By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
I threw my back out, but the garbageman wouldn’t take it. I don’t blame him. When it comes to sore backs, I bow to no man. And if I tried, I wouldn’t be able to straighten up.
That’s what happened recently when I bent over (and not even backward) in an effort to be useful around the house. I’d just had lunch and figured I would be a good guy and do the dishes. So I opened the cabinet under the sink to get some dishwashing liquid. As I reached for it, I felt something -- possibly the insertion of a hot fireplace poker -- in my lower back.
I tried to stand erect but remained at a 45-degree angle, which I know was correct because I had haunting flashbacks to my high school geometry class. When I finally stood up straight, my throat emitted a blast not unlike that of a foghorn, which was appropriate since I’m usually in a fog.
Thus began a stretch in which I couldn’t stretch -- or sit, or stand, or walk -- without experiencing the kind of pain normally associated with childbirth or having the mortgage payment extracted from your checkbook without Novocain.
So I saw a chiropractor.
“You overstepped your kindness,” said Dr. Gary DiBenedetto of North Shore Chiropractic in Port Jefferson Station, N.Y. “This is what happens when you try to be useful around the house.”
DiBenedetto should know: He once threw his back out trying to repair his car.
“I was wrestling with some rusted bolts,” he recalled. “I got up and felt like my spine had been ripped out.”
“I’m rusty myself,” I said, “so I let a mechanic work on my car.”
DiBenedetto also remembered the time he hurt his back by jumping off the top of a mountain.
“I went to Haiti with my son on a relief mission after the 2010 earthquake,” he said. “We walked through the jungle with our volunteer group on something called the Waterfall Challenge and came to a rock ledge. It was a 30-foot drop into a waterfall. My son, who was 15 at the time, kept saying, ‘Go, Dad, go!’ So I jumped, but not straight. My butt hit the water. You don’t realize how hard water is until you land on it. I blew out my back. Here’s my professional advice: Never jump into a waterfall.”
In his 22 years in practice, DiBenedetto, 45, has heard it all.
“One guy hesitated before telling me that he hurt his back when he was in an unusual position with his wife,” he related. “I said, ‘I don’t need to know the details, but now you know what not to do next time.’ I see some crazy stuff.”
Bending over to get dishwashing liquid ranks right up there, said DiBenedetto, who put me on an adjustable table and gave me an exam.
“You have a ridge on your left side that’s higher than the right, which makes one leg shorter than the other,” he said. “That can put stress on your lower back.”
“I think the only thing that works for back pain is beer,” I said.
“Alcohol is a muscle relaxant, so you may be right,” said DiBenedetto, adding that only about 20 percent of his patients have back problems. “Many people have neck pain,” he said.
“I’m a pain in everyone’s neck,” I noted.
“I can see that,” the good doctor said with a smile. “Nerves also give people trouble, so I guess you have a lot of nerve coming here.”
Because my back felt better the day of my appointment, DiBenedetto didn’t crack it. But he did give me a brief education in chiropractic medicine. I came away from my first visit to a chiropractor with great respect for the profession.
“If you get hurt doing the dishes again, I’ll be here,” DiBenedetto said.
“Thanks, doc,” I replied. “It’s good to know you’ve got my back.”
Copyright 2012 by Jerry Zezima