I’ve been spending the last several weeks (since I got health insurance at my job after over a year without any) trying to figure out what’s wrong with my lower back. I hurt it dancing about a year and a half ago, but since I didn’t have any insurance at the time, I couldn’t do anything about it.
I’ve been to various doctors who have run through all the normal things–slipped disks, stress fractures, etc. My x-ray and bone scan both came back normal, so the sports medicine doctor decided to pass me off to a physical therapist to see if she could solve my mysterious dancer pain with no obvious physical cause.
So the physical therapist spent half an hour or so telling me to do things and tell her if they hurt. Bending backwards hurts. Twisting hurts. Bending forward doesn’t hurt. Now bend forward ten times in a row and see if it hurts. Nope. Okay, now sit in a chair with a rolled up towel in the middle of your back and bend backwards. OUCH!
Anyway, she discovered what I had told the other doctor who ignored me–my pain is in my sacrum. My sacroiliac joint to be precise. In most people, this joint doesn’t move at all except in pregnancy and childbirth. But dancers often have hyper-flexible sacroiliac joints because we are such hyper-mobile people.
So while the physical therapist was trying to solve for herself the problem of why I injured it (while it is common for dancers’ SI joints to move, it’s not necessarily that common to have pain, as far as I can tell.) She asked me if I rollerblade, which I do not. And then she asked me if I have ever fallen down stairs and landed on my sacrum.
And suddenly, the moment of clarity. I DID fall down some concrete stairs and land on my sacrum about three years ago. I even went to the emergency room. But I hadn’t connected the two because I fell a good year and a half before I started experiencing this pain. But what had happened during that year and a half was the development of scar tissue on the side I hit on the stairs, and then the side that hurts now had to become more and more flexible to compensate for the loss of flexibility on stair-hurt side. Until it got so uneven as to cause me pain.
She’s given me some exercises to work on to fix the pain and scar tissue, which I really appreciate.
But the whole thing has got me to thinking about the long term consequences things tend to have. When I fell on the stairs, I went to the ER and they told me I’d be fine. Over a year and a half later, that fall causes lower back pain that followed me for the last year and a half. And all this time I had considered that fall to be an unfortunate basically non-event. I was laughing at myself for going to the hospital when nothing was wrong. And look at all the pain it’s caused me in the last three years anyway.
How is it that little things, even seemingly inconsequential things, can have such a long-ranging and supreme impacts on our lives? Gent and I are in love and together because we decided to be “bus buddies” on a class trip in tenth grade. I have my dancing career because of a whim that I had in second grade that I wanted to be a ballerina. I have paganism and my gods because of a conversation on an unrelated internet forum that I was only on because I was scouring the internet for information on contraception.
The web of wyrd is a beautiful thing, intermingling every aspect of our lives. No event is without its causes and its consequences, and things that seem inconsequential turn out years later to have been the lynchpin of our lives. Who would have thought that my entire religious life rests on my googling “nuvaring” and reading until the very last page? And that is due to Gent, who I have because of a single bus ride. So really, if I had sat next to anyone else on that class trip, any of the other five boys who had crushes on me that week, I would not be a pagan right now. I wouldn’t be writing this. I wouldn’t have hurt my back falling on the stairs in a house I was living in to be with him.
And things that seemed so important at the time–all the other boys flirting with me, my heart broken by that cheating jerkwad, the adolescent arguments with my mother. These things have been lost to the web of time, seemingly meaningless now.
Oh, what a mystery it all is! What is it that makes tiny things ripple out into tsunamis until our entire lives rest on their having been dropped there? What is it that makes massive things be absorbed in the shock so as to make only the tiniest of ripples on the surface of the water? Do we have free will at all, or are our live simply the sum of everything that has come before? Are we like the deists say, a clock running on to the future? Is everything a reaction against everything else or are there ever truly new things?
So many questions running through my mind today. Will they ripple away into waves, or settle into the forgotten?