The art of knowing is knowing what to ignore. ~Rumi
I like to know things. I want answers to the questions why, how, when, where, and who. There is a thirst for knowledge that sends me searching for answers, for wisdom, for a broader perspective. And yet, I recognize that not all of the knowledge I seek is of value or for long-term storage. This is why I love history but would struggle to rattle off specific dates. The dates aren’t nearly as important to me as the actual events and themes. As a teenager, my knowledge of professional wrestlers was amazing. I could tell you a wrestler’s real name and all sorts of interesting tidbits. That information is no longer relevant to me, so most of that data has long been lost or erased. Without even being aware of what I was doing, I have been practicing the art of knowing for a long time, but lately I have been struggling in knowing what to ignore.
Since herniating a disc last November, I have heard and read all sorts of information on such injuries and how to treat them. To say that there is conflicting information out there would be an understatement, and it is enough to make my head spin.
- do not squat with a barbell
- do not deadlift
- do not stop squatting or deadlifting
- get traction
- traction is an out-dated treatment
- take this medication for pain
- do not take that medication
- you will never be able to do weight training again
- you will be able to do weight training again
- hang upside-down by your knees
- use an inversion table
- don’t use an inversion table
- see this physiotherapist, sports trainer, chiropractor, massage therapist, etc.
- don’t see that physiotherapist, sports trainer, chiropractor, etc.
- take these supplements
- eat these foods
- don’t eat those foods
- do back extensions
- don’t do back extensions
- don’t sit
- don’t stand
- don’t lie in bed all the time
The list is long and continues to grow. Some contradictions actually do make some sense. Back extensions are a common rehab exercise for disc issues, so it makes sense that they are recommended and prescribed. I was told to stop doing them, when it became apparent that the extensions were being more harmful than helpful in my situation.
Other contradictions make sense on the surface but not always practically. The don’t sit, stand or lie down theories are such an example. If I sit, I hurt. If I stand, I hurt. If I lie down, I hurt. What does that leave me with? I avoid sitting as much as possible, but not sitting requires that I either stand or lie down. So, what’s a girl in constant pain to do?
Then there are the contradictions which leave me confused and unsure of what I should do. Things like don’t deadlift versus keep deadlifting or get traction versus traction is out-dated and ineffective. My brain has been chewing on these things, hoping to find discernment and clarity where there is none. I’ve been scouring the internet, reading articles and opinions, listening to the voices of those I trust, those I do not trust, and those I do not know well enough to as yet determine their trustworthiness. Despite all my searching for information and wisdom, I honestly feel no closer to what is best and true for me and my situation.
It seems as if everyone has an opinion on what to do for herniated discs, whether through their own experience, their medical expertise, or the ego of being an expert on everything. I am usually quick to recognize the ones speaking from their egos, and their advice is swiftly sifted and the chaff discarded. Personal experience can be a great teacher, so long as you remember that each person and body is unique and one approach won’t necessarily work for everyone. I am eager to hear about the experiences of others with a similar injury, because there is comfort in knowing others have traveled a similar path and perhaps you can learn something new. But when another’s personal experience runs counter to what the professionals have told you to do or not do, how do you reconcile that? Ignore your health care team? Discard the personal experience? That decision is made more difficult when the personal experience or contradictory directions comes from someone who also has professional knowledge.
As the days inch towards the 6 month mark, I feel like I have learned a great deal about disc herniations. Causes, symptoms, rehab exercises, treatments, surgical procedures…I have read all about them over and over again. But I still feel lost. Sometimes I even feel caught between invisible opposing forces. On one side is the force of out-dated and old-fashioned thoughts and practices, the attitude of reacting rather than being proactive, and a system that places proper steps and protocols over proper care. The other side is completely opposite. Modern techniques, forward thinking, constant learning and adaptation, proactive and holistic care. I lean heavily towards the modern ways, but I am forced to endure the plodding steps of the old-fashioned side of medical care, which then results in being pulled in two different directions at the same time. It’s hard to listen to both, but the way our medical system works I have little choice. It’s confusing and frustrating, and it leaves me feeling as if I’m little more than a guinea pig at times. Wouldn’t it be nice if an injury was exactly the same for everybody with a one-size fits all band-aid solution?