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Back At It

I haven't posted many stories lately. I have been running about 64 km (40 miles) per week for several years, minus a week or month here or there because of work travel or other pressing matters of life. Running was one of the most stabilizing factors of life and a great source of physical and emotional fitness for me. If I wasn't running regularly, I knew that things were out of balance and in need of rebalancing. My regular doctor likes the fact that I run, and he has encouraged me to actually increase my exercise. With a full-time job, long hours, and frequent travel, 64 km per week requires a significant time commitment, but I'm open to doing more or adding something else to the pavement pounding.

A vehicle collision four months ago has left me with an arm injury that will eventually heal following surgery three weeks ago. It has also left me with back pain. I've never before lived with spinal pain. It didn't stop me from running, although it altered my gait and left me hurting in other places that had never hurt before from running. Every day for four months, and continuing, I have awakened and fallen asleep with a sore lower back. It hurts all day, and has left me without restful sleep.

An orthopaedic spine specialist referred me for physical therapy five weeks ago. The first instruction: stop running. I followed the instruction, but I also knew that with a damaged arm there was essentially no way to both increase exercise (my regular doctor's advice) and stop running. I mean I could swim four hours per day, but then I'd have to quit my job.

After a few weeks of this, and sliding deeper and deeper into a pattern of poor sleep, getting up an hour earlier for work because things like shoelaces and buttons take twice as long with one hand, physical therapy appointments, unsatisfying alternative exercise without running, and falling farther and farther behind at work, it was time to rebalance. Moreover, my back was getting worse, not better, and my overall fitness was declining rapidly.

Last week, I began running again.  My decision.  The surgeon who worked on my arm doesn't have a problem with it. I'm adjusting to the reality that I may have lower back pain every day for the rest of my life. The spine specialist may never offer anything that provides relief.

My life and outlook may never go back to the way things were four months ago, but I feel a sense of wellbeing and balance that was missing for the weeks without running.

WildeOscar WildeOscar 51-55, M 3 Responses Feb 29, 2012

Your Response


Perhaps your primary care physician could refer you for an MRI of the lower spine to assess for potential causes of the pain ( disc vs muscle spasm vs jumped facet vs occult pedicle fracture vs vertebral body compression fraction vs bone contusion from the MVA etc...). Some issues can be fairly easily dealt with, while others may require some further assessment or focused therapies. I have dealt with some rather uncomfortable lower back issues, and have found that despite the work involved, the resolution of the the symptoms is well worth the effort. Especially if running is the solace from your cares and a good source of endorphins, you may wish to pro-actively address the underlying causes of your physical discomfort..... Good luck. <br />
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You are lucky to have found a source of solace in your running.....

Thank you, and I am glad that, although the true source of the problem (bulging discs L4 and L5 with some lateral tearing), my orthopoedic spine specialist didn't go to and MRI until x-rays looked normal and the first course of physical therapy produced no improvement. Unfortunately for me, a lifetime of back pain, some settlement or judgment in litigation, and a ruined employment situation are my likely reward.

Please let me know if you try acupuncture I've always been curious as you know I myself deal with a lot of pain. I'm glad you continued to run it will help you more than not. Never accept your pain as a lifelong thing it will go away. The mind is an amazing thing. And I do understand your pain, you have my thoughts and I do think of you especially when I start my own run.... :)

You've dealt with more than I ever will have to, and you're a remarkable person. I'm grateful for the good health I have and would be honored to run with you any day. If I end up behind you from time to time, I'm pretending to be winded. Mostly, I enjoy the view.

An exercise routine is an amazing thing , I have one myself and find when I miss a few days I feel worse than anything . I hope getting back into your routine helps . <br />
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I know one of my friends that had horrible back pain , it would keep him out of work and sometimes he would spend days laying down , all the doctors at the end could give him were bottles of pain killers .. he went to an acupuncturist and finally got relief . <br />
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You got a great attitude though , and knowing what I do about you , you will be kicking that pain in the chops and making it beg for a time out !=-P

You've always made me smile, and today is no exception. Maybe giving or receiving the occasional wedgie is the best cure for pain.