As I said last week, my back pain…came back. I pondered titling this post "back pain’s back, alright!" to the tune of the Backstreet Boys, but even I’m not that terribly punny. You’re welcome. Anyway. The story is that I woke up Monday evening (night shift, high five) with a stiff back and figured it would go away. It didn’t…and got worse. At 3am, all I wanted to do was go home, but we’re required to go to the ER before going home, and that seemed like a waste of resources so I stuck it out. After a trip to employee health which just earned me a hefty dose of Advil, I laid in bed all day Tuesday. Literally all day. The one time I attempted to get up was to get something for dinner, during which I walked about four blocks and wasn’t so sure how I was going to make it four blocks home. (This is NYC, Susan…order delivery!) Then I took some Benadryl so I could sleep at night.
I may have looked like this…but no one carries around a BP cuff. Ever.
Fast forward to Wednesday morning when I went a PM&R doctor who said it’s probably just the same problem as last year (except it’s not…because it hurt to exist, not just to run). Sent me home with some Flexeril (a muscle relaxer that I never took) and some back exercises. I did a lot of not much of anything, and my back slowly got better…it got achy after standing for a long time, and taking weird steps (I’m clumsy at times…) would make for a nice twinge, but day by day it felt better. I didn’t run at all, seeing as if I could hardly walk to start, I probably shouldn’t run. (Shout out to all you injured runners limping along…stop. Just…stop.) Then, I went to DC for orientation and didn’t necessarily have time to run nor did I want to pack stuff just in case, so that was that.
So, Wednesday, the big day. I did some of my back exercises, stretched my hamstring. I’m fairly certain I hold the title for "tightest hamstrings in Manhattan." It’s embarrassing, really. But anyway. I’m making progress. So I decided it head out for a run. That first run after injury is really quite terrifying, and even more so this time around because I hadn’t run since the pain started. No idea if running would help the pain, keep it the same, or make it worse. While I pondered leaving my Garmin at home, I too much a slave to the numbers even if the numbers might be slow, so I wanted to gauge where I was on my five mile loop of Central Park.
Apparently forward motion isn’t that bad, but playing frogger around pedestrians, especially those who don’t notice you, heightened my anxiety. I made it to the park at Engineer’s Gate and headed up around 102nd, then down to 72nd St and back east. Each step left me evaluating pain and wondering what the next step would bring. I took it easy and disregarded my pace, fighting the urge to chase someone ahead of me who I normally would. (And I thought I saw Lora…so I wanted to try to catch up…but it wasn’t her. Good story.) While my stride wasn’t 100% relaxed, I felt good overall. Around mile three, my back muscles felt…tired. Not pain, but like they were working more than usual. I can do tired. This continued all the way home, where I stretched more and hoped for the best.
I’m almost at ninety degrees. Almost.
A twelve hour shift at work left me with a stiff back, but not as bad as before. I ran four miles this morning (and yes, I just referred to when I woke up at 5pm as "this morning"…really, the evening) and it felt better. And another twelve hour shift, and I feel pretty good. Not amazing, not "glad this passed me by," but I can walk and that’s nice.
So what happened? The doctor I saw seems to think that it was just a flare up of my annular tear from last year. The injections I got were for pain management only, and they don’t fix the problem. However, my opinion after the last week is that I most likely strain a muscle in my back. The pain is very different than before, and the fact that they felt tired after a run makes me think that they either are working really hard to hold a disc in place (I hope not!) or the strain is just tired. I can’t remember any one instance where I would have strained a muscle, but I did have my highest mileage this training cycle last week. Plus, I have a very physical job although my shifts last week didn’t have particularly heavy patients. But who knows. I ended my high school cross country career by walking the wrong way in marching band. (True story.) So you never know. I’m just glad it’s getting better.
What’s the plan from here?
I’m most certainly taking it easy and not jumping into a twenty mile run this weekend. I’m actually heading to Atlantic City where I will assume the anatomical position on the beach. (I’m such a nerd, I make no apologizes.) Otherwise, I’ll keep my mileage light for the rest of the week and see how we’re doing. All I know from my experience last year is that I do not want to be out for six months again, so it’s better to be conservative now rather than perpetuate whatever may be going on. I have every intention of running a marathon at the end of September…I don’t think it will be a PR effort, but I want to be healthy enough to run it. Which means…
Re-evaluate mileage and runs based on how this back problem continues to evolve.
Stretch my hamstrings. Tight hamstrings = tight lower back.
Do my back exercises regularly.
Stretch my hamstrings stretch my hamstring stretch my hamstrings. Okay, but not too much.
Use proper body mechanics at work.
We’ll get through this, right? (I’m looking at you, lumbar spine.)
Now…it’s Friday. Anyone doing something exciting this weekend? I’m going to Atlantic City…and I believe this is my last full weekend off until I go on vacation at the end of September. Social lives are overrated…