An Unintentional Christmas Vacation

Christmas Models

I hope everyone had an absolutely wonderful holiday! We had a fantastic time with family, and Dino got some pretty sweet presents - including a Fleeceworks halfpad and a lovely soft finishing brush.

And Max got a new squeaky toy:


On the riding/training front, not a lot of either of those activities has been going on. I've finally kicked my awful cold and the weather's cleared up, but a few days ago my back went out, so I'm on the bench again. And now you, dear readers, get to learn about the human spine!

I have a condition called Degenerative Disc Disease, which sounds a lot scarier than it actually is. You can check out the link for a super in-depth article about it, or just read my Reader's Digest version.

In between the bony vertebrae of your spine, there are discs. Discs are squishy little blobs of cartilage and other fun stuff. You can think of them like a jelly donut. They help support, connect, stabilize, and cushion the bones of your spine and generally keep the spine doing its thang the way it's supposed to.

When a disc begins to degenerate, it loses its little jelly donut shape. That's when the fun begins! Since the disc is no longer doing its job, all hell breaks loose in the spine. Nerves that shouldn't be touched get touched, inflammation starts up, and sometimes your body will initiate muscle spasms in an attempt to put your spine back where it should be.

This results in severe pain in the back, hips, and legs. Nerve pain: the gift that keeps on giving.

Thankfully, my DDD doesn't cause any issues 95% of the time. But when a flare-up occurs, it's pretty debilitating. While I can generally do everything I normally do, it's at the speed of an 85-year-old grandma. And it hurts. A lot. I've never been repeatedly stabbed in the spine with a sharp, pointy object, but I like to think I've got a pretty good idea of what that feels like. Unfortunately, this kind of pain makes riding just about impossible.

And lifting water buckets, and throwing hay, and lunging, and even just turning out horses is a serious challenge.

The good thing about Degenerative Disc Disease is that it's not technically degenerative, nor is it really a disease. Because of the way the degeneration process works, the faulty disc actually slowly stiffens over time, reducing the movement and inflammation that cause pain. So by the time I'm 50, flare-ups should be rare. Yay!

And while there's not much one can do when a disc flare-up occurs, keeping fit and keeping the core muscles strong can go a long way to lessen and even eliminate the chronic pain that comes with DDD.

So, now you've had your human spine disease lesson of the day!


  1. As I read your little Reader's Digest on DDD, I was like "oh man this just gets worse and worse and worse..." but then you said your disc will get all hard and it won't be horrible so yay? Feel better soon!

  2. I feel you, man. I have arthritis in my spinal facet joints from L14-S1 & my neck no longer has any curvature at all; at 32 I couldn't pick up a pencil off the ground when it flared up like a beast. This is why Encore & I match -- I finally found an amazing ortho (the first one said, sorry, nothing I can do, deal with it....WTF?) who did 3 sets of injections (holy mother of nothing has ever hurt like that). And I got my life back. It's still there, but but at least I can manage it. Add in the lovely hole in my articular cartilage on top of my tibia from the Day To End All Days in May 2011, i.e. Solo & I meet an injurious fate & I have my own built in barometer.

    People who haven't felt it don't realize that kind of pain is LITERALLY debilitating. I remember standing outside my truck door & crying (i. do. not. cry. in. public. or about pain. ever.) for five minutes b/c I knew how bad it was going to hurt to climb in, but I had to go to the dr. I gritted my teeth through an XC lesson (oh that was sooo stupid & soooo painful & I can take a LOT of pain) & every time Solo barely touched the reins, my entire spine was a burning hot poker (I think horse people are kind of stubborn...LOL).

    All my sympathies, I truly know how awful it is. I've had days when I couldn't move, days when I couldn't sit down & put my office laptop on top of a bookshelf... I took so much ibuprofen to try & kick the inflammation that I finally had to stop after six months b/c it gave me heinous nosebleeds daily from the bloodthinner effect.

    An insanely good sports medicine body work guy (who has since quit, the bastard), PT, ortho, injections, chiro, all of it kept me mobile. I haven't been able to ANY of them due to having no money & thank cod the injections are hanging in there on their third year. Even acupuncture, despite my wizened little science skeptic heart, helped & keeping the stabilizer muscles supple & strong is awesome (DAMN YOU, BODY WORK GUY!). So if you have a chance, attack from all sides, and I hope it feels better soon!!

    1. This was, oddly, the most encouraging comment ever! Thank you so much for this... it is great to hear from someone who gets it! I also highly recommend the BoT back brace - lightly warming, very comfy. Doesn't completely kick the pain or anything but does help with the muscle tightness that comes with chronic pain!

  3. Chronic pain is the pits. I have had arthritis since I was 16 and while not as painful as disk stuff it is still wearing. I have been shadowing a spine surgeon and it has been fascinating to see all the areas pain manifests itself around the body depending on where the spine injury is. Hang in there girl!

    1. So young for arthritis! It's true - being in pain is exhausting. Thanks for sharing your chronic pain story. :)

  4. yikes - that back condition sounds pretty awful :( hope you feel better soon!! and at least that's good news that it'll eventually get better and not worse...

  5. My husband suffers from excruciating lower back pain. He doesn't suffer from an issue with the disks, in fact doctors can't really tell what he's suffering from. Heat does help, as well as staying marginally mobile. I bought him a seat warmer for the truck for Christmas, as the heat helps his back after a long day standing in the OR.

    1. I feel his pain! I hope eventually he can find out what's causing his back issues and get some treatment. It's no fun, as you know!


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