Reoccurring nightmares: learning to listen when your body screams

An injury can be the most devastating experience for an active person. I am very familiar with this. September 2011 I was carrying heavy bags into my office from the parking ramp. I was trying to be efficient. But really, it was just dumb. It caused a bulging disc in my back. Since then, I have had several reoccurring incidents. Reoccurring nightmares. The most memorable are below.

November 2012 – I took my first ever Zumba class and must have twisted funny. The next morning I woke and was barely able to move. I visited the MD and then the DC. I always find DCs more helpful. I had to fly to Orlando for work two days afterwards the injury. My DC wasn’t too excited about it, but I got some muscle relaxers, Bio-Freeze, and packed a heating pad.

May 2013 – I was at ballet class. Feeling pretty good since a February incident (minor and less memorable.) I lifted my leg on the barre for a stretch and immediately knew something was wrong. I moved to the floor and started stretching on my back. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to drive home. I also was worried about my triathlon in July. Would this injury hold me back? Luckily, I recovered in time to resume my training.

July 2013 – A couple days after my triathlon and I was moving a dehumidifier out of our closet. I had emptied the water bucket so I expected it to be much lighter than it was. I awkwardly tried to lift it (without bending my knees???) out of the closet and felt the tweak. The next day, I was in severe pain.

My boyfriend, Peter, thought it would be a good idea to give me a massage. I did not, but conceded. The door bell rain and our neighbor girl was there asking for baking soda. I was trying, from my face on the floor position, to explain to Peter where it would be if we had some. He wasn’t finding it so I tried to get up and I screamed. I couldn’t move. I scared the neighbor girl. Peter tried to help me up, but it took 30 minutes because every single movement caused excruciating pain.

Since it did not heal as quickly, I ended up going in for an MRI and epidural at the suggestion of my DC. When the epidural had settled in my system, I started physical therapy. In December I had my last physical therapy session, but I continue to do the strength training exercises.

The past two years have been quite the eye-opener for me. I realize how fragile the body is and how we take it for granted. Before, I would lazily step one leg out of my car and just get up, not thinking about the mechanics of it. Now, I think about it. I swing both legs out of the car, plant both feet firmly on the ground, engage my core, activate my glutes, and lift while being aware of my movements, instead of thinking my body will take care of me; I have started to take care of my body.

A dancer recently told me likes to get to the studio early so she can get in tune with her body. I thought that was such a beautiful way to put it. When I was a dancer I warmed up carefully and listened to my body; some days were rougher than others and some classes were extremely frustrating because my body wouldn’t cooperate. When did I stop listening to my body? Probably when I quit dance and as I transitioned to yoga and running for exercise, I just expected my body to do things instead of tuning in to my body. Now, when my body screams, I listen.

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