As a result, for the last 30 years, I've dealt with chronic back pain. At its worst, it feels like a star collapsed inside my body. Sometimes, though, it changes gears and feels like someone hammered a red-hot nail into my neck and left it there. When that happens, sneezing or coughing will send a lightning bolt up my spine, a jolt of agony that makes me feel like I'm going to piss my pants. That can last for weeks. I've had broken bones that didn't hurt like this. Other times, the muscles will suddenly get so weak that they just turn to Jell-O. Here, try this: Drop to the floor and do crunches until you physically can't anymore, and then keep doing them for several more minutes. The muscle death you feel, coupled with that pulsating burn? That's what I feel on most days, from sunup to sundown.
But I of course can power through it without the help of my painkiller prescription, via the irrepressible power of the human spirit. It just takes a little extra planning if I know I'm going to be doing anything extreme, like being on my feet for a couple of hours. For example, I recently took my daughter to the mall for some birthday shopping. After an hour and a half, I physically couldn't walk anymore. By the time we got back to the car, I thought I was going to have to beg a stranger to help cram me into the driver's seat, urging them to press on through my screams. Had I planned better, I could have simply quadrupled my dose of aspirin and Skyped with my daughter from the car while she shopped.
That's the key to pain management: planning ahead and not doing the thing that causes you pain, and also remembering that nearly all things cause you pain. For instance, I pace when I talk on the phone. I can't help it. This means a 20-minute phone call can potentially seize up my back so completely that I have to execute the sitting process in slow, gentle stages, looking like a GIF loading on a spotty LTE connection.