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Avoiding Rollercoasters… A Cautionary Tale.

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This is the sort of thing that caught me out.

Two weeks ago we took my partner’s kids on a fun day out to an amusement park. While I’m fully aware that my back has chronic problems (2 crumbling, fusing discs for example) and that I need to protect it, I honestly thought that as long as I avoided the enormous rollercoasters (the ones that loop-the-loop backwards and forwards and have huge swooping dives etc) I’d be okay, as I was feeling great at the time: I ride daily, carry bales of hay and lug tubtrugs full of manure around, and hadn’t had a twinge for ages.

There was a new rollercoaster there rather like the one in the picture, with curved switchbacks. We stood and watch quite a few of the individual cars go around and it looked pretty tame. They seemed to be just trundling, not zooming, into the corners. It just had a lap-bar, not shoulder harnesses, which I thought nothing of at the time.
It felt faster than I’d expected, but I was jammed in next to 1 of the kids so wasn’t sliding back and forth much, and didn’t feel any whiplash.  We went on a different one later, again quite a minor one (or so I thought), it pulled a few Gs through the swoopy corners but I didn’t feel sick at all, or any twinges.  That evening I still felt fine.

I woke up the next morning… O.M.G.

I couldn’t move. My waist area was complete agony, I felt as if I’d been sawn in half and shoved back together again, then secured randomly with duct tape, with stabbing pains (as if someone was shoving a knife in) every time I moved. My usual reliable heavyduty painkillers (Naproxen and Tramacet) didn’t touch it. Ditto Voltarol and heat pads. A long soak in a very hot bath was the only thing that helped a little.

This went on for three days. I couldn’t sit up in bed, I had to roll over in a foetal position and let myself drop to the floor, then gradually try to stand up. I couldn’t straighten fully, and was walking (hobbling?) around like a crone. Every time my foot touched the ground, I got shooting pains in my back. Usually I can touch my toes without a problem… but I was reduced to struggling to get dressed in the morning!

I was in a proper mess. My lovely boyfriend and livery had to do all my usual jobs – because poo-picking the fields twice daily for 5 horses was impossible, as I couldn’t lift anything. I tried riding a couple of times and it was ridiculous – any more than a walk was agonising, and I had to dismount at the mounting block (which has NEVER been necessary before!) as I just couldn’t face the jolt of landing from 16h up. My core muscles seemed to have been totally shot to pieces. Even reaching a hand up to scratch my neck sent searing pain diagonally across my back. It’s unbelievable the damage you can do without realising.

It took 4 days for the pain to finally ease off… a high price to pay for a few minutes of ‘fun’!

9 days later, still not feeling right, I went to see my McTimoney Chiropractor, fully expecting to get a sound telling off for being so daft, but in fact he was very sympathetic, having, he said, been caught out in exactly the same way himself, going on what looked like a tame little rollercoaster, and realising too late that it was nothing of the sort!

I took a lot of straightening, but the next day I felt immeasurably better. I tried riding again – JOY! No pain at all! Daisy jiggled and joggled in glee at finally getting out again (she couldn’t work out the totally unscheduled week off) and I didn’t even get a twinge. Phew. Finally.

I chatted with a few other friends about this, some of whom have also been caught out, and the general concensus seems to be that rollercoasters with a harness that goes over your shoulders definitely lock you in position far better than the ones with the lap-bar, no matter what the rollercoaster does. Makes sense I guess… lesson learnt!
It took 12 days for me to be able to ride without pain. I can safely say that I am NEVER going on one again, I will happily stand and take photos. Being able to function, and ride, is more important! For anyone with back problems contemplating a ‘fun’ ride on a rollercoaster, it’s worth paying attention to the way you’ll be fixed in the ride… it might make a big difference!

Royalty free image by Dreamstime.com

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