Injuries are a fact of life. Some people have bum shoulders, sore knees or dickie elbows but me, I have the Holy Grail of injuries, a back injury. I have mentioned it many times before, sometimes at length other times as a reason to whine about my progress or make excuses for not doing a workout. However there is a serious side to my injury which for the first time in many years raised its ugly head today.
I had a serious back injury as a teenager, I had a rugby scrum collapse on me and being a prop that meant the strength of all 7 people behind me and all 8 of the opposition contributed to folding me in half. I was diagnosed with a slipped disc, a condition now referred to as a herniated disc. I wore a back support (read corset) for a few weeks and was cleared as fit. My injury never affected me again through an additional 11 years of rugby at an elite level, 14 or so motor vehicle accidents and numerous other athletic and potentially lethal endeavours. However, being the typical egomaniacal male athlete, after I stopped playing competitive sports I threw myself into the gym and pounding hundreds of thousands of pounds of weight around each time I stepped into the gym. I am not certain of the first time my back went out but I do remember the first significant time especially since I didn’t know what the hell was wrong or how to fix it.
Normally at this point I would expound on the huge weight I was lifting however the relevance seems to pale in comparison to the injury. All I will say is that I was on an incline leg press that I was unable to finish. The stack came down and although there are safety stops, I had them set too low and again, I was folded in half by the machine. I remember laying on the floor of the gym, breathless, in disbelief that my body had betrayed me. The next thing I remember is not being able to reach my feet to put my socks on and being in excruciating pain. I am not sure if I went to the doctor or if I took a few days off and recovered on my own. What I do recall is that after that point, my problems increased in frequency and severity. The one great thing about keeping a journal, online or not, is that you can solidify timelines with alarming accuracy and for the most part will surprise yourself at how fast time really does fly.
Flash forward approximately 5 years and you would find me on a gurney in the emergency department, my third visit in 3 days, being wheeled into the MRI and screaming bloody murder as they try to straighten my legs to get me into the machine. Being the size that I am getting me into the MRI is like trying to get toothpaste back into the tube at the best of times. This time I was in so much pain that the nurse popped two tiny blue pills into my mouth and I woke up 2 days later with an 8 inch scar on my back and a chunk of spinal disc in a plastic cup by my bed. I spent the next 4 months getting back on my feet, trying to rebuild my right leg that lost 30% of it’s mass due to the nerve impingement and trying to deal with both the psychological damage that the injury had done and the addictive effects of the painkillers. Fortunately I had a vacation in Australia that broke my dependence on the painkillers and since I was never one for taking painkillers anyway that was a narrow miss for me. The rest of the recovery wasn’t so easy.
It’s now 8 years later and my leg is still only about 85%. The history of time spent recovering from “back pain” is vastly down. For a long time, regardless of my weight I would intermittently have an issue. I found that a really good anti-inflammatory (arthrotec) and a good muscle relaxant (cyclobenzaprene) work wonders but the most effective tool I have found is actually my Costco inversion table. A couple of minutes on that will take days off my recovery time. So I was down to 2 days to recover from the pre-op of almost 2 weeks. However, the back still bothers me from time to time. This time however, has been the first time since the surgery that the pain has radiated down my leg again. That fact alone has scared me to death. I realized when I turned 30 that the time was approaching that I would have to stop wandering the earth at 275lbs plus and for the last few years I have had varied success in getting below that figure. I was 255 when I got married 2 years ago and although that is pretty good for me I can’t shake the idea that if I was 220lbs at least some of my pain would go away. My point is that I think in part my injury has been aggravated by my weight but also that I may in the long term be looking down the barrel of another back surgery. This time, to fuse the bones and get rid of the troublesome disc issue for good.
So what do I do now? I was off my feet for 4 days, which in this day and age is unheard of for me. I am walking with a cane again just in case my leg decides to give out on me (in reality I am sure it won’t but I am not going to gamble with that) and the pain is still causing cramping and a weird stiffness throughout my quad muscle. I have to admit that my first reaction was to walk, then jog then run to drop the weight as fast as possible but the PT in me just can’t give up that weight training piece even if it is only with bodyweight. So the solution for now, get my back better, stretch the quad and the lower back to get rid of the cramping and get back into it as soon as possible. I am looking at almost 12 days of complete rest, not an ideal situation, but I think ti quit now would be a massive disservice. Maybe the smarter thing to do would be to take my diet seriously for once and put the 270’s, 260’s and 250’s behind me for good. You see, just like most people who use exercise as their primary method of weight control my lack of control over my diet is my failing. Ask anyone who had purchased a beachbody product and they will probably lament you with tales of “loving food too much” or being “addicted” to food and being “unable to control” themselves. It’s a common theme that I see on a daily basis with people at work who participate in our Biggest Loser competition but let’s just be really honest for a second… If your life or the life of the people you love depended on you controlling your diet and you could keep that reality in front of your face 24/7 they anyone, and I mean ANYONE could lose the weight. The problem is that we get distracted and fail to realize the importance of what we are required to do.
Simply stated, we fail to pay attention to what should be our priority. In reality you should treat your weightloss like a Harry Houdini escape. The sooner you get out, the sooner you can get back to life, and if you don’t, you die. I guess people (myself included) don’t realize that weightloss isn’t about quality of life necessarily, it’s about length of life and if you were asked to trade 10 years of your life for a year’s supply of pizza would you really do it?
I’m thinking that I probably wouldn’t any more…
Thanks for letting me vent and if you made it down this far congratulations… Have a cookie! 🙂