Cross-post from Rebuilding the Mountain
TL;DR – Tore up my back last year, MRI just came back clean, tracking my recovery here.
Forever ago I was born.
Decades ago I grew up tall and I grew up fast (not so quick or mean; wrong name). 6′ 4″ by 12 years old.
Something I was surprised to learn at that age: not everything in your body grows at the same time or rate. Things like your bones, muscles, tendons… when you go through a series of crazy rapid growth spurts they don’t all keep up with each other.
Flash forward through many wonderful years of high activity and bodily destruction. My doctor told me to think of it like an old elastic band, stretched to it’s maximum and held for years. It wasn’t that I did anything huge and dramatic, just lifting some decently heavy (for me) weights, and my form slipped a little. And like the proverbial camel’s back, those elastic bands snapped (metaphor inception FTW!). One of my vertebrae slipped, tearing ligaments in my lower back and impacting against some kind of important nerves.
(Could have been much worse. The nerves that got tweaked just caused some weird shooting pain down my leg. If the disc had slipped another direction and hit a different set of nerves I could have been dealing with really nasty problems like bowel control and impotence!)
This was September 2010. Not realizing the extent of the damage, I went home, threw on an ice pack, and proceeded to try and stretch it out. For the next week, I twisted and pulled and bent and did everything to try and work out what I thought was just a pulled muscle. Finally went to see a doctor (walk-in clinic), and without even examining me he said the same thing I thought: just a pulled muscle, suck it up. So for the next three months, I just kept working it, stretching hard, going to yoga, even seeing a chiropractor on a friend’s recommendation (never before and likely never again, but that’s a discussion for a different time). All this time I was making the injury even worse, re-tearing the tissues over and over again. Not sleeping, couldn’t sit at my desk, just feeling horrible.
It was actually the chrio who finally asked me what my x-rays said. “What x-rays?” He went white. He had been working on me under the assumption that the first doctor actually knew what the F$%& he was talking about when he told me it was “just a pulled muscle”. Stop everything, go see a real doctor, get your x-rays. This was December.
Saw doc, got x-rays. Doc said I had done so much damage in the last few months trying to “fix” things, that he couldn’t tell what the original injury was or if/how it was healing. So new orders: do nothing. Nothing. No lifting, no bending, don’t walk or stand for more than 20 minutes. No sexy fun-time. For a month.
January 2011, I’m back to see my doctor, and he confirms that I’ve torn the hell out of my lower back. The only thing I can do is rest and wait. “It’s like a broken bone, you can’t work through it or stretch it better, it just has to heal.” Timeline? “At least a year before you’re at 90%.” Can I get ANY exercise? “Walk. Best thing for your back, and pretty much the only thing that won’t strain the area and make your recovery even longer.”
Depressed, bored, weak, I sit and watch as my beloved Rocky Mountains break every snowfall record on the books and have their greatest ski/snowboard season in history. While I sit. Walk around the track at the YMCA in the mornings for 20 minutes. Weeks. Months. I actually start to feel a bit more normal, not in constant pain, able to sleep most of the night. And I forget just how vulnerable I am.
March, I borrowed my dad’s snowblower. Doesn’t weigh that much, I’ll just throw it in the back of my truck. Sure it’s a bit awkward, but it’s nothing…
Seven months since the original injury and I’m back at square one. Fuck. Me.
Since then I’ve been back doing nothing, going for the occasional walk. Eating and drinking like I didn’t give a crap, because I didn’t. Never felt worse in my life. Combine that with the total inactivity, and of course I’ve put on a bunch of fat, gained probably 4 inches around my gut, and lost what muscle I had.
Follow-up MRI in July, reviewed results with Doc yesterday. Good news: no permanent nerve damage, tears have healed (though still extremely weak). Got the official go-ahead to start exercising again.
I will be using this blog to track my progress, record stats, talk about the recovery process. Most of it will be pretty boring to anyone not me: what I ate, how long I rode my bike, etc. Like I say in the description, this blog’s for me. If it can help someone else, great, but really all I’m looking for is a place to review my work and use the shame of public failure as motivation. So on that note, thanks for reading and please feel free to send any advice or questions you have my way.