I like the word hiatus. I like the feel of it, the sound of it, the shape of it. To my ears it is full, round, smooth but pregnant with meaning. But what does it mean? 

Hiatus: noun

hiatus (countable and uncountableplural hiatus or hiatuses)

  1. A gap in a series, making it incomplete.
  2. An interruption, break or pause.
  3. An unexpected break from work.
  4. (geology) A gap in geological strata. 
  5. (anatomy) An opening in an organ.
  6. (linguistics, uncountable) A syllable break between two vowels, without an intervening consonant.


Where does it come from? 

Hiatus: noun

1560s, “break or opening” in a material object, especially in anatomy, from Latin hiatus “opening, aperture, rupture, gap,” from past participle stem of hiare “to gape, stand open,” from PIE root *ghieh- “to yawn, gape, be wide open.” Sense of “gap or interruption in events, etc.;” “space from which something requisite to completeness is absent” [Century Dictionary] is recorded from 1610s.


Why am I, a historian of science and not of linguistics, telling you all this? I’m telling you all this because I am taking a hiatus! Why am I taking a hiatus? I suffer from some fairly serious problems with my lower back and pelvic regions. The basic problem is that I suffer from scoliosis, to quote a dictionary once again, “an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine, of congenital origin”, which has been getting progressively worse over the years. Not unconnected, I also have two lumbar spinal stenoses between my L3 and L5 vertebrae, that’s the bottom end of the spine for those not up on their medical jargon. 

It’s definition time again:

Spinal stenosis is an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal or neural foramen that results in pressure on thespinal cord or nerve roots.  Symptoms may include pain, numbness, or weakness in the arms or legs.  Symptoms are typically gradual in onset and improve with leaning forward.  Severe symptoms may includeloss of bladder control, loss of bowel control, or sexual disfunction.


I’m not going to list my symptoms but let’s just say I have symptoms!

The next problem I have is with my sacroiliac joints! Once more into the definitions, dear friends, once more!

The sacroiliac joint or SI joint (SIJ) is the joint between the sacrum and the ilium bones of the pelvis, which are connected by strong ligaments. In humans, the sacrum supports the spine and is supported in turn by an ilium on each side. The joint is strong, supporting the entire weight of the upper body. It is a synovial plane joint with irregular elevations and depressions that produce interlocking of the two bones. The human body has two sacroiliac joints, one on the left and one on the right, that often match each other but are highly variable from person to person.


Source: Wikimedia Commons

Isn’t medical terminology wonderful!

The sacroiliac joint is basically the suspension unit for your leg. My righthand sacroiliac joint is in essence totally fucked (that’s the technical term) and the lefthand one has started the process of failing. 

The end result of all of these mechanical problems is that I’m extremely unstable on my feet, if you breath too hard in my direction, I’ll fall over (a slight exaggeration), and I have serious difficulties walking. The village I live in is six kilometres from the centre of Erlangen and when I first moved here, I used to walk into the centre of Erlangen, through the woods, and back with my dog every morning. Now I struggle to walk around the block, which I do religiously four times a day in the hope that it will slow down the degeneration. 

If I talk about my medical problems in a normal conversation, I just say, my spine is fucked (note the medical terminology).

I have been in treatment with an orthopaedic surgeon for more years than I care to remember and receive physiotherapy once a week, which alleviates some of the symptoms. My orthopaedic surgeon has now decided to send me off to REHA, which is medical rehabilitation. I shall be spending three weeks in a clinic in Bad Kissingen, a beautiful town in Franconia, where they will presumably plague me day and night with all sorts of treatments intended to improve my physical health. Whether it will or not, only time will tell. 

My home for the next three weeks!

The clinic has Wifi, for which I have to pay extra, so I shall be taking my iPad and will remain in contact over the various social media channels, but I shan’t be taking my iMac! All of this means that the Renaissance Mathematicus is taking a hiatus from 16 November until 6 December, but I shall return in time for my usual Christmas trilogy.