Emily Lund: Do Nothing-Advice on Dealing With Back Pain

2016 hasn’t started out well. I have a “bad back” and it recently went “out” while I was napping (yes, napping). I have since been limited in my ability to sleep, sit, stand, or walk. Transitioning between any of those actions makes me scream and scare people around me.  A week and one day has gone by and I’m not in better shape, but I have learned a few things you should never ever do when you are in the middle of terrible back pain.

1)      Sneeze or cough: If you can avoid this altogether, you really should.  I felt a sneeze coming on and tried to suppress it. Not only did I only half sneeze, which is awful, I also added about three days of pain to my back.  I suggest holding your breath until the sensation to sneeze or cough passes or until you pass out.

2)      Get up off the floor (and the opposite action, get onto the floor): During this period of time, there are a series of exercises you should do to alleviate pain.  Unfortunately, most of these exercises require you to be on the floor.  Getting onto the floor without further injuring your back, is nearly impossible.  After your required stretches, and unless you already engineered a pulley system, you will be unable to get off the floor until emergency services arrive. Keep your cell phone close by.

3)      Run or walk faster than snail: You just can’t move at any pace at all.  People are going to be waiting for you to go anywhere, and you are never going to catch up to the group you are walking with to dinner.  Running is positively out of the question.  Even if you could muster the ability to do it, you won’t be able to put your running shoes on or tie them (see #8).

4)      Laugh or cry:  Whilst in pain, you will most likely not find yourself laughing because even the funniest things just make you cry.  However, if you get in a good sob or laughing spell, you are likely to feel it in your back which will just make you cry more…and so the cycle continues.

5)      Do laundry: I’m all about getting out of laundry in general, but I’ve found it to be a new form of torture to hold a laundry basket in both hands, walk down stairs, and try to keep your back from hurting.  If you fall down the stairs (which is likely), you will not only make the back situation worse, you might break a bone on top of that.

6)      Wash dishes: The motion of leaning over a sink or bending down to put dishes in the dishwasher is going to kill your back.  The twisting and bending will make you very unstable and the water and soap with make it all much too slippery.  If you aren’t careful, you’ll drop and break a plate and then not be able to sweep it up or pick it up.  Stay away from household chores.  Now’s the time to hire a cleaning service.

7)      Get out of bed/get into bed: Sleeping in general is going to be difficult and finding a comfortable position or moving positions will wake you up from a sound sleep and cause you to shriek and wake up other members of your household.  Getting into bed is also difficult and getting out of bed will require a crane.  Probably best to give up beds completely as you will be in too much pain to sleep anyway.

8)      Tie shoes, put on pants: You typically need to bend in order to tie shoes or put on pants.  This will not happen when you are in so much pain standing that your mind will not allow your body to bend at the waist. No matter how much you try to force your back to do so, you will not be able to will your middle to bend.  Stick with bathrobes, ponchos and slip-on shoes.

9)      Drive:  Forget about getting into a car.  Even if you have extra handles and seat adjustability, you have to contort yourself in such a way that will prevent you from getting into the car.  Yes, you probably need to get into the car to go see the doctor about your terrible back pain, but start looking for a doctor who makes house calls.

10)   Sit on soft chairs or couches: You may feel momentary relief if you sit in a nice soft chair, but you will not be able to withstand the pain of getting out of the squishy chair.  You’ll have to roll over on your stomach and push yourself up with your arms and legs in order to stand. All of this will hurt the whole time. Stick to hard chairs with straight back at all times.

If you have gathered from my blog post that with back pain, you can’t do anything comfortably or without risk of further injury, you are correct.  I advise drugs, alcohol, and a live-in human who can do things for you.  Otherwise, you are screwed and getting old sucks.




  1. I feel for you – I hope you are pain free and mobile now! I lived for 3 months on my knees; kneeling on the internal steps between my hall way and kitchen. It was only position which didn’t cause me pain. Then my knees started getting sore – baa haa haa

  2. Crikey yes! So true…all the above, and a few more. Definitely don’t attempt any kind of carnal activity. Oh no. Getting into a bath…er., no, I don’t think so. Get a grabby stick thing and use it; I’m not saying never bend over, but don’t waste your bad back bendiness on little bits. The grabby stick saves your spine from overuse when attempting any kind of tidying up things… Well written, thank you, Nell 🙂

  3. This saddens me. My friend’s husband recently took his life after living with back pain for a couple years. Unable to stand, sit, swim, dance, bend, make love to his wife. Another best friend of mine tried to take her life after living with chronic foot pain. Unable to walk without having to think ten steps ahead, gaining weight because she couldn’t be active, couldn’t even sleep with the blanket on her foot it was so sensitive. Chronic pain …….what a life altering, mind numbing, terrible thing to live with.

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