July 15, 2009

Back Problems

Need I say more?
This is the position I am USUALLY in at the wheel... Doesn't matter what I do I am bent over like this... Honestly...

Well... that is all going to have to change because on Friday I ended up FLAT (and I do mean FLAT) on my back on the studio floor... I woke up early and wondered in and was removing work from the kiln... not heavy stuff.... until I lifted a full shelf...felt pain, quickly put it down and started heading back to my bed...SEVERE Pain... It took over me... I tried to sit in my chair... still felt overwhelmed by pain.... got to the floor and thought I was going to toss my cookies and/or pass out.

Remember... I birthed 2 babies so I understand pain but... I'm telling you... I seriously didn't know what would happen next.

So... I'm on the floor using every bit of strength to wake up my 9 year old who was the only one home, asleep in his bed... I think my scream sounded more like a BARK! But he was phenomenal. I told him "If Mommy passes out, call Daddy. If you can't get Daddy, call 911...".
It never had to happen thank goodness!

I had him bring me some clothes (because in the moments between the pain, I had decided if I was going to be rushed to a hospital or DIE... I needed proper clothes on, not a sleep night shirt... )and he helped me get dressed. Needless to say, I'm sure he is scarred for life...

Then I managed to eventually sort of get up to this chair with wheels and he helped/pushed me to the nearest bed(my studio is actually on the second floor of our home). He continued to be the best helper... bringing me everything...
Boy, I was feelin' the LOVE! BUT, I was still in so much pain.

I later got in to see an acupucturist and she was extremely helpful... but getting down stair and out the door and into my car was crazy... My husband had returned home and was very helpful...
The acupuncture definitely helped and over time that day, I appeared to improve..
I went back the next day and she had me have a 30 minute massage before the acupuncture. I feel all of this definitely sped up the healing process.

In the days that followed I improved. It seems the soreness gets worse as the day goes on. I am just taking Ibuprofen and Naproxen as needed....oh... and a little WINE...at the end of the day/night. Heating pad stuff helps...ice too...
I am calling to get more acupuncture though...before I leave...

In the midst of this I need to to pack up my kids for almost 3 weeks of overnight camp... they leave tomorrow and Sunday I am headed to "CAMP" too... I am going to take Chris Gustin's The Architecture of the Pot Workshop which I have been SO excited to do... and now... I am worried... Throwing is going to be different...

I have already decided to raise my wheel and bought extension legs that should be on their way...

so that I can learn to throw standing up...
I am really hoping I can do it!
Any advice is appreciated!

I have already checked out Kristen Kieffer's Blogpost on this...after taking her workshop last summer when she talked about it, I should have seen that it was just a matter of time... She refers to John Glick who wrote several articles on this... I am just hoping I can figure it all out...
I will need to move some things around in my studio... which is doable... but I will need help...
Lifting 50 lb bags of clay and chemicals may not be so smart right now.....

So... I will move forward and be thankful that I am HERE to worry about such problems...
It beats the alternative!


  1. Yikes Judi! I see the position you're in to trim that pot and there's no other way to do it! The only thing I can think of is to keep up a regular schedule of chiropatric and/or massage/yoga to keep these problems at bay. That is, deal with them before they happen! It sounds like throwing standing up is the way to go. Good luck!

  2. Woo! I can relate. Makes me sweat reading about it. Best Wishes toward recovery.

  3. Owch! I've spent quite a bit of time throwing standing up for basically the same reasons. It's off and on though. Throwing large seems to be the most difficult and unfortunatly that's what we like to do. I'm looking at putting my wheel on a hydrolic motorcycle lift so I can easily reposition the wheel head's hight.
    By the way you 9 year old is a trooper, my kids just laughed and danced around me last time I was stuck on the floor.

  4. gingergirl11:28 AM

    I have found someone wonderful for the massage part (very deep tissue with heat and something called Biofreeze when I am done). Leaning over and lifting is the worst. Leaning over to open a stuck window was the ultimate in, Oh God, what did I do!!!! I hope you feel better, and remember, ice is best when dealing with inflammation!

  5. Hi Judi, I have severe back problems from years of landscaping. All I can advise is to please do everything you can to minimize all lifting from now on. Lifting while leaning over and also lifting while turning are the worst. I use an ice pack immediately after I hurt my back each time and I sleep with a pillow between my knees which seems to help. Good luck with the throwing standing up. My friend came over one day and tried it for the first time and he didn't think it was too bad. Hope you're feeling much better.

  6. Hi Judy, Back pain is scary. It can leave you completely helpless. When I get to the point where I'm on the floor, I can't move, I can't be moved, tears running down my face and the pain won't go away.. there is only one thing that helps me. A muscle relaxer called Flexeril. For most everything I am a naturalist. I treat my health issues with teas, herbs, exercise and other natural things. So you know it hurts like a SOB when I get a script for Flexeril and take Advil. The muscles and nerves usually let go after a couple days. But you still have to take it easy for a week or so.

    I'm really sorry your going through this. Timing sucks with your workshop coming up :(

    I'll be sending prayers your way.


  7. Glick's articles are great. Throwing while standing is not hard to get used to. I did it for years before I got my treadle wheel, and more than likely someday I'll go back to it.
    One great thing about it is that you can step back and look at the pot so you don't have to crane way over like you are in that picture. I put my foot pedal up on the table and control it with my hand, so I'm not all propped up with weight on one foot.
    See this post of Tom Gray


    His Brent wheel is sitting sideways on blocks in a big Rubbermaid tank. You can see his footpedal on a board just under his right elbow. This is the setup I used. The Rubbermaid tank is like a huge splash pan, trimmings catcher. You have to get it up on blocks too to get the height just right. And a fatigue mat is nice to stand on.

    If you are interested in knowing more about this shoot me an email.

    Rest up and heal up before you get back to it.

  8. Hi Judy,
    I know EXACTLY what you experienced, and hope your recover quickly. So glad you are going to be a standing convert. You can figure it out. Learning to stand just requires re-orienting how you stabilize and just takes practice. I highly recommend a back rest like John's. If you don't remember, I mentioned in our workshop that I have a place for my left foot that matches the footing for my right, so that both feet are at the same angle, keeping my hips straight. Maybe I'll do another post on all this and photograph everything a little more. I've heard several back pain stories in the last month.
    Best wishes, Kristen

  9. so sorry. been there myself....2 hours of crying in the chiros office..back spasms are like nothing else in this world.
    my 2 cents would be to continue your treatment and then move slowly and mindfully around the shop...especially avoiding twisting. i also have a huge back vibrator that helps to loosen things up. i can go for months now without any noticeable issues which is great. also having faith that you will be pain free again..best wishes.

  10. Wow. What a scary ordeal. Glad to hear the acupuncture is helping. Hope you heal quickly.

  11. You guys are the greatest... and I have to say, I have never received so many comment in such a short period of time after posting... evidently the situation is running rampant particularly among potters...
    Make me wonder why EVERYONE wouldn't learn to throw standing up!!!

  12. Anonymous9:09 PM

    Magic two words: PHYSICAL THERAPY. (If you have the insurance to pay for it!) I just completed a set a few months back for back strain, and I can feel the difference to the tension that was there before. It can often be more like torture when they're doing some of the muscle manipulation, but the results are way superior and longer lasting than the chiropracty and acupuncture I tried before that. (I still do some of those occasionaly!)

  13. Oh Judi, I can't even imagine - actually I'm too scared to!

    My sil had back pain so bad one day all she could do was scream. Her other half had to call for an ambulance and they injected her with some pain relief. I think she thought she was going to die too.

    When I had spasms in my back I kind of wailed and laughed at the same time! So obviously the pain was not on the same level!! (I have no idea why it made me laugh!) But I do worry that I will have major problems once I start throwing, because my neck and shoulders get so tense and painful just from coiling!

    I definitely think regular treatments is the way to go. Hope you feel much better soon.

  14. Damn Judi that's pretty scary, hope you have a quick yet thorough recovery.
    When you make the transition to standing and if you find yourself still bending over your pots to get a good sight line maybe try rigging up a mirror so you can keep yourself straight and still maintain that hands on view.

  15. Ciao judi,if you can, go to swim in the pool, this with acupuncture therapy has helped a lot my wife. Coraggio!

  16. Anonymous9:19 AM

    this is all very scary to me judi... i sometimes think i should switch to throwing standing up to head it off at the pass but it never seems the right time, of course, if i was laying on my back, i'd probably kick myself for not doing it. i hope you heal quickly and that the standing throwing thing works out for you.

  17. Hey Judi - I hope today finds you better, much better... I also have extension legs on my wheel and throw perched on a sit-stand stool. Recently I brought my old wheel into the studio too and it's not elevated. I use them both, but find that I prefer my elevated set-up.

  18. just one word...OSTEOPATH! and another...FAST!

  19. Hey Judi, I just posted those pics of my wheel set up you wanted. It's up on cinder blocks and I bolted a little butt rest to the wall. Here's the blog post: http://blog.mudstuffing.com/

  20. judi,
    if standing up throwing doesn't work, you can elevate your wheel and get a taller stool. I do this and it makes me not have to bend my back at all, the wheel is at my waist, back is straight and arms are at 90 degree angle. i love it. i think my wheel is elevated off the ground 11 inches on cinder blocks and i bought an adjustable shimpo stool.

    good luck and hope you feel better!

  21. Well, that's a warning to me. I just came back to throwing after nine or more years away. I last threw regularly twenty years ago...
    And the first thing that happened after the great feeling of turning a lump of mud into a pot, was that grumbling pain, slow movements and stiff back the following day.
    I'm working my way back into throwing and turning, and thinking of ways to minimise the damage. Lifting the wheel, yes, but here's another. Way back, oh 1979, it would be, I worked in Iceland. We had an inventive boss, and one of his better ideas was using an anglepoise lamp arm and removing the light, replacing it with a board holding a mirror (about 9"X18"). This could be set in such a position that it gave a good profile view of the pot on the wheel, and after a while, you can throw and turn without that bad sideways bend.
    The other thing I've seen used, and intend to try, is a motorcyclist's back support belt. They have exactly the same posture problem.
    Otherwise, I suppose I should start a routine of back exercises, try build up that support which has abandoned me over the years of not throwing.
    Standing throwing, with a back support fixed to a wall might help, but I like to sit and lean.


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