Recovery week is over, so its time to get back to work. I think?
In the last few posts I’d complained about a hamstring/calf problem. In the last 5 or 6 days of focused recovery that problem hadn’t gone away, which led me to skipping workouts. One would expect this would actually make the problem disappear, especially if it is a muscle strain or similar.
Instead, the problem spread rapidly. My lower back area was stiff and painful 24 hours a day for that time, and progressively got worse as the week went on. Sunday I spent a large chunk of time lying on the floor of my house just trying to get some relief. The pain was relentless.
Monday morning I managed to snag an appointment at my Chiropractor. I can’t remember if I’ve talked about him in the past but he’s very good, very knowledgeable, and treats only the issue (which I like). It didn’t take him long to diagnose the actual problem. It isn’t a muscle strain as I had expected, or a problem with a kinetic chain. Its a bulging disc in my lower back. The disc is pressing on my sciatic nerve, which is causing pain in my leg.
The instant reaction to a bulging disc is the following: “Bulging disc. My season is over. I don’t want to be paralyzed. Wait, bulging isn’t herniated, or ruptured. Could be worse. How long to recover? How many workouts will I miss? How screwed am I?” To which the Dr. responds that with this particular issue some adaptations are necessary (i.e. no aero position on bike for a while) but no real need to slow or stop training. Its worth noting here that this particular Chiropractor is one that really enjoys and excels at treating sports injuries. He is a club coach, private coach, and a rather talented runner and duathlete.
So no missed training? Just listen to my body. Ok. What does that mean? This is usually the part where I overdo it. Most endurance athletes are conditioned to endure. So… if it hurts some that’s ok as long as it doesn’t get bad? How much pain is too much pain? Where is it ok to feel pain vs. not?
To test this, I went for a slow jog of about 30 minutes Monday evening. The only pain I had was behind my left knee, and it did not grow or get worse, though it was there start to finish. Tuesday morning I did the same, but extended the run to 1:15. Still very slow and tentative. Same result. Some pain, behind the left knee, did not grow or get worse, there start to finish. So, I’m ok? Is this what triathlon training with back problems is like?
Back in the Chiro’s office, the Dr. treated my back, released a huge amount of muscle tension, and provided some instruction and advice. I left feeling almost no pain. Maybe this isn’t so bad after all. Even so, I made an appointment with my GP, just to be safe – it is my spine. Seems like something that I should have on my medical file. Seeing that Dr. today.
The strange thing I’m finding with this – and it’s actually consistent over the last several days even before seeing the Chiro – is that when I’m active in any capacity the pain subsides. Sitting makes it worse. Walking releases the pain. Running releases the pain in my back. I haven’t tried cycling in a few days, but will give that a shot tonight.
In case you can’t tell, I still have lots of questions about what this all means. Treatment will likely take some time but it seems like this is something I can manage while still working towards my fitness goals. So, I’m going to do that. With the care of two doctors I’m sure I’ll be fine.