It sounds repetitive to say that the past week has been rough, and yet that would be a truthful statement. The previous week was rough due to an increase in nerve pain following the second round of neural therapy. That wasn’t the result I was expecting or hoping for, so I was disappointed, dismayed, frustrated, and hurting. While I didn’t know why the legs and feet hurt more after the neural, I didn’t think too much about it. The neural didn’t seem to be working; I wouldn’t pursue further treatment. Keep on living with the pain and refocus.
I had an appointment at the pain clinic last week, which was also somewhat frustrating in that the well of options is running dry and I am not keen on drugging myself again. Besides the push for more medication, I was told to exercise my glutes more and find some stretches for the piriformis, even though I already do both of those things. My chiropractor recommended a stretch for me, and I incorporated it into my daily routine. That was a Wednesday.
Last Saturday I woke up with a mildly achy back, but I didn’t think about it too much, because this has been my life for the past nineteen months. I went to the gym that morning and the discomfort in the back increased slightly before I even did anything that might aggravate it. I finished my workout and went on with my day, and the back pain gradually increased beyond my post-injury version of normal. Sunday was absolutely brutal. Any movement was painful and awkward. My back could barely bend, and the nerve pains in my legs and feet were the worst they’ve been in a long time. Even though I don’t sit often or for very long, any sitting was incredibly painful. To be completely honest, I was a little scared. Some of what I was feeling in my body was reminiscent of the early days post-injury, although maybe not quite. Unless you’ve experienced a herniated disc, I doubt that you can ever truly understand. While I knew that what I was feeling on Sunday was not the same as when the injury was brand new, there were enough similarities to frighten me, especially since I didn’t know why I was suddenly in so much pain again.
And really, that’s the kicker! I did not know why. My Saturday workout wasn’t anything out of the ordinary, and my back had begun bothering me from the time I got out of bed that morning. I was reasonably confident that my training wasn’t the issue. But if not the training, then what? My life is fairly routine, and there hadn’t been any changes to it recently. What if I couldn’t compete in July? What if the pain kept getting worse? Completely out of character for me, I tried to find someone to cover my shift at work Sunday night. That coverage never materialized, but the fact that I even asked is an indicator of just how bad the pain was. I wasn’t myself at work that night, but I’m thankful to have supportive co-workers who made the effort to make my workload easier.
After work, as I lay in bed awake because of the pain, I couldn’t help but continue to wonder why. Like a light bulb turning on, it hit me. The only thing different was the addition of that stretch my chiropractor recommended for my piriformis! While the stretch did hit the piriformis, it also required a significant twist of the lower back, and that twisting is what I believe caused my back to rebel. I stopped doing the stretch, and every day since then has been slightly better. Of course, my chiropractor agreed with my decision to not do that stretch anymore. He apologized and commented on the fact that he tends to treat me like someone without a disc injury, and I think I like that. (Obviously he is well aware of my injury and ongoing nerve pain issues, so it isn’t like he actually ignores my history when he treats me, but I like the way his statement implies that he doesn’t see me as permanently injured and unable to do regular things.)
Once I realized that the twisting caused the increase in back pain, I began to connect some more dots. I had a similar increase in back pain following an earlier pain clinic appointment where the doctor had twisted and pulled on my back. Twisting doesn’t seem to be my friend. (Oh dear….guess that means I won’t be joining my husband on the golf course anytime soon!) This was a moment of clarity for me. For the past year or so, once the worst of the injury had improved, my symptoms have remained mostly the same with only little variations up or down, with no obvious cause for either response. Sure, the back sometimes gets more achy after a long day at work with lots of bending, and the nerve pains and tingling get a little worse when I lie down at the end of the day or when I’ve had to sit too much, but there hasn’t been a lot of if I do ____, then I feel ____. Not for good. Not for bad. But here is something that I can now say is not good for me to do.