This week I heard verified on Radio 4 (must be true) something I already knew: most treatments for back pain are ineffective.
As I write, I am sitting at my desk with non-specific lower back pain. A hot water bottle is crushed between my spine and the chair.
The frequency with which I suffer back pain leads me to understand that I am essentially unevolved.
I’m pretty sure I’d be happier on all fours but it’s so dreadfully inconvenient and my workplace simply isn’t set up to accommodate it.
So, when back pain strikes, I have learnt to eschew the chiropractor, the osteopath and the McTimoney practitioner.
I book a deep tissue massage with Hayley and I put the kettle on.
I have written about my bulging disc before, but I have yet to write about hot water bottles.
I cannot believe this appalling omission from my oeuvre.
Because hot water bottles are a daily part of my life from October through to June.
My mother was a big fan of a hot water bottle. Any tummy aches and her prescription was a hot water bottle, bowl of alphabetti spaghetti (with grated cheese for added ‘goodness’) and an afternoon in front of ‘Crown Court’ or ‘The Sullivans.’
I loved being slightly unwell.
Settling back into the cushions, any gripes overwhelmed by the lava-like heat of the hot water bottle, I grew to love daytime TV.
These days, I only have to google a picture of Don Warrington or hear the twang of a Melbourne accent and any discomfort I have begins to ease. It’s Pavlovian.
At university, my hot water bottle proved multi functional.
One of the houses I lived in had all the usual features of student accommodation: dodgy boiler, potentially lethal gas cooker, and untreated damp.
The damp was prolific and its clammy tentacles spread to my bed sheets. My hot water bottle could transform them. Or at least a patch of them measuring 33cm x 22cm.
And, sometimes, that hot water bottle was better company and physically more satisfying in bed than any human heat source.
And when any given human heat source told me our relationship was over, I’d slump in front of the telly with my hottie and a packet of cream crackers and slowly, with the help of Ironside, my bruised heart would heal.
My close friends know how important a hot water bottle is to me. My oldest school friend keeps a floral, pig-shaped hot water bottle in her airing cupboard ready for my visits.
A few weeks ago, as I lay in the crisp elegance of her 400 thread count sheets, I felt a trickle of warm water.
It wasn’t me, I felt sure of that.
It was Piggy.
His rubber had perished and he was leaking everywhere.
Oh! The old, old story!
My work colleagues have seen me walking around the office either clutching my hottie or with it stuffed down the back of my trousers, depending on whether I am seeking comfort from it or pain relief.
One kind co-worker offered me one of those microwaveable heat bags filled with wheat.
“It’s so kind of you,” I said, “but they just don’t get hot enough for me.”
I live on the edge. I choose the most dangerous kind of hot water bottle there is.
I eschew the ribbed ones which diffuse the heat.
It’s not gentle heat I’m after.
I seek a blistering heat which will last for hours.
Ergo, the smooth hottie with no covering.
I’ve always liked those.
A word of caution however… Actually, two words of caution: Grandma’s Tartan.
Prolonged contact with a hot water bottle may lead to erythema ab igne, which comes from the Latin meaning ‘redness from fire’.
It’s an unsightly mottling of the skin often developed by older people as a result of their continued use of heat sources to relieve pain.
I developed it once, though I’m pleased to say, it did disappear within a couple of weeks.
These days I try not to abuse my hottie. Once a night is enough.