Susan is a dance teacher in her mid-30s who performs regularly. For years now, she’s lived in constant fear that her back will go out. She’s haunted by chronic low-level backaches, which flare up without warning every few months, turning into days-long bouts of excruciating pain.
Two years ago, on the day of a big recital, she could barely get out of bed. Her right side was spasming, and even tying her shoes was a challenge. She managed to muddle through the final dress rehearsals and the show itself while tanked up on benzodiazepines and pain medications. But as soon as she got home, she crawled into bed and stayed there for two weeks.
In the aftermath of that dreadful episode, Susan’s general practitioner prescribed more meds and referred her to an orthopedist, who suspected bulging disks with scoliosis. Convinced that her back was vulnerable and needed protecting, she started sleeping with pillows under her knees, carrying a special cushion in her car, and not lifting heavy objects. She went so far as to give up jogging and bike riding. She stared compulsively strengthening her core in an attempt to compensate, and warming up for hours before performances—much longer than any of the other dancers.
No matter how stringently she cared for it, however, her back never felt fully healed. She eventually went…