September 25, 2012

K.I.S.S. ("Keep It Simple, Stupid"): Good Advice when Dealing with a Bad Lawn OR a Bad Back

Here's my backyard oasis today:

And here's the pathetic patch of lawn (?) that remains:

I've been struggling for years to make grass take hold here. It's a shady spot. The soil is poor and compacted. I tried a moss lawn for a couple years, but that didn't work. Then every spring and fall, I'd try seed starter, seed, fertilizing, aerating, watering... the works. Not much success. This fall, I planned to have it all dug up and reseeded, hoping that starting over might work.

Then Bill Eck, my Bartlett Tree Expert rep, suggested I contact Bill Patton, who runs Turf Center Lawns.  He stopped by last week and -- after looking at my miserable little patch of lawn -- made these recommendations:
  • Get some hard fescue grass seed (best for shade) and spread it thinly so the seeds don't touch.
  • Rake it in.
  • Water thoroughly.
What I really liked was his "Do Not" list:
  • Don't fertilize. (But he does recommend using fertilizer to get rid of moss.)
  • Don't water except when seeding.
  • Don't mow except when the grass gets very high.
  • Don't mow in the hot weather. (Hooray!!)
  • Don't bother aerating.
If I do the seeding now, I should repeat it in mid-October.

In the future, I should seed in:
  • Early April
  • Mid May
  • Mid June
  • Late August
  • Mid September
  • Mid October
That's it. I hate to think of the money I've spent over the years on fertilizers and other products sold to jump start a lawn. When I had big lawns, pushing a mower around every week or two during Washington summers wasn't much fun, either.

How much quieter the neighborhood would be in July and August if everyone followed Bill's advice not to mow in hot weather! Of course, the lawn care companies wouldn't be very happy.

K.I.S.S. and My Aching Back
During this morning's meditation hour, I was thinking about the back pain flareup I've been experiencing this week. I wondered if the "Keep It Simple, Stupid" slogan might also apply to dealing with the low back pain I've had for over a year.

That pain started when I fractured the L-1 vertebra in my car crash last August. My doc told me to expect the pain to persist until the vertebra healed, which would take about four months. The vertebra healed, but the pain persisted in exactly the same spot. Then my back doctor, after re-examining the X-rays, attributed the discomfort to osteoarthritis.

I signed up for physical therapy at the back doctor's satellite office, but didn't see any benefit. I saw the physical therapist who has worked miracles on other back problems I had in the past. The exercises helped my general back pain, but not the sharp pain coming from this new "hot spot."

Then I went to a doctor at the pain center at Sibley Hospital. He gave me steroid shots he said usually helped about 85 percent of people with osteoarthritis. They didn't help me. Then he injected pain-relief meds directly into the hot spot. That didn't work. Next up was a prescription pain-relief patch. Nope.

A wellness center opened in my neighborhood, and I decided to try acupuncture there. They also had an introductory offer for reiki. I did both for about a month. They were pleasant and relaxing, but the pain persisted.

Next was massage. Same result -- pleasant and relaxing, but that's all.

Finally, I've been seeing a chiropractor for the past few months. I felt some relief at first (or thought I did), but the pain remains. The increased pain this past week began the night after the chiropractor had been especially aggressive in shoving my neck around.

So, during this morning's meditation, it occurred to me that this back pain history seemed similar to my struggle with the back lawn. Maybe I should forget about all these fancy extras and get back to K.I.S.S. basics. I know from my blog-related medical research that for every ailment I check, the two top recommendations invariably are diet and exercise.

The most relief I've gotten  this past year has come from 1) taking the curcumin supplement I started this spring, and 2) using my meditation hour to just sit with the pain. Though I've tried lots of "alternative" tactics, I haven't used my exercise bike or simply "walked through the pain," my back doctor's recommendation from the start.

So, maybe it's time for K.I.S.S. here, too. Writers are often reminded that "less is more." Maybe that maxim applies to back pain therapy, too. Eat wisely and get back on the exercise bike. Lose some weight. Take more walks while this gorgeous fall weather lasts. And continue the work I've just started with a local rehab center's physical therapist to strengthen core muscles.

The trouble is -- this plan requires harder work than simply taking a pain pill, or getting an injection, or having a masseuse or chiropractor work on me.

1 comment:

Tiffani Villagomez said...

I am with you a hundred percent on this, John.Taking pain killers is a form of superficial quick fix. It might take away the pain for a while, but the problem the pain still lingers in the long run. Working with your therapist is great, but only you can help yourself achieve your goals to fight back pain.

Tiffani Villagomez

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