When I was a kid, I remember wanting to have an injury so I could use crutches. The thought of them seemed so cool to me. In the ’70s, the safety standards were far less regulated than they are now. I do remember an ambulance arriving at the school when a child fell from the bars on the playground. The odds were high with all the sports and playground activities I participated in, but I never once was injured. As I moved through jr. high and high school, injuries still escaped me.
The first time I was injured was when I was about 19 and playing softball in a co-ed league. I tripped as I back peddled for a fly ball and gave myself whiplash. I was in a neck brace for weeks. It felt like my head weighed 200 pounds. Once I healed, I didn’t think much about the issue, but that injury haunts me to this day. I think when we are young, it’s hard to comprehend that we will be old one day. It’s hard to imagine our bodies breaking down at all. For those that don’t take care of themselves, it might be a given that injury and illness will be in their future. For the ones that spend a massive amount of time dedicated to staying healthy, injury or illness doesn’t seem possible. I feel like I am one of those people. I have been physically active my entire life. I have always eaten pretty well, better as I have aged, mostly due to my dedication to food prep. I exercise daily, don’t drink or do drugs, and I see my doctor regularly. Doing everything right doesn’t mean you will never be injured. It just gives you a better chance at being equipped to handle an injury and recover faster.
Almost two years ago, I was practicing arm balancing poses before teaching a yoga class. I lost my balance and flipped backward landing on my back. I didn’t think much of it at the time, taught my class, worked out the following day and the next. By Monday, I was having a hard time walking and getting up from my chair. I went home and called my chiropractor/massage therapist. She suggested some things to try since she was unable to see me that night. After trying what she recommended and relieving my pain, I decided to get up and realized I was unable to move. I tried several times to pull myself off the floor, but I had no upper body strength, and my legs would not move without excruciating pain. At that point, I began to panic. I immediately started calling people, but no one seemed to be home. I finally reached a girlfriend who said she would be right over. At the insistence of my daughter, I called the doctor who wanted me to go to the ER. They also told me if my friend was unable to lift me from the floor, they would send an ambulance. Pride and maturity are funny things, and I have since gotten over wanting that type of attention. I was determined to walk in on my own.
The visit to the ER was as long as expected and inconclusive. I was given a muscle relaxer, pain medication, and told if I lose control of my bowel movements or pain shoots down my legs, I need to call my doctor immediately. I pride myself on never missing work or getting sick so staying home in bed while unable to move, was miserable. The only thing I knew for sure was that I would be good as new in a day or two. Why wouldn’t I? My body had never betrayed me before.
This injury was a rude awakening. I did return to work on Wednesday (just barely and doped up on muscle relaxers), but I was unable to teach my yoga classes that week. I put my gym routine on hold, and by the end of the first week, I was having symptoms of tingling in my legs. I immediately went to see my doctor and was diagnosed with a sacroiliac joint sprain. The diagnosis could have been much worse, but for someone as active as I am, this changed everything I did and how I did it. I was in for a long road to recovery, patience, soul searching, and understanding of what other people with back issues go through.
I think the hardest part was realizing my injury would need time and rest to heal. I could not make it magically go away because I said so. Going through this reminded me why it is essential to listen to your body’s signs and symptoms and not let your ego get in the way. It’s okay to push yourself but know your limits. If you don’t, your body will remind you by breaking down again. We only have one body, so let’s take care of it. It has to last us a lifetime.
I still believe with all my heart that because I have a wellness plan in place, I was able to keep my injury at a minimum. The flexibility in my lower back is still not where it once was, but I am working on it. In time and with dedication, I will continue to see improvement. I realize as I age, I will need to adjust the weights I use and the expectations of my body, but that doesn’t mean I will cut back on anything I love to do or be any less active.
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