered to be difference between a debilitating spinal injury, from something specific, like falling from a horse, or a building, and an injury from something like working in the field, or the garden. The latter was rheumatism.  In fact, I still remember the old people talking about their “rheumatism flaring up” and rubbing their backs when I was younger.  I didn’t understand then, but now it makes perfect sense.

The term rheumatism in the current sense has been in use since the late 17th century, as it was believed that chronic joint pain was caused by excessive flow of rheum or bodily fluids into a joint.

The term rheumatism is somewhat older, adopted in the early 17th century  from Late Latin rheumatismus, ultimately from Greek ῥευματίζομαι “to suffer from a flux”, i.e. any discharge of blood or bodily fluid.

Before the 17th century, joint pain thought to be caused by viscous humours seeping into the joints was named gout, a word adopted in Middle English from Old French gote “a drop; the gout, rheumatism.”

Now, the good news, if there was any for those 17th and 18th century sufferers, is that opioid medications were readily available “over the counter” at that time, so hopefully, while our ancestors were in pain, they truly didn’t suffer terribly.

I know for a fact that my bootlegging ancestors had their own brand of pain-killer, and I doubt that some of them did enough manual labor to hurt their backs in the first place.

Still, I’m very glad to be living today, because if I do need surgery again one day, I want anesthetic, and I’m very grateful for modern medicine, especially after reading that article titled, “A Brief History of Therapy for Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury” by Jason Lifshutz and Austin, Colohan, M.D.s. In many cases, it looked to me like the treatment was worse than the injury.  If I were you, I’d just skip that article and take my word for it, or better yet, maybe just go and get yourself some of that moonshine and you won’t care anymore about what’s in that article, and you won’t remember that your back was hurting either!

Thanks to one and all for your kind words of support, prayers, flowers, e-mails, cards, chocolate (that’s a medicine, didn’t you know) and the cookies too – not to mention lunch visits, smoothie runs, fabric cupcakes (no calories and cat approved), rides to the doctor and two turtles. Don’t ask about the turtles.  That’s a story for another day – and yes, that too involves Miss Mary!!!

fabric cupcake



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49 thoughts on “Back in the Saddle Again – OK, Sidesaddle, Riding Very Slowly

  1. Glad to hear you are on the mend! I can emphasize — I had a successful laminectomy 27 years ago. I was more-or-less bed ridden for three months with little pain as long as I didn’t move. The surgery was a miracle and I was up and walking around (sort of) several hours after the operation. Leading up to the surgery, I read every book on back problems in the hospital library and came to understand that I might never walk again and be in pain the rest of my life despite the best efforts of top medical personnel. Serious stuff. Best wishes for a full recovery and return to a normal life.

  2. You’d wish it was “only rheumatism ” – maybe you could find an ancestor or two to blame it on… I read somewhere that the incidence of osteoarthritis is 25% amongst Acadians.
    I hurt my back playing baseball when I was in my late ’20s. The painkillers did not work, but the chiropractor did help. He told me that I would be fine if I behaved myself… No lift and twist motions. So, more than 30 years later that means sitting on a small stool to work in the garden and allowing wildflowers to win sometimes.

  3. No narcotic drugs? Neither can I. Did we inherit that? With all the pain I have, all I can take is Tylenol. I read what you write and often think, “that is the way I would have phrased that”. We surely are cousins. Work carefully. But I know the addiction of Genealogy. We just can’t leave it alone.

  4. Glad to hear you’re up and around and doing better. I’m intolerant to all opioid drugs, even synthetic types (a genetic factor perhaps?), and I’ve wondered how I would deal with extreme pain. Sounds like moonshine would be the alternative!

  5. You’ve been missed but take care of yourself. Though time drags slowly while you’re healing, looking back the weeks will seem short. That’s a beautiful flower bed behind you. It snowed here overnight, so I’m mighty jealous of those blossoms.  😀   

    Deb in Calgary who is dying to ask you a question about the Tuscarora Wynn(e)s once you are well.  

  6. Sorry to hear you are in pain. Take care and get better soon. And of course obey the doctor.

  7. Thanks for writing to let us know how you’re doing. A lot of people care about you and are praying for you to get better soon!

  8. It is great that you are able to maintain a sense of humor about such a serious matter. I know that it helps. Sometimes I just automatically see a cartoon picture about a situation. They say that “laughter is the best medicine.”
    Looks like my Ming has sneaked over to your house. LOL

  9. Many good wishes, Cuzzin’ Roberta . . . maybe i can find some moonshine recipes . . . from our mutual ancestors or some of my others . . . i have plenty of candidates, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri . . . – i was a chem major . . . now pardon me while i work on hooking up these little pipes . . . and tanks . . . does this hook up to this? or that?

  10. Keep getting better, and think marijuana brownies. We’ll be here when you are well again.

  11. Roberta, you just made my back hurt more than it already does! My sciatica is killing me lately. I’m going to talk to my doc about a new spine. If they can’t do that yet, they’d better get cracking! 🙂 I’m glad you are feeling better. Been missing your articles.

  12. You’re in my thoughts, Roberta — feel better SOON! Keep moving — and I’m glad to see you’re doing that. Think funny thoughts — you know what “they” say about laughter being the best medicine — well, it IS! Ask for hands to help. They’re all around you.

  13. Oh my! That’s where you’ve been! Wishing you smooth sailing and remarkably quick healing. I’m grateful for our modern medicine, too. I’d be dead a few times over, without it.

  14. Glad to hear your situation is improving,

    About spinal cord injuries for our ancestors, know that it was a major problem among the voyageurs. Now imagine instead of being in pain in your backyard, you’d be between a spruce and a birth in the middle of nowhere…

    They had to portage the canoe and all the stuff that was in it. They were loaded like mules, quite literally. Therefore, they were to bring with them two arrowed sashes, one two strengthen their back (and prevent spinal cord injuries) and one to fasten their load on their back.

    Antony Lore’s ghost could have been watching you these last weeks wondering why you weren’t wearing a “ceinture fléchée”. Ah… kids theses days…

    Some reading on arrowed sash, just in case your curious:

  15. So glad you are home now! All I could do was say a lot of prayers, but now I can switch them to healing ones. Not being able to take Narcodic’s OR the synthetic’s of them, has been a real challenge, but an Excedrin or two, help get me though! . Hugs and Prayers! Anniedear

  16. Wonderful news Bobbi you are doing and feeling better. I am happy to hear your Neurosurgeon thought you were doing the right thing for your back pain and didn’t find any major problems with your spine requiring surgery. That alone is wonderful news. Hugs, Kathy

  17. Roberta, so sorry to hear you’ve been laid up. I enjoy your blogs. Gorgeous garden that is behind you! Here in Alberta we had an exceptionally early spring, then terrible fires that have destroyed 5,000 square km so far in the north and caused the evacuation of an entire city, and now nonstop rain for the past few days where we are further south. This is a long weekend (Victoria Day tomorrow), and people here typically do their planting this weekend each year. Well, they won’t be this year!! Anyway, even if you can’t garden – enjoy sitting out there in the sunshine!

  18. Ahh! So I now get your comments the other day on ISOGG re genes and nose structure! So, did you investigate the specific gene connections with disc disease? I did, looks like I’ve got it. Like you, I’m a candidate for surgery sometime in the near future. Hope you mend quickly and successfully.
    Larry Kettlewell
    Calgary, Alberta

  19. Be careful and don’t over do. I can’t have back surgery Out weeding last week and Still suffering for it and pain medication hard to come by. Therapy in a warm swimming pool helps. Melba.

    Sent from my iPad


  20. Five years ago I had two level spinal fusion—the surgery where they open in front, do a few things, close, roll you over, open in back to do more, and then close. I can’t imagine going through that without narcotics. In fact, one of the nurses fussed at me for pressing the button too often. I do well now, if I remember to do my exercises, and don’t sit too long at the computer. My surgeon felt that part of my problem was a transitional vertebrae, which is an inherited congenital anomaly. And indeed, one of my first cousins also has it, and has had two spinal surgeries.

    So take care, and don’t sit on the rock for too long at a time. Glad you are feeling better.


  21. Hello Roberta, glad to know you are better. I had back surgery in 2009 and have almost completely recovered and have no pain. Also had hip surgery with excellent results and no pain. Saturday I gave a DNA presentation to my genealogy group. I borrowed a lot of your material for the presentation. Thanks! William W Floyd, Afro American Genealogy and Historical Society of Chicago

  22. Roberta, please feel better soon. So glad to see that you are back writing your wonderful and helpful blog, and I’ll pray for your continued recovery.

  23. All best wishes for speedier healing. As someone who has had back issues on and off for 50 years, I really feel for you. Feel better soon!

  24. P.S. When I had cataract surgery nearly 3 years ago, my doctor told me that I could do NO house or yard work for a month (each eye–I had one day between those 2 months I was allowed to work) and when I said who would do it he looked at my husband and said “you can” (he’s our neighbor as well as our eye doctor) and Tom gave him the evil eye. He did mow the lawn, but no housework got done at all and a few weeks later, I found someone to do my house cleaning and heavier yard work (I can ride a mower, and do) and my back has been somewhat better since then. I’m sorry I didn’t do it earlier–I’d had household help all during my working years, but not after I quit working. I’m glad your family has been so helpful.

  25. Hope you are better real soon. I injured my back about 20 years ago, moving a bare root rose. I stepped in a small divot in the yard. The treatment was ice and pain killers, with no physical therapy. I have now developed arthritis in that area. It has gotten so bad that I now require a walker. Three months ago I was using a came. The physical therapy I should have had back then doesn’t help, but I keep doing stretching exercises. Hang in there and get better.

  26. Roberta, I am glad to hear that you are healing and taking it easy. I had cervical spine surgery and I still suffer pain a year later. I was able to use narcotics and due to the continuing pain level am still on a small dose.
    I know that this is not a natural remedy forum but I can tell you that I have found several supplements that help with pain and hope I can be completely off the hydrocodone by the end of June. I am not concerned with addiction – I am worried about the acetaminophen. I believe we are responsible for learning about our own health and seeking alternatives when the medicine we are giving is not helping or is more dangerous than the ailment. You are a researcher so decide for yourself – I take Tumeric Root, MSM, R-ALA, Sam-e, CoQ10 and several other supplements.These have helped as much or more with pain than pain pills – which do help me sleep and endure my work situation but really do nothing to help improve the condition.
    Just a thought – you may have already explored alternatives. I am not a MD – just a researcher. Of everything!!
    Glad you are back but please go slow – I think my chronic pain has to do with pushing myself too hard too soon.

  27. Hello,

    Glad to see your humor was not impacted by your injuries to your spine.

    I have a spine from hell, too.

    But there are two things that you need to know about:

    1. acupuncture on a very regular basis ad infinitum; 2. Lovaza, pharmaceutical grade omega-3 fish oils, and note the brand name, not the generic (which will not verify the source of the fish used while Lovaza is pure Baltic Sea origin and are proud of it), 4 grams/ day, 2 morn, 2 evening.

    The Lovaza has reduced over time my back pain substantially, something I never thought possible, but this is true.

    The acupuncture keeps the qi flowing: ALL pain is from stagnant qi. I know, I am a licensed acupuncturist, doctor of oriental medicine.

    So, before any surgeon ruins your life, find yourself a good acupuncturist–I prefer someone trained in China, who is elder if not ancient, and who specializes in back pain–and get your doctor to prescribe Lovaza for you.

    You will be down on your knees thanking me …

    Dr. Elizabeth Selandia, MLIS, MAIA, MAMS, OMD, CA

    On Sun, May 22, 2016 at 4:14 PM, DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy wrote:

    > robertajestes posted: ” Well, I’m pleased to let my readers know that I’m > back in the saddle again. Ok, maybe not fully in the saddle. Maybe I’m > riding side saddle and very slowly right now, and gingerly. According to > some in the family, I shouldn’t even be on the horse…bu” >

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