Essays & Confessions

This Is How Much My Back Injury Cost Me, Not Even Including Medical Treatment

By | Thursday, November 08, 2018

I injured my back in early July, and I still haven’t completely recovered. Two of the discs in my lower spine haven’t gone back into place despite four months of treatment and, while I’m not experiencing acute pain anymore, I’m not able to enjoy the activities I did pre-injury. I can’t do the high-intensity kickboxing classes I’ve been doing for two years with people who have become my friends, I can’t lift weights, and I can’t even do basic yoga classes. I am very lucky to have insurance completely covered by my employer, which meant I paid a small co-pay for the first three months of (ineffective) chiropractic treatment.

After that line of treatment didn’t work, I saw a different doctor (who doesn’t accept insurance) for a month. I just made the decision to stop seeing her since I can’t afford to anymore. I haven’t decided what to try next. I may not even try anything, since my efforts have not improved my body, and I am tired of emotionally and financially investing in treatments that leave me disappointed. The cost of chiropractic treatment is not cheap, even with insurance. But instead of turning this into a story about how much medical treatment can cost, I wanted to focus on the other costs that pop up when your body isn’t performing at full capacity. 

1. Medication 

I was in so much pain at one point that I couldn’t bend down to sit or get up again without my back spasming. I stood the whole time I was in a doctor’s office trying to convince them to prescribe me something stronger than Naproxen and burst into tears when the staff told me to sit down while I waited. Since I didn’t want to become addicted to painkillers, as is the fear of every medical professional I’ve seen in New York, I stocked up on Naproxen for when the pain subsided. Both chiropractors I saw suggested different supplements, in hopes they would indirectly target the inflammation.

Prescription anti-inflammatories: $7

Naproxen (x2): $10

Magnesium and Calcium (x2): $18

Curcumin (a natural anti-inflammatory) (x2): $100

Joint Ease supplements: $50

The total cost of medication: $185

2. Comfort Items 

Even though I have a huge collection of pills to take every day, the pain reappears every so often. I’ve been instructed to use ice, not heat (a fact I learned after I’d bought Icy Hot patches) on my back. I have made my own ice packs using freezer bags and ice cubes, but since I don’t want ice melting all over me at work, I’ve invested in a reusable cold compress. I also bought a back brace to support my lower back and to ease the pain I felt every time I moved.

Icy Hot Patches (x2): $18

Cold Compress: $15

Back Brace: $30

Bio-freeze: $16

Office Chair (paid for by work, but bought because of the injury): $160

Seat Cushions (also paid for by work): $45

Total I paid: $79

The total cost of comfort items: $284

3. Exercise 

I have been told I may never return to my kickboxing class, a thought so sad that I start crying every time I think about it. I hope to be able to do straight boxing (no kicking) again one day, but it doesn’t look good. One doctor told me that swimming is great for back injuries, so I signed up to the YMCA, bought a bathing suit, goggles, and a cap. I went five times. I don’t enjoy being close to small children jumping in the pool a few feet away from my face and the politics of deciding when to start your next lap when you’re sharing a lane with someone. I also dislike how my childhood swimming lessons are triggered by the smell of chlorine. My younger brother was much better at it than I was and I don’t like memories of feeling inadequate.

YMCA membership and sign-up fee: $230

Bathing suit: $24

Goggles: $11

Swimming cap: $9

The total cost of exercise: $274

4. Transport 

The most economical way to get around New York is obviously the subway, however, when you find walking, standing, and sitting painful, it’s justified to use Uber. Even when there are cars stopped behind you, honking, while you slowly move to the edge of the car as you get out.

Uber: $49

Total cost of transport: $49


Not including chiropractic or medical treatment, my back injury has cost $792 in four months. When you subtract the furniture work paid for, my personal cost is $587. While I am lucky and grateful, I had that money available to me when I needed it (I know many others wouldn’t have), it shows that medical treatment is only one part of being sick or injured. There are so many other things to do or try to make our bodies work again or to provide some level of comfort when you’re experiencing pain, and all of these things cost money.

Justine McNamara is a digital marketing professional living in New York. She has written extensively about music and travel since 2010, and wants to bring more creativity into her life. She enjoys concerts, book launches, and reading real stories about other women.

Image via Unsplash 

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