If you know me in real life, you probably know that I injured my back this summer. You would know this because that’s pretty much all I talked about for two months or so. I didn’t want to be constantly whining about it, but when you’re in constant pain or discomfort, and can’t really sleep at night, it tends to consume your thoughts. For those of you who are unaware of the story, or just like to read about the pain and suffering of others, here’s a relatively brief summary of what happened:
I’ve had issues with my upper trapezius area of my back for years. While I’ve had the occasional flare-up, for the most part, I’ve been able to manage the problem with stretching. That changed in July.
The 2018 Major League Baseball All-Star Game was in Washington DC, and to coincide with that event, they put on a FanFest event at the DC convention center. I have to say, this was an awesome event, with player meet-and-greets, batting cages, and all sorts of other cool exhibits. If not for the fact that I may have permanently impacted my health, I would give the event a very high grade.
I took a turn in the batting cages, and based on the video I saw, my years away from playing baseball or softball have left my swing in sorry shape. Despite coming away from that activity with a slight twinge in my back, I also decided to participate in the Under Armour athletic challenge which included performing physical feats such as push ups, standing jumps, and a sprint. It was in the final few meters of the sprint that I felt the unfortunate sharp pull in my back.
I figured that like the previous times I had felt such a pull, it would be better in a few days. A few days later, I convinced myself it was improving and it would be okay to play kickball. It was not. The kickball game might not have made the problem significantly worse, but it sure didn’t make it better.
Not only was my back in severe pain, but I was getting shooting pain and numbness down my left arm. Between an inability to get comfortable while lying down and a variety of medications (they didn’t do all that much to help the pain, but they did screw up my sleep cycle!), I went through a three-week period where I didn’t really sleep at night. It got so bad that I considered six consecutive hours of sleep to be a good night.
The pain was so bad that I even saw a chiropractor. That’s kind of amazing due to my long-standing distrust of chiropractors ever since my mother took me to hers as a child. He turned out to be a quack who did something strange to me and slowed down my aging process. (This theory has never been officially confirmed.)
She diagnosed me with a cervical herniation. This meant that one of the discs in my spine was bulging, and putting pressure on the nerves in my back and arm. Eventually, this was confirmed by an MRI, but it took a while to get that test done. (Further discussion about that may come in a future post about opioid abuse.)
For a while, it seemed like the problem wasn’t getting better, and I even had to visit an orthopedic surgeon to explore surgical options. Thankfully, I started to improve, because spinal surgery didn’t seem like an especially appealing option.
Eventually, I improved to the point where I could sleep through the night. Oddly, the biggest jump in my recovery came when I got sick. One morning I woke up feeling feverish and crappy overall, but my back felt the best it had since the original injury. For the most part, the numbness and tingling in my arm was gone. I suspect that I contracted a virus which caused my immune system to kick into high gear and as a side effect, my body finally started to attack the herniation in earnest.
Since then, I’ve undergone physical therapy which has helped me get to as close to 100% as I’ll probably ever get. I’ve been able to go back to the gym, however, my routine has been curtailed, and I have to be especially careful that I always use good form. Unfortunately, this means that I can no longer do a single pull-up, which apparently are a lot harder to do if you use correct form.
Considering that a few months ago, I wasn’t even sure I’d ever be able to sleep normally again without surgery, I think “not being able to do a pull up” is a completely acceptable place to be.