In 2004, I was having a complicated oral surgery. It required general anesthesia and it would be my first time in an operating room. As a writer, I always keep an eye out for such unique observation opportunities, no matter what the situation. Therefore, I was a bit excited about what I was about to experience, and because I had a lot of faith in the doctor, I wasn’t worried about the outcome. Ironically, health-wise, my biggest concern at the time was an electric-cord sensation going down my leg. That turned out to be the first time I can recall experiencing the symptoms of sciatica. They would continue to progress; and in a dozen years, I’d be going to the same hospital as I had for my tooth only this time to be operated on for the pain that moved from my hip to my knee to my ankle. It was sometimes dull, but mostly sharp, and always there in one form or another.
There was no position that I could get in that would give me relief, not even in my zero-gravity chair that at one time had been so comfortable. Most times, when there is a herniated disc compressing a nerve, it will heal with rest and physical therapy. But that didn’t work for me. I wound up at a pain-management doctor and got a drug cocktail that gave me a reprieve from my discomfort until I finally had to have a spinal epidural – which was supposed to cure me. But it only worked for a few days, and then I had to start taking opioids. Fortunately, I did not get addicted to them, but they didn’t help much either.
Surgery is rare, but it was necessary for me because of a confluence of events that included tight hamstrings, pulling on my lower back, and a whole lot of sitting behind a computer and a wheel without my doing any stretching in between. In short, my tight muscles worked against me. Now I stretch my hamstrings each morning except on Sundays, giving myself one day of rest. I go through a weekly routine of stretching and doing core exercises. Actually, I am always stretching during various times of the day, trying my best to counteract the effects of keeping any part of my body in one position for too long.
As a writer, sitting is a big part of the job and I never used to think about ergonomics. Now I think about it all the time. I bought a desk that moves up and down. I stood most of the time as I worked on Don’t Remember after the operation. Now that I’ve healed, I vacillate between sitting and standing as I work on my third novel, Sum Lives, making a most valiant attempt to assure I don’t get another bout of sciatica in the process.