2020 has been a hard year for everyone so I shouldn’t complain. Unfortunately, I am not that gracious. I’ll try to limit my cries to story telling instead of how I hurt myself and journey to injury recovery.
This year I really wanted to focus on getting stronger. Last year was my first marathon and it was a big achievement for me (bucket list). This year, I wanted to change up my fitness goals. I may be getting older, but I do feel strong. Time to test those limits.
Prior the the initial pandemic shut down, my husband and I were at the gym about 5 days a week. Personally, I felt I was getting stronger each week! Even with the gym shutdown, we were lucky enough to continue with the equipment we had at home. Strength training was a nice steady progressive increase of weights through the end of May.
When the gym reopened in June, I used the Smith Machine. At home I’d been using a free weight squat rack. My squat position is a bit different when I use that machine. Maybe I lean back too much in the smith machine? Nonetheless, my lower back starting hurting a few sets in and I stopped adding weight that day.
This was the first time all year I’d hurt my back. Afterwards, I took it easy and didn’t do back exercises or squats for two weeks. Ever since having kids, my back will give out occasionally. I’ll take Meloxicam (or Mobic) as needed and it has been a miracle prescription.
This lower back muscle pain is separate from sciatica that also flares up occasionally. Typically on my left side. During high school I think I herniated a disc in cheer-leading. I started having sciatica flare ups then and they have been continuous throughout life. Changes in weight cause an issue, monthly menstrual cycles, etc. Sciatica happens more often but is usually less debilitating than my back being out. Probably hurts more, but I can still get around fine.
Sciatica was flared up and I tried to use the smith machine again. I started out okay, but a few sets in my back was feeling weak and I had to stop. I really started babying my back after this second time hurting it. I was doing less weights in general and just walking. I got a convertible standing desk to move and stand more instead of sitting at my desk. I started back on TruNiagen (NAD+) because I believe it helps speed recovery from training.
Here is where my big injury comes into play. One day, I took a conference call and set off on a walk. With my back hurting, weak and sciatic flared, just trying to get up and move more. My husband asked before I went if I was sure it was a good idea? Seriously!?!? It was a walk! Should be fine, right? Wrong!
A car was coming and I went off the road into the grass a bit to be out of the way. A cautious pedestrian. Unfortunately, I rolled my right ankle some in the process. Stumbled, but didn’t fall or sprain it (never said a graceful pedestrian). There was a very sharp shooting pain all the way up my leg and back. One of those pains that momentarily takes your breathe away.
The next few days afterwards I hurt so bad I couldn’t sleep. No position was comfortable. My lower back hurt. Sharp stabbing pains in my butt cheeks (both sides) and behind my right knee. My right thigh was numb and so was my right foot. My right calf was incredibly sore. I could not hyper-extend my back at all (no yoga cobra pose).
My beloved Meloxicam failed me. I started alternating hot and cold compress. I ordered a tens unit from the FSA Store. These were helpful but were so in only small intervals. I was foam rolling my calf. It hurt too bad to foam roll my back. I went to the family doctor who prescribed predinsone. I took it all and it seemed worthless. I tried muscle numbing creams but they didn’t touch the pain. I tried tylenol and motrin with no effect.
I started going to physical therapy. I was almost in tears the first day though the assessment went well. They didn’t believe I had any strength or neurological issues. The spinal mobilization was amazing. I would have no pain at all while they were doing the spinal mobilization! But it would come back once the session was over. They gave me exercises to stretch and decompress the nerve. I really focused on the McKenzie method prone press-up.
We are all believing this is just sciatica and herniated disc related. They told me nerve damage in general is a recovery of about an inch per month which means I could have numbness for a while as it healed. I went twice a week and found the treatment very helpful but not immediate results except for the spinal mobilization.
Patience not being my virtue, I called the chiorprator and started seeing him twice a week as well. Interesting enough, the chiropractor gave me a very similar exercise. It was just standing up and pressing back 10 times every hour. He would also put a tens unit on my lower back as I laid on the massage table after adjustment. Again very helpful. When I walked out I’d feel better, but still was in pain. The pain was moving up though which is the goal.
A few weeks went by of both PT and Chiro twice a week and improvement was slow. After about two weeks, I was finally sleeping some with the tens unit on my back throughout the night. The pain is no longer down to my knee and just lower back/buttocks instead.
I decided to get cupping done as well at Therapy in Motion. My pain was somewhat better by the time I saw Brenda, but my leg was mostly numb (especially on exterior side). What I found most amazing was that after my cupping session, I had feeling returned to the top of my leg. A few weeks later tried again and had a lot of feeling return down my leg.
I also had dry needling done at the chiropractor in between massage sessions. It was a little embarrassing freeing the butt cheek for needle insertion and involuntary twitching, but when there is pain that you can’t seem to manage you will try almost anything. I should mention I ate a clean keto diet and did lots of intermittent fasting this time as well.
Foot was still numb, but all of the treatments seemed to be working well. Honestly probably due to some of the combinations. I didn’t work out any during this time. I only did the PT exercises, stretching and sessions with PT/Chiro. I really thought things were improving.
Then one night my husband was rubbing my destroyed calf and asked if I’d noticed it was smaller than it use to be? I tripped out refuting such a claim, but just putting my legs side by side I could see it! So we broke out the tape measure and there as 3/4 of an inch difference in size within 6 weeks. I know they were symmetrical before because I’d been measuring for muscle gains!
When I walked into PT the next morning complaining about my small gimpy calf they immediately did another neuro exam. My pain may have gotten better, but my calf wasn’t being used. I could not go on my tip toes on my right foot at all lifting my body weight. They recommended I go to the family doctor and get referral to neurology. I got different exercises to work on calf strength (alternative calf raises).
It would be early October when I had all feeling return back down my entire leg and foot. It was late October before I finally got in to see a neurologist. The worry is drop foot because still with all feeling returned I cannot run on my tip toes. The neurologist said I damaged the peroneal nerve but it is healing. I go back for follow up in January.
Every day now I am jogging about a mile. Just trying to run on my toes with my normal gait but cannot for very long. I feel like it gets a little better each day, but it is such slow progress. I’ll try to add an update to this post when I am running back to normal again.
I realize I am no longer a spring chicken, but I am flabbergasted I caused so much injury to myself on a walk! Despite all my efforts to live my best long life, I can damage nerves on a walking down the street. Anyone else have a similar injury from minuscule movement? Have you found any really beneficial back and sciatica pain treatments?