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Injuries and the pain of working

I’ve not posted one of my rambling collection of thoughts for a while…so…

Despite doing a physical job, lugging rocks about the place, hitting rocks with hammers and chisels and lots of manual handling, I’ve not had any major injuries before.  A sore back a couple of times, a sore thumb where I hit it with a hammer and a few stone chips in the eye (otherwhise known as occupational hazards).  Otherwise, I’ve been injury free.

However, in November I managed to do some proper damage to my lower back.

I had a small window of opportunity to get some help from a friend to level a garden full of wet and very heavy clay soil.  Unfortunately the rain bucketed down all day, turning the garden into a quagmire.  If I had been sensible, I wouldn’t have gone to work that day, but due to circumstances – a busy work schedule, the availability of labour and a desire to finish the job and get paid, I went.

It was a horrible day, every spadeful of clay soil stuck to the spade, and I was twisting and turning my back whilst my feet were stuck in the ground.

The following day, I had a new job to get started, and this one involved taking 10 tonnes of material from the bulk bags and crates it was delivered in and placing it large plastic tubs for a team of hired helpers to move.  I did this for the five hours it took to shift everything.  Again bent over, and again twisting my back.

The next day, a Saturday, I was immobile.  Couldn’t move.  My back spasms were intense and frequent.  It was not a good look.

But work goes on, and I had to work.  Keeping the cash flowing when there is no injury insurance means you got to work.  Normally my back pain has been brief: maybe a couple of days of stiffness.  This time the spasms kept on and on.  In the mornings it was torture getting dressed.  I couldn’t sleep because of the pain.

I went to a job and was in so much pain I had to kneel down to fill the wheel-barrow with stone. I couldn’t bend over.

So what do you do when your back is sore and you need to work?  You start over-using your other muscles to compensate – in this case my arms, shoulder and neck.

Cue further muscle pulls and strains to my wrist, deltoid and my trapezius.  So, since November, I’ve been struggling with back spasms (thankfully they stopped in February) soon followed by endless shoulder pain made much worse by the constant lifting and hammering required by the job, and occasional wrist strain from trying to move rocks without using my back properly.

So what is the solution?

Rest definitely helped.  The two weeks off a Christmas really helped my back, although it started hurting again when I went back to work.  Another week at Easter gave my shoulder some recovery time too.  I had a couple of sessions with a massage therapist to try and realign my back and give some relief to the pain. The therapist suggested that the original digging session had torn some of the small muscles that are based in the lower back and it would take time for them to heal.  I also sought pain relief  – lots of paracetamol helped deal with the pain, and loads of pain-relief gels like Voltarol (there are others on the market!).  And the occasional malt whisky too!

The injuries, especially the back, have made for a difficult time.  My hours worked from November to April are well down on what I’ve done in previous years, meaning my earnings are suffering.  Rest is the best thing for the pain, but its just not a long-term option. I can’t really change the job, as it will always required lifting, moving, bending and hammering.  It’s just what it is.

So tonight as I write this, my back is a wee bit stiff after filling barrows this morning with soil delivered to my current client. And my deltoid is sore too as I’ve been hammering a lot as well.  What can I do?

A lottery jackpot win is probably the only solution.

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  1. David F Wilson
    May 14, 2015 at 6:31 am #

    Been there – my back problems started 20 years ago. On first day of a major project where I needed the money, part of the project was to hand collect all the stone from beside a road cutting. I employed a local labourer to help. I needed to hire a van to transport the collected stone, I showed the labourer the type of stone to collect & then I set off for the 100 miles round trip to Inverness to get the van. Nothing is simple & organising the van took longer than anticipated by the time I got back to site I was feeling very guilty that I had left the labourer toiling by himself for so long. I jump out of the van & got stuck into loading the stone – after a few hard hours graft I went home very tired & sore I lay down & slept on the couch. When I woke I could not move I’ve never experienced pain like it I was in tears. I remember having to roll off the couch onto the floor & lay there for ages, I had a hot bath & went to bed. How was I going to continue on the project when I was in such a mess? The next day, I used three belts to strap some cardboard around my back to give it some support. Taking things very easy & working on my knees to save my back I eventually got through that first week. I returned home & remembered that my parents used to visit a chiropractor at Bridge of Earn, Mr Morrison. I gave him a call & arranged an appointment. You had to arrive at his house at a specific time I remember arriving at the little cul de sac where his house was, it was like a scene fr the walking dead, various people were heading to his house all twisted & all obviously in pain from their back. Mr Morrison performed a few tweaks & the pain miraculously disappeared, it honestly was amazing, I got my check book out to pay whatever fortune he required for performing such a miracle – £3 was the charge!
    Once you have an injury to your back it remains vulnerable, Mr Morrison was always you first point of call, I remember one te where I was in real pain after a quick visit to him I played squash an hour later. Sadly Mr Morrison retired. I have visited others & paid lots of money over the years but none gave me the relief that she could.
    I have resigned myself to the fact that as long as I continue to work stone it will be a recurring issue I have learned over the years what causes me most problems & I try to avoid that, the twisting motion upon the back is the worst, especially filling a cement mixer, that movement of twist while lifting a heavy shovelful is particularly painful & damaging. At various times I have resorted to a back support which helps when it is at its worst but the injury eventually heals & work continues relatively pain free. Standing still now is the worst for me, as long as I keep active it is pretty good.
    Hopefully you don’t suffer long term as our experiences prove we are not machines & we need to recognise our physical limitations & work within them.

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