Written in Kansas City, May 19, 2024.

In 2022, with only 18 days to my departure to walk the Portuguese Coastal route of the Camino de Santiago, my 3rd journey on the Camino, I mused in a post, “Is it an Adventure?” . I concluded that “Adventures are things typically out of the ordinary. They present aspects of risk, challenge, and uncertainty.” Adventures are defined by the abilities of the participant. A walk to the mailbox is hardly an adventure for most people, but the term certainly qualified in the context of my 100+ year old father-in-law, may he rest in peace.

Again, I find myself looking to the future with 18 days to departure for my 4th Camino and I am confronted with the same question. At 500+ miles this is a longer Camino, I will be gone 6 weeks, and I will be accompanied by and responsible for Britton, my 15-year-old grandson. In my mind each of those factors qualifies this as an “adventure”.

However, l am not a stranger to long trips in Spain, this will be my 4th journey on the Camino, and Britton is a kind, thoughtful and delightful companion. Yes, it will be an interpersonal “adventure” for both of us, but…

What makes the coming journey really an adventure is a difficulty that is of fairly recent origin. About 6 months ago I began experiencing discomfort and stiffness upon waking in the morning. It was across my lower back and radiated down my right leg. Tylenol, and 30 minutes of yoga/stretching and I was good for the day.

Unfortunately, the problem has persisted and increased to the point that a couple of weeks ago I sought out a chiropractor that accepted Medicare. A few adjustments coupled with therapeutic massage sessions have been helpful, but no cure.

Last week I visited an orthopedic surgeon and the University of Kansas Medical Center. “I wish you had given me more than 3 weeks!” was his initial remark. (You and me both!)

He and previously the Chiropractor gave me a list of descriptors to describe the pain. 8-9 on a scale of 10 upon rising out of bed… burning, aching, stabbing, throbbing… “Yep, that pretty much describes it.” says I. X-rays were ordered and the results not encouraging:

Severe degenerative disc disease with mild retrolisthesis at L5-S1. No instability between flexion and extension. Severe lower lumbar facet arthropathy.

The doctor recommended that I continue working with the Chiropractor and Massage Therapist, continue the stretching/yoga, and he prescribed a much stronger NSAID to replace the Ibuprofen and Tylenol that I had been using. He also prescribed a course of oral steroids to reduce inflammation. We are scheduled to meet again the morning after I return from Spain.

In the meantime, once I loosen up the pain is down to a “3” and manageable. Walking is actually good for this condition. Whether or not this much walking is “therapeutic” remains to be seen.

Yes, this will be an adventure. I may arrange periodic transport of my pack and perhaps resort to the occasional transport of my person. But it will definitely be an adventure in ways that I wish it were not.

Hell, aging is an adventure, and as I am learning not for the faint of heart.

Peace Everyone, and Buen Camino! Pete

30 thoughts on “Pain

  1. Pete, be careful with high dose INSAIDs. I had a doctor put me on them for Bone Spurs and Arthritis in my neck. Resulted in Acute Membranous Neuropathy. Almost lost my Kidneys. Watch out for foamy urine and swelling in lower legs and ankles, signs of kidney malfunction.
    It took almost a year after stopping for my Kidneys to return to normal. I once heard that doctors are only required to take one pharmacy course.
    Glad to hear you’re pushing forward with your adventure. Looking forward to your posts as once again you are my planned vacation for this summer.
    Peace, Bill.

  2. Bobbi Haskins says:

    Hi Peter,
    I hope your pain behaves itself at least for the duration of your trip. All the best for a longer term solution too. I know you and grandson will have a marvelous time; he’s lucky to have you in his life (and apparently you’re lucky to have him in yours…what a blessing!).

  3. Mike Vermillion says:

    Most of my hiking over the past 29 years has involved pain… resulting in knee replacements ,shoulder replacement, back laminectomy and plantar fasciitis… etc etc. Hiking the Appalachian Trail as well as the Camino with you in ’13…and will continue the adventures as I know you will… pain be damned
    Rock on… Mike

      • Leslie High says:

        Pete, For my compressed lower back, sciatica & soon to be hip replacement, I never went on a European trip without a supply of SalonPas patches (prescription strength), Biofreeze and Tylenol (No NSAIDS for me). However, I’ve been seeing St Luke’s Plaza Outpatient PT and 85lbs of traction on my back has been a miracle for nearly eliminating all lower back pain & sciatica! (This is after using my beloved chiropractor & Ortho surgeon previously.)
        I would highly recommend the traction before your trip!
        Looking forward to your adventures. We spent 6 weeks in Portugal last year and hope to visit Spain this year.

  4. Well, dang! Living in a 72 year old body is a challenge in the best of times!! This I, too, have experienced. I pray that you are able to have this amazing adventure with Britton and that you are able to manage the pain. Take care and safe travels.

  5. My husband ( with the benign hand tremors) and I are both 73… new hip, new knees, new shoulders…getting old is just such a surprise! But the alternative is gonna be interesting too… meanwhile life moves on, faster and faster and that is SO COOL to me that you are Camino-ing it again! You do the Camino how YOU need to, there is no “one way” on The Way! Send your stuff ahead! Take a taxi! Rest an extra day! Just enjoy!!
    (I will be praying for you two!)

  6. Max Harrison says:

    As we age the nuts and bolts that hold us together seem to rust and fall off. Your strength from all your hiking must play a part in keeping you going and will continue to do so. You will still have the trip of a lifetime and especially for your grandson- something that will inspire you both for the rest of your days. Try a tube of Voltaren..a topical anti inflamitory. It works great for my lower spine (L-4) and my arthritic neck and fingers. A quick relief fix you can take with you. Peace my friend!

  7. Randy Robinson says:

    So sorry to hear of your pain. Obviously, you are not one to complain. I wish you an adventure that takes away the discomfort and brings you only joy.

  8. Peter Tremain says:

    Life is an adventure whether on the Camino de Santiago or the streets of Kansas City. By definition, there is no knowing what will happen in the future, but your strength of will and determination as well as preparation bodes well for this journey. I am among those in your corner lobbying the universe on behalf of both of you as you travel.

  9. Off you go again. This time deeper into the world of old-itis. I wish you and your grandson a calm grand hike with no drama and exceptional peace.

  10. Pam Roberts says:

    Pete, I agree that at our age our bodies have taken a toll. As you know I had a hip replacement last year and I am doing fine. Of course there are minor things which goes with being a year closer to 80. A couple of your friends had mentioned having physical therapy with traction which I had on my back prior to the hip replacement and I must say it helped a lot.

    Hope you get to enjoy your Camino with your grandson.

  11. Liz Stevens says:

    Pete – OF COURSE this has to happen just before you go! On the other hand – thank heavens it did so you have time to do something about it. You have gotten many suggestions – I too worry about a lot of Nsaids… and have used the Salonpas. Always good to check up with a Pharmacist before you leave – as they know the meds and the side effects hands down (as far as using other ointments and such WITH saids). Plus if you wind up getting a hotel room – always look at the tub size BEFORE you accept the room. As I have had a “tub” that I could barely sit in. This trip – however long/short it is will be just what you and Britton will need. Having been the reason for shortening/ending trips or sending my bag or person ahead … the only “shame” I ever got was self-induced (by that evil voice that says you SHOULD be able to ….). This trip is a gift – for both of you and I hope you can have that be the theme. Stay groovy my friend!
    p.s. We just got back from our Viking river cruise – yowza – so much fun!!

    • Hello Liz! I was wondering when I might hear from you! I always look forward to your comments and only wish that they were delivered in person by you and Frank. Thank you so much for the encouragement and positive vibes of love. Love from both of us to both of you.

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