Friday, November 22, 2013

A Brief History of My Back

Last week, after kettlebell, my back felt stiff. I thought it was the usual soreness, especially since I'd upped my weight for the first time in a while, using a 10KG bell for most of class. I decided to take the rest of the week off from kettlebell (I've been going three times a week) and instead focus on running and yoga. I went for two pretty speedy runs - a three miler, and a five mile tempo run with Nathan. While my back felt okay while I was running, it continued to feel stiff and sore when I was doing anything else. 

And then I woke up on Saturday morning, and I could barely move. 

I wasn't too alarmed. For the last few years, I've experienced this sort of intense lower back pain. I refer to it as "tweaking my back," and it feels a bit like my lower back muscles have seized up and can't relax. Sometimes I can pinpoint the moment it happens - I move wrong in yoga, I swing a kettlebell too high, I sneeze. Othertimes the soreness just sort of settles in. In both cases, I deal with it the same way - rest, relaxation, and plenty of stretching. After a few days, I'm back to normal. 

While this used to happen once every few months, for the last year it's been happening more frequently. Every other month, and then every few weeks. And pain had gotten worse, too. It used to be a dull ache, stiff and uncomfortable. Then the pain got sharper. On Saturday morning, the pain was so intense, I couldn't sit in a chair, or walk normally, or even take a deep breath. The only thing that helped was lying flat on my back, so I spent the day in bed reading and feeling sorry for myself. My only consolation was that it would probably be better in the morning. 

Sunday came, and it was worse. On Monday, I had to get out of bed to teach and by the time I was done sitting in my chair for two hours, the pain was unbearable. I called a chiropractic, made an appointment, and was in his office within an hour. 

I had never been to a chiropractic before, and was glad that this one came recommended from a friend. He has excellent student rates, and he's a holistic chiropractic, focusing on preventive care (for which I was admittedly late). He also believes that the health of the spine influences everything in the body, and that regular adjustments can cure all kinds of ailments, from menstrual cramps to autism. I'm not sure how sold I am on that particular idea, but I'm trying to keep an open mind. 

At my first appointment, the doctor measured my back with an infrared machine, which produced a map of my spine, showing where my back was inflamed, my spine misaligned. Y'all, I was in bad shape. My lower back was a mess, and my neck also showed a lot of inflammation. After talking about my chronic back pain, the new frequency and intensity of the episodes, and my exercise history, he came to a few conclusions, most of which makes sense. 

He explained that the reason I experience these flare ups in my lower back is because my hip flexors are so tight, pulling my pelvis out of alignment. When I lived in Texas and practiced yoga three times a week, I was able to keep the pain to a minimum, despite the fact that I ran marathons (thank you, warriors and lunges!). When I moved to North Carolina, yoga took a backseat. At the same time, I started swinging kettlebells and continued running. So, less stretching and more strength training, which included a million squats, and what do you think happened? My hips are never been tighter, and my back pain has reached a breaking point. 

For now, I will be going to the chiropractic twice a week for adjustments. This seemed like a lot at first, but he explained it like this - my back has been out of alignment for years and years (possibly since the trauma of birth, but again, I'm not quite sold on that idea). Each time he adjusts me, my back fights it, straining to return to the positions it's used to, even though they're wrong. Basically, we have to retrain my back, which is annoying and stupid and why can't my back just listen to the damn doctor? But it also makes sense. 

The other thing I have to do is start going to yoga five times a week while I'm healing, and then three times a week to maintain. He also suggested I take a break from running, which shouldn't be difficult, as I'm still having trouble walking like a normal person. 

Yes, that's right. Even after two adjustments, my back is only marginally better. I can sit for longer periods of time, and I can move - slowly, carefully - without shooting pain. But it still hurts, and it still sucks, and overall I've had a pretty dull week, what with the lying in bed for twenty hours a day. At least I'm getting a lot of reading done. 

This post is pretty long already, so I'll end it here. But I will update y'all again after another week or two of adjustments & yoga, and let you know things go, if I think it's worth the money (which will be another long post, I'm sure, because what we're willing to spend on preventative care is fascinating and complicated), and whether I think a healthy spine is the key to, well, everything. Until then, I have a lot of yoga and lying down to do. 

And if you're in the Wilmington area and are interested in holistic chiropractic care, I'm currently going here. The doctor and his staff are kind and friendly, the office is lovely, and I'm seen so quickly I've never actually had to sit in the waiting room. Which is especially appreciated, since sitting is still kind of hard.