Monday, January 24, 2011

Back News

This year I made the resolution (goal) to heal. I have had many years of back pain and spent years going to the chiropractor, then and last year switched to physical therapy. And yet I am still in pain, off and on. Or I guess I could more accurately describe it as really super duper achy- I don't have any sharp or shooting pains. Spasms in my lower back on really bad days. Sitting is almost unbearable at times. I am standing and typing this as a matter of fact. So. Back to the resolution part. I am actively trying to heal! I finally made an appointment to see a back specialist (took 3 weeks to get in to see him! These doctors must be worth their weight in gold.) last Monday, and he recommended I get an MRI to find out what is really going on. Waited another week, and this morning I spent 25 minutes in a very loud tube with the air on full blast and my eyes closed. I've had an MRI before, for my shoulder (that's another long story involving a water polo incident, a LOT of pain, and 9 total dislocations before I had surgery on that thing), but I don't remember it being quite that loud. Maybe because the tech forgot to turn on the music... Anyway, this time I was sent home with a disc of the images that I could look at on a computer (wish I had gotten one of my shoulder- that was gruesome! And I'm missing out on bragging rights there~), which I did and promptly started to freak out. I did my online research before I went in on the possible problems I could have, including bulging spinal discs and arthritis (freaked out looking that up too). If I can recognize the problem with no one to point things out, then I know that it's bad. Really bad. It was gross, and I had to stop looking at all those pictures. I took the disc directly to my doctor and he called me tonight after reviewing both the disc and the report sent by the radiologist, and as it turns out, I wasn't seeing things when I looked at the images myself. I have a bulging disc and tear between the L4 and L5 vertebrae, and a herniated disc between the L5 and S1 vertebrae. He even saw a little bit of arthritis in that L5 spot too. Apparently these things take 6-12 months to heal on their own. I really don't feel like being in pain for that long (plus the chances that I'll do something to irritate my lower back so it doesn't heal are pretty good too- and that is me saying this and not my doctor because it seems no matter how careful I am or how good I am about doing my exercises it will happen again- more on this in a bit), so I'm opting for the cortisone epidural that will inject medicine right to the source to reduce inflammation so the healing will go quicker. I understand these are pretty painful too. But if it's only a couple days worth, I'll take it.

This picture is kinda gross, isn't it? And yes, I, a librarian, am including a link and a picture from Wikipedia! (I don't have one to share of my actual back- maybe if I get the disc back I'll share one with you if I can figure it out...)

We discussed the possibilities of causes- he said it's not necessarily because I've been running regularly for the past 14 years (with time off due to pregnancy, babies, and injuries of course). He said that having a strong core is very important to supporting the spine (I have rockin' hard abs 'cause I work 'em hard! (even if there is a little layer over them- that post-baby fat never seems to go away!)), as well as stretching and exercising, so I'm not sure what exactly I'm doing to earn a herniation here and there. He recommended that I wait a week or two after the shot before I start slowly into running again (I know, that's it?!), and I intended to go super slow and supplement my lack of running with time in the pool. Which I'm happy to do. If it happens again, we can do another shot. Ultimately though, my doctor said that it is my decision whether I should stop running or not. What am I willing to live with? And NOT running doesn't guarantee I'll never bulge or herniate again. Life altering decisions. I feel WAY to young to have to make this kind of health decision. And too young to be in this much pain.

Well, that's about all the news I have so far. I'm staying positive because he didn't say at this point that I should consider "retiring" from running (if you consider recreational running something one retires from). I'll post on this subject again in a couple weeks to share my progress. I hope all you runners out there will keep me in mind and do an extra lap on my behalf.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


AngelologyAngelology by Danielle Trussoni

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was wonderful- I was introduced to a subject I didn't know existed. I wonder how much actual research on Angelology the author did versus how much she created herself? And, I was totally left hanging at the end! It wasn't the sort of ending you're supposed to figure out on your own either. I really hope there's a sequel in the near future. Although it was published in 2010, so I won't hold my breath for anything coming out this year...

View all my reviews

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Resolutions and Goals for 2011

Generally the end of December/beginning of January is when my thoughts turn to a resolution for the new year. In the past I've made all kinds of resolutions ranging from keeping the house clean to running mileage numbers, beating out the previous year's totals. Some of my resolutions I've stuck to, and others... Well, I'm sure we've all experienced the successes and failures of resolutions. This year I've decided to look at this whole new year's resolution business from a different angle. I have more of a goal for myself than a regimen I generally lean toward.

This year, my goal is to heal.

This is loosely set as I don't know how a goal like this will progress, or how far I reach. I have had serious back pain over the years, even to the point of passing out (but only once!). I missed another day last week that I spent on the floor just trying to relax my irritated muscles. I spent years going to a chiropractor off and on, and then last summer I started seeing a wonderful physical therapist who helped me immensely, and changed how I work out. But alas, the pain-free running I enjoyed so much was not to last. I even developed knee problems at the beginning of 2010 that I believe is related to back issues and possibly my stride, which I am still struggling with. I've reached the point where I've done everything I could think to change to help myself get better, including starting lifting, rotating back into swimming and even changed my stride to a forefoot strike instead of a heel strike when I run. And yet, without provocation (that I am at this point aware of), my back pain persists. So I am taking the next step. I talked to my doctor, and he okay-ed x-rays for me, which showed that nothing was out of place, fractured or broken (relief!). However much relief I feel over normal x-rays, I still don't know if something is wrong. I have an appointment to see a back specialist in mid-January (those guys book up fast!) and am hopeful that he will let me get an MRI, which will show if I have a bulging disc (which my PT suspects). I am hopeful that he will give me exercises to do that will strengthen my back, or let me know if I'm doing something to aggravate the muscles in my lower back.

I have mixed feelings about this goal. Of course I want to feel better, but I'm afraid that my doctor might tell me that I need to stop running. I want to run. I want to run far! A marathon! (Plus I got a brand new Garmin Forerunner 305 for Christmas that I'm dying to put some serious mileage on!) But I have a feeling that my mileage for the year is going to drop even lower than last year.

Okay, enough of the downer talk. I do have some stats to report. Last year I ran just over 550 miles, and in 2008 I made it a year end goal to reach 600 (In both blog posts I talked about back issues as well!). This year I have less running miles to report:

Running: 470
Walking: 55
Elliptical: 59 miles

Grand total: 584

I haven't included elliptical miles before this year, but because I had to take so much time off from running, I needed to do something else instead. :) I also have swimming and biking miles recorded, but they're not huge numbers.

So, to round this post out, I'm going to say that I'm remaining positive! I may not get to run as much as I want, but I think this is a worthy enough goal to lose some miles over. I wanted to leave you with an inspirational sappy quote, but liked this one much better:

"Formula for success: Rise early, work hard, strike oil."
John Paul Getty