I close my eyes and try to breathe deeply. I can’t. I gasp and gulp. I wince and worry. I can feel my face tighten under the strain and pressure. The furrows of my forehead deepen with each attempt to inhale. I hold my breath, instinctively I guess, hoping that the pressure will somehow subside. It doesn't It’s getting worse. I roll onto my back for relief. Better? No. Right side? No. Left again? No. Stomach? Oh gawd, hell no!
I roll back to my right side, my favorite sleeping position, and I focus. I can do this. I can calm the rising panic and simply breathe easily. Eyes closed gently, forehead relaxed through sheer will power. Floating into my happy place. I’m shallow breathing on purpose like I’m trying to grab the reins of a wild horse. If I can just seize control over the lizard part of my brain then I can slowly increase the depth and quality. I have it, I think. I pull in the cold, fresh air pouring from the whirling fan perched in the open window. Ach! I stutter – I clinch – I gasp.
The muscles on my back that encase my rib cage have clamped down tighter than a dog on a gravy covered bone. Their jaws are locked down and they refuse to loosen their death grip on my ribs. My breathing is short and choppy. My fussing hasn't gone unnoticed and so the dogs are up now and Alex is stirring. I can’t bear it and the only thing I can think of to relieve the pressure is a hot shower. Probably not the best idea but it’s always been a default cure-all for whatever ails me. With her help I manage to shuffle myself into the shower and stay there until the water runs cold.
Now? Now what? Several days later and the pressure is still there but significantly better. Merely a reminder now that my body is telling me something isn't right and I need to fix it. Finding the source of back muscle pain is nearly impossible. It basically breaks down to two options: Strain due to overuse or injury. I didn't injure it, recently. So overuse then. My constant bike riding is most likely the culprit but since I am loathe to stop or alter that in any way I will begin building and strengthening other parts of my body so that my back doesn't have to bear all the strain. I’ll start with my core.