Night-time Walks with Pain

The clock on the oven says 3.34 as I walk carefully heel-toe, heel-toe off the wooden floor boards of our kitchen and onto the vinyl tiles of the hallway. I pass our bedroom, where my partner fortunately sleeps soundly and step onto the thick carpet of our spare room / study. There is no traffic on our dark and quiet road but I can see lights in the house across the way. The neighbour here has oxygen cylinders delivered and receives daily visits from the District Nurse and I remind myself that whatever pain I am in at this unsociable hour, there are others much worse off.

As I skirt the corner of the hallway and onto the striped and sligthly textured living room carpet I calculate how many of these nighttime walks I have done since I mysteriously did something to my lower back near the end of September when we were in Norfolk. The discomfort in my back developed into cramp-like pains down the back of my right leg that spasmed from the top of the thigh to my ankle. Within a few days this pain was waking me up at night.

I walk back along the hallway into the kitchen making sure every step counts. It is now 3.36, two minutes to complete one circuit of our small house and it only takes that long if I carefully take in all the corners. Sometimes I skip a section and then the oven clock has only moved on one minute since my last kitchen visit! There are not many times when I wish we lived in a bigger house but these night-time walks would be more interesting in a mansion and when we are away in our campervan I am basically walking on the spot!

I watch a neighbouring black and white cat saunter across our back garden before walking back down the hallway for another tour. I have found it takes at least ten minutes for the acute pain down the back of my leg to ease to something more bearable. Although the urge to go back to bed is strong, I make myself walk around for about twenty minutes before I return to my duvet. I hope my body will reward my self-restraint by allowing me a further three or four hours sleep but sometimes life isn’t like that and I am up again two hours later.

I have said before that to keep to our budget we always have some thinking time before we spend money. This might be a couple of days, a week or a month, depending on how many £s we plan to spend, but this rule goes out of the window when it comes to needing physiotherapy. You can get physiotherapy on the NHS but by the time you’ve reached the top of the waiting list your symptoms will either have gone away [a win I guess] or have become chronic and take longer to sort out. Keeping active is important to most people and I know we are lucky to have enough flexibility in our budget to spend the £55 per session for physio and for me, being able to choose what we spend our money on is an important aspect of financial independence.

The physiotherapist found an issue with my lower back and deduced that this had led to over-use of my piriformis muscle. This muscle in your hips is close to the sciatic nerve that runs down the back of the leg and if it becomes inflammed it can compress the sciatic nerve and cause pain.

For the last six weeks standing up is the only time I have a chance of being pain free and I now have breakfast standing up, I work standing up and occasionally watch television standing up. I try not to feel sorry for myself and don’t want to put my life on hold so, despite the pain, I have continued to walk and cycle. I am sure being upright during the day so much is good for me but I sometimes long to slob out for a while. I dream of curling up in an armchair with a book or kicking off my shoes, putting my feet up and watching a favourite programme. Instead, when I do sit down it is a brief moment with my back straight and supported.

But it is a full night’s sleep that I miss most. I pretty much always fall asleep easily but within a week of the initial injury I began waking in the dead of night with super-cramp down my right leg. There are plenty of suggestions for relief on the internet and I have absorbed these and shifted position and tried pillows in all the right places but frustratingly the only thing that helps a little is a heat mat [like a small electric blanket]. As every toss and turn is agony I am resigned to lying still and hoping I get at least four hours shut-eye before my brain can take no more pain and nudges me awake. No stretches or bed-based exercises give me relief and I know that walking is the only thing to do. Getting up takes effort and there are times when the pain is so intense for the first minute or so of moving around that the blood rushes from my head and I am at risk of fainting. I can’t put my head between my legs [I can hardly do up my shoe laces!] so I end up on the floor until it passes.

Some miracle manipulation by the physio that was worth every penny gave me a break from the night-time pain session for a couple of weeks in October but this has now worn off. This last week I can once again be seen, an exhausted and pathetic figure huddled in my fleecy dressing gown slowly making my way around our small house.

The frugal part of my brain had jumped at the chance to save money when, at my last appointment, the physio suggested I was doing so well I didn’t need to return for three weeks. Of course, this is a decision I am now regretting and my next session cannot come soon enough! Fingers crossed this is a temporary set back and I will soon be once again having long and sweet dreams until dawn.

Author: Back on the Road Again Blog

I write two blogs, one about my travels in our campervan and living well and frugally and the second about the stories behind the people commemorated in memorial benches.

8 thoughts on “Night-time Walks with Pain”

  1. Oh poor you. Back pain like that and sleep deprivation is just terrible and grinds you down. You’re right that even being on a budget, immediate physio is worth every penny. We hesitated to get help for Mark due to budget constraints, and that resulted in a prolapsed disc.
    I can only send you much love and wish you a speedy recovery. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, I am happy to milk the sympathy at the moment : ) A prolapsed disc sounds dreadful, poor Mark. A good night’s sleep is truly essential, it might not be tonight as I feel very sore after a pummeling by the physio this afternoon but hopefully soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel your pain – literally, having done exactly the same thing a few years back. I had hoped never to hear the name ‘piriformis’ again because for months it was a swear word in this house. Like you, there is a fail-safe fund for things like physio, and I do hope you continue to make progress. I think it’s worse for people like you and I – always up and about, doing things, busy, keeping active.

    Oh, and a far more expensive solution we ended up resorting to when I was at my worst and could not sit down at all was to buy a standing desk. After much research I bought one from Flexispot and haven’t regretted it for one moment. I can adjust the height in millimetre increments for exactly how I feel whether sitting or standing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, sympathy and support is very welcome. The fact that you have recovered is good news for me too, although my physio is now slightly perplexed as things are not taking a usual route! Our son has a standing desk and is a big fan. I quite like working at the kitchen worktop as I can see the bird table (I’m easily distracted). I use different boxes and books to alter the height of my laptop!


      1. Recovered yes, with a ‘but’.
        This is now a weakness and relapses have happened. BUT, I know exactly what now triggers it and can catch the problem the moment it starts up again before it becomes severe. Once again, good luck.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Being aware of what our own bodies are doing is really important isn’t it. Well done for your learning. I am keeping a pain diary at the moment to try and help me track where problems are, while avoiding being hyper-sensitive to little niggles.


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