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A poorly tuned disc

Published October 08. 2011 09:01AM

Sometimes there's a communications gap when dealing with the younger generation.

"I think I have a bad disc," I said to the store clerk. She wasn't convinced.

"How do you know the disc is the cause of your problem," she asked. "It could very well be that your DVD player is bad."

"No, no," I said. "I'm referring to the disc in my back."

I was talking about a herniated disc. She was talking about Justin Bieber - a typical conversation between Methuselah and a teenybopper.

Some people say memory is first thing to go as we age. But it's actually the communications process.

The second thing to go is memory, and the third thing is the lower back.

Back pain is a common ailment.

According to doctors, 80 percent of people will report having lower back pain at some point in their lives. It is the most common cause of job-related disability, a leading reason for absence from work, and the second most common neurological ailment - only headaches are more common.

The tricky part of lower back pain is that it can mascarade as hip pain, leg pain or even shooting pain down the leg.

In other words, the pain might not manifest itself in your back at all, yet it's caused by those darn herniated discs.

It seems we automatically acquire these strange troubles when we hit 50.

"It's the L-5 S-1 disc," said the doctor. L-5? S-1? Those sound like Bingo numbers. But the only prize here is the realization that old age is slowly creeping in.

For many weeks, the disc problem affected my five-mile walking regimen. I gained eight pounds, mostly because I convinced myself that peanut butter cups would be medically helpful. Some people follow a cabbage diet. Others believe in low-carbs. My gut feeling was to turn to a peanut butter cup diet. It brings fast results - you actually gain weight daily.

Of course, virtually every physician says being overweight is the root cause of serious health issues - diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. So the peanut butter cups had to go.

As for my back, it healed on its own, but it took six months to get better. I'm now able to walk long distance again and I've already lost six of those eight pounds I'd gained. So I'm almost as good as new.

If you're older and have chronic back pain, get it checked. Back pain comes with age, but it helps to know what you're dealing with.

Actually, I wish someone would write a practical, easy-to-read book about the health issues we face as we grow older so that we boomers wouldn't need to find out this stuff by surprise. Somebody needs to write 'Aging for Dummies.'

In the meantime, we're learning the hard way. We start falling apart by age 50, just as the first AARP mailing arrives. By the time we reach 60, we've already figured out how to cope with all kinds of age-related infirmities.

If we're smart, we learn to be careful and to avoid overexerting ourselves. We learn that there are things we can do, and things we can't. Walking or jogging, for example, can be healthful exercise. But heavy lifting is a no-no.

If you're over 50, be careful.

Just to be on the safe side, don't hoist anything heavier than a Reese's cup.

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