Friday, December 11, 2009


I saw the physical therapist for the last time this week.  The back specialist sent me to him to learn "trunk strengthening" exercises after figuring out I had a pinched nerve aggravated by my sedentary lifestyle.  I've spent way too many years sitting at a desk so all the muscles that help to support the spine are, to put it mildly, weak.  Other than that, though, I was apparently in decent shape when it came to things like range of motion and balance, so Steve (the physical therapist) was confident I'd have no problems mastering the various exercises that strenghtening the abdominal muscles entailed.

He was definitely overly optimistic about my desire to exercise. 

On the other hand, pain can be a powerful motivator. 

So I've been doing them -- not as consistently as Steve was probably hoping I would, but enough to make a difference -- and will probably continue on a sporadic basis.  I still fantasize about Isle Royale camping trips, hiking in North Cascades, and other excursions that would be difficult to complete if I can't walk.  And that is the effect of the pinched nerve -- pseudoclaudication, aka leg pain, while standing or walking. 

I've also been thinking about health and fitness in general.  As I've aged I'm managed to acquire a number of what clinicians like to call co-morbidities (and insurance companies label as pre-existing conditions), hypertension being the most recent addition to the list.  When it was diagnosed, two things happened:  the doctor first wrote me a prescription for a drug (Benicar) and then told me to exercise more and drop a few pounds.  The drug works, but you know what its side effects are?  Extreme fatigue and weight gain.  I believe there's a phrase for that:  pissing in the wind.  My body eventually adapted, so the fatigue is no longer much of an issue, and I was lucky and didn't experience the weight gain (I actally lost a few pounds, despite having all the strength of the proverbial wet noodle)(I'd have days when I wondered if I was going to manage the walk to or from work without collapsing from exhaustion mid-way) . . . but it did occur to me that it would really suck to have to listen about lectures about exercising or watching what I ate when the drug the jerk in the white coat had given me left me too weak to walk more than 10 feet without having to rest. 

Some of Benicar's other side effects?  It can raise cholesterol levels.  Well, guess whose cholesterol is now up into the zone where prescriptions get written?  You got it.  More pissing in the wind.  Take one pill to lower blood pressure to reduce risk of heart attack, take another pill to deal with the problems the first pill created, then take yet another to try to cancel out the effects of the first two. . .  I really wish I owned stock in pharmaceutical companies.

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