guessing

No Bergman today. Tonight, instead of watching the unraveling of someone’s psyche onscreen, I’m going to get schwacked at a friend’s going-away party. Tomorrow you’ll be treated to my thoughts on either The Silence or Hour of the Wolf.

It occurred to me today, as a 250-pound man braced his weight against my shins and pushed my knees back over my head, that my physical therapist has no clue what’s wrong with me.

Really, not a clue. Every couple of weeks I go in, throw down my $45 and get electrodes attached to my back. Then he comes in and hauls me around on the table like a sack of flour. It hurts. It brings relief. It takes a day or two for my muscles to cramp up again and leave me bent over like an osteoarthritic old man.

I am given exercises to do and cautioned not to do them to excess. What’s excess? In this case, anything that aggravates my back. But movement of nearly any kind aggravates my back, so I push the exercises as far as I can, until a noticeable twinge stands out from the ambient background of pain. I’ve raised my baseline for tolerable pain considerably over the last six months.

For months now, I’ve been aware that no one knows precisely what the problem is with my back (there’s a very long waitlist for neurosurgeons here). I’ve managed to put that knowledge in the back of my brain and continue to wait for a date with the MRI. But today, the awareness suddenly hit me that these various specialists, these people whose job it is to align, realign, stretch, flex and mend my body have no idea, beyond a bit of guesswork, what has happened to my spine.

I could tell from the look on my therapist’s face. He was clearly thinking about something else the entire time – another patient, a utility bill, who knows – because he’d given up thinking about me. All he could really do was relieve my pain a bit with the electrodes and restore mobility and strength to my muscles. But he knew that no amount of this was going to straighten me up. Not even if I did the exercises like clockwork for the next ten years. I was thanking him for his help and he was already out the door, on to someone with a problem he could solve.

On the upside, it looks like I’ll be getting my neurosurgeon appointment before the end of the month. Which means I’m only a few weeks away from an MRI, a diagnosis and a decision. My acupuncturist actually told me the other day that he was ‘excited’ to have me as a patient, because my case was so exceptional and extreme. I carry a firm belief that the surgeon will tell me that I don’t need surgery, and that a steroid shot and a brisk walk each morning will take care of it. It’s fun to cling to because I suspect it’s utter bull, and that at some point I’m going to be lying face down on a table with my spine exposed. I only hope that the surgeon has something better than guesswork to go on.