Gregorian chant filled my ears as I looked out the floor-to-ceiling window of the town gym. The morning sunlight hit the yoga studio’s floor in beams, shadows dancing as cardinals hopped from branch to branch on the trees outside, everything connected, just as it should be during yoga.
I had been practicing for about three months and thought I was ready to take my stretches to the next level. I was wrong.
There was no telltale crunch or sharp pain as I lay on my back, tossed my legs over my head and forced them to touch the ground behind me. I knew I was hurt only when the slight stiffness in my neck hadn’t disappeared by the next day.
By the next week, I couldn’t fully turn my head, and by the next month, my right arm started going numb. I took myself to the doctor.
That was June 2014, and I didn’t know it then, but I would eventually find myself in chronic pain, on a journey that would one day have me brushing up against growing concerns about prescription painkillers.
As I would discover, the medical community and government officials have been hashing out new guidelines about opioid prescriptions as overdose deaths have surged. Many people with chronic pain say opioids are the only drugs that provide any relief, but with 259 million prescriptions being written a year — that was the number for 2012 — the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is developing recommendations that would urge providers to limit doses of painkillers and to find other treatments, including physical therapy and different drugs for injured patients.
My yoga mishap left me with a herniated, or slipped, disk in my spine. The softer center of the disk was protruding through the hard exterior, pinching a nerve. At the time, treatment was simple: physical therapy and a two-week course of steroids for inflammation. Surgery, the doctors said, was a last resort. It took months, but by the fall I was on my way to recovery. Continue reading >>