imageI’m lying on my back on a table that the physical therapist calls the rack; it resembles a torture device described by Tacitus in the middle of the first century and used after that throughout medieval Europe. Now it was being used on me.

But there was no pain, only relief from pain. My left ankle had been in agony.  It felt like it was broken, only worse. But there was absolutely nothing wrong with my ankle. It was, as the orthopedist explained, a false signal to the brain. The sciatica nerve was being pinched in the lumbar region of my back and I was fooled into thinking the problem was my ankle. With traction, the therapist was trying to relieve compression of the nerve caused by a herniated disk. It was working. Wow, what relief.

And as I lay there I started thinking. When we observe something on the shroud or we discover something about its history, how often to we assume the most obvious explanation without considering other causes: its not the ankle but the lower back.

For instance, we observe that there is no image beneath a bloodstain and we immediately say that is because the blood inhibited image formation. What other reason? (Colin Berry, we miss you).

imageWhen it comes to history, we see a double line on the shroud at the neckline and see a double-line used as an apparent garment neckline on a coin and we think the coin must be modeled on the shroud. Or is there a completely different logical explanation? How about coins that do not depict Jesus, are there double-line necklines on them?

Do we often enough look for alternate explanations, something I might call the sciatica effect?

Or am I on too much pain killer meds? The benefits from traction lasted only about an hour