fatties in (back) pain
I’m a fatty and I’m in pain. Lower back pain, specifically.
The first time I noticed it was about 7 1/2 years ago. I was 21 and my mother had just died of cancer, four months after being diagnosed. It was a very aggressive type of cancer that was caught late–she underwent virtually no treatment; straight from diagnosis to hospice in under a month.
So, I attributed the lower back pain to stress and eventually it went away. But occasionally it would come back, making it difficult for me to stay in one position for long periods of time, or to bend over and pick something up off the ground. Usually it would go away. I tried to ignore it, or attribute it to stress, to avoid facing the possibility of the terror that I felt: what if my back pain is caused by being fat? I am an apple-shape with most of my weight carried viscerally—surely that was putting undue pressure on my lower back? I was terrified of getting the “lose weight, fatty” response from a doctor, and even more terrified that they might actually even be correct.
A couple years ago, some really heartbreaking stuff happened to me in grad school. Perhaps I will write about that at a later date, but suffice it to say I experienced sexual harassment by another student followed by a faculty/administrative system that just wanted to “handle” me so that nothing was ever resolved and I ended up having to take a class independent study because I was starting to have panic attacks at the prospect of walking into classrooms with particular students and professors.
I experienced the worst pain I have ever experienced when that was going on, and all in my lower back. It was to the point that I was trying not to cry sitting still in class for hours at a time. It loosened up a bit over the course of the rest of the year, but I was still having to go to school and work on campus on an almost-daily basis so I didn’t expect it to completely get better, after all, I again attributed it to stress.
And yes, I think stress was a factor. It just obviously was not the only factor, as you will see.
So anyway, for the past two years, the pain has cycled from a 10 to about a 2, from really inhibiting my mobillity to not having much of an effect at all. but it has been with me ever since. After a flare-up this summer, I finally began to feel like I had to go in and see someone. Even if they told me it was because I was fat, I am now well-researched and know myself—weight loss cannot be a healthy goal for me, so any doctor that says “lose weight and come back in the morning, fatty mc fatterson” isn’t going to have as devastating an impact on my emotional/mental health as it would have years ago.
I still put it off and put it off though, until I ran across the recommendation for this guy, a massage therapist specializing in permanent pain reduction, that I realized that maybe I didn’t have to go to a doctor, who may or may not know what to do with me besides meds/steroids/surgery anyway, after all. I made an appointment and saw him within a few weeks.
It turns out that I have something called “pelvic torsion.” The pelvic bone is/was rotated relative to my spine, causing all kinds of problems. Now it all made sense—why I could bend one way but not another, why it felt that one leg was shorter than the other, why sometimes certain positions sent me into excruciating pain. I’ve had a handful of appointments and already feel a MAJOR difference. I still have some pain but nowhere near what it used to be. My flexibility is returning, and I can feel my pelvis going back to normal.
In our most recent appointment, he discovered that my pelvis had been torqued for so long that my back muscles have responded and therefore one side of my back is shortened tightly and the other is stretched too far. He said now we will need to focus on fixing that because my pelvis is basically back in alignment now.
This is one of the reasons I get so angry about simplistic arguments about fatness causing health problems. My fatness caused my back pain to be way worse than it needed to be, but not because TEH FAT IZ BAD! rather because my fatness caused me to ignore it, try to deal with it, and be (really, legitimately) fearful of going to a doctor about it. Fatness is related to health problems, you will never see or hear me deny that. But this issue is WAY more complex than, “lose weight and it’ll all be fine.”
Because as it turns out, my weight probably has nothing to do with this back pain from a causal standpoint; yet social oppression as a fat person has everything to do with me suffering in silence for so long and not seeking help for it sooner. And rightly so—I’m not even berating myself for not going sooner. If I had gone to a doctor about it, she probably WOULD have said “lose weight and come back in the morning.” It’s too bad I didn’t find this massage therapist earlier is what’s too bad. And it’s too bad that I live in a culture that requires me to be so choosy about the care professionals I find due to their ongoing prejudice-caused maltreatment in the first place.