I wanted to share my experience with a serious workout injury that happened to me about six months ago. As a quick refresh, I began working out and sticking to it around the end of May 2012. I started out attending the gym I had signed up for two times per week and was up to three times per week when the dreadful injury occurred. It just so happened that I decided to get my third workout in of the week on a Sunday. This was my first ‘mistake.’ I never worked out on the weekends and am still trying to incorporate that into my routine now, so I should have known something bad was going to happen. (I’m kidding, I know that this injury would have happened eventually whether it was going to happen while I was working out or doing something as simple as reaching for something at home or at work, it would have happened. It was my weak spot). As I was halfway through my third or fourth station of the day, alternating between barbels squats and RDLs (Romanian Deadlifts), I felt something kind of pull or tweak in my lower back.
I didn’t think anything of it really and continued with my reps. The next few reps were pretty uncomfortable and just as I was deciding I should stop and take a minute to evaluate what was going on, the SHARPEST pain I have ever felt on the left side of my lower back that brought me down. I have broken five major bones total, not all at once, but still-I’ve felt pain before and there was nothing like this one. I was soon stuck in a crouching/kneeling position with the barbel awkwardly between my legs. I was beyond uncomfortable from the pain and this position I was in, but I physically could NOT move. I could feel my legs and the rest of my body, however I was unable to sit down, lay down, or stand up to get out of this weird position to figure out what had just happened. The pain was still in my lower back but now on my right side, as well. The trainer came over and tried to get me to move, but still, I couldn’t. After about five minutes, he brought over a mat and I was eventually able to at least collapse/fall over onto it, but still could not move my legs to straighten them or lift. The trainer then brought over an exercise ball and asked me to put my feet up on it to relieve the pressure in my lower back, I wasn’t able to do it, so he lifted my feet for me to put on the ball.
Him moving my legs was really painful, but I was willing to try anything. At this point I called Tim, who was at my apartment waiting for me to finish working out, to come and pick me up because I was hurt. When he got there, I tried to sit up, but couldn’t, so obviously standing and driving were out of the question. It was time to call an ambulance.
The class had finally ended by now, and everyone left, thank goodness, this was all really embarrassing. It worked out that the ambulance arrived in between the class I was taking and the next one, so there were no disruptions and not a lot of attention focused on my hot-mess self since I was sweaty and started crying once the ambulance was called because I knew that it was serious and that I was in PAIN!
No offense to EMT’s out there, however these guys were NO help. They rolled up with the gurney, looked down at me lying helpless on the floor, and asked, ‘what do you want us to do?’ I said, ‘Well, what do you normally do in these situations? I can’t move and I’m in pain.’ EMT: ‘Can you stand?’ Me: ‘I haven’t tried, but I doubt it.’ EMT: ‘Can you sit up?’ Me: ‘I can try that.’ As I do this, tears start streaming down my face at the amount of pain this inflicts. This is when the EMT’s say that they will take me to the ER. You’d think this would be the point when they whipped out the backboard…nope! This girl was picked up by her armpits and feet, like a sack of potatoes, and placed on the gurney. More pain, more tears. That movement was beyond painful. I mean, I’m no expert, but I’ve watched enough movies and t.v. shows in my lifetime to know that back injuries equal extra precaution and a backboard, not vegetable slinging practice! Tim and the trainer could have done that to get me out to the car and Tim could have driven me to the hospital to save me some $$$. Obviously, I understand the trainer wouldn’t do that for liability purposes, but I’m just sayin’…. Anyway, the one thing these guys were good for was the drugs. As soon as we got into the ambulance, they set me up on an IV for fluid and some pain relievers. I was feeling 200% better reeeeaaally quickly.
When I got to the ER, I had two different doctors come in, poke me asking if I felt it and if anything else hurt. I said no. They told me I just pulled a muscle, gave me some medicine, and sent me on my way. Ummm…what?!?! No x-rays, no MRI’s, no anything??
I shimmied over to the wheelchair, into the car, then back to my apartment. All with Tim’s help, of course! He’s the best! My mom ended up coming and staying with me for the week, since she works from home, she was able to set up shop at my apartment and help me out. I was off of work for about a week, going in for only a couple of hours here and there to get some things done that were time sensitive and my mom had to drive me, since I wasn’t able to. It was such a hard week for me…uncomfortable in every position…sitting, standing, lying down, and sleep was near impossible. I couldn’t do anything comfortably and it was hard to take care of myself. I made an appointment with my primary doctor that week, who also is a back specialist apparently? I had only seen her one other time, since I had just found her a month prior. She poked around, and told me I was fine and the hospital was right that it was just a strained/pulled muscle in my lower back. I found it hard to believe that all of this pain and discomfort I was feeling was from a pulled back muscle, but who am I to question professionals? Fast forward two months later and I heard about a great local back specialist in the area and schedule an appointment. I wanted to go and see him and make sure that I was doing everything right as far as workout regimens, form, and the types of workouts I was participating in. It was a pretty quick recovery considering the amount of pain I was in, and when I started working out one month later, I made sure I progressed slowly and cautiously. Really focusing on my form and keeping my core tight. About one or two months after that, I went to my chiropractor. I have seen a chiropractor since 2010 (not for lower back pain or issues), and was finally ready to have her adjust me again after my injury. When I caught her up to speed, she started insisting that I had a bulging/ruptured disc and how did no one else see that? She asked if I had an MRI done, I did not (see above) and so now there is no way of telling what really happened then, since it had been so long.
So now, here I am being told two completely opposite things by numerous, educated, and skilled professionals. The pain has been in and out in my lower back, mainly on my right side…odd since the initial shooting pain came from the left side. There are some days and weeks that my back is stronger than others, and some where it is weaker than others. I’m still in the process of learning a lot about this injury, and just recently the chiropractor wants me to participate in the decompression table program she has, but it is not covered by insurance, so I don’t know that it is something I want to do. Still need to do some thinking and research on it.
A few things I have learned:
- Never give up. I could have easily never have gone back to the gym after I had finally found something that worked for me. I remember when I was waiting for the ambulance how upset I was that I wasn’t able to even finish that class I was in, and already thinking about how many workouts and classes I would miss now because of this injury. I think that was what drove me to get better and get right back at it when my body was ready. I am now up to working out four to five times per week and the goal is to get to six by the summer.
- It was a psychological test, as well as physical. I knew that it would be physically challenging easing myself back into my workout routines because my head and mentality were ready to get back in the gym, however, my body needed to take it slow, so I did not injure myself again, or even more than before. Even though I was mentally ready to get back to working out, it was still a little scary to do so, when this is where I was and what I was doing when I hurt myself initially. It was a big step, but I knew I was ready and prepared.
- Eating healthy is key. I know they say this everywhere and it is nothing new, but I don’t think I really came to believe it until I was recovering. I kept up with my food logging and healthy eating. Again, I could have easily slipped back into my old and bad habits, but I knew it was already going to be tough to when I was able to work out again, and I didn’t want to make it that much harder on myself if I had to re-teach and re-learn how to eat healthy again. With this, I was able to maintain my weight and even lose some even though I wasn’t working out.
- Listen to your body. I wish I would have stopped the minute I felt something tweak in my back. Not saying that this wouldn’t have eventually happened anyway, but maybe it wouldn’t have been as severe as it was. I slow it down at the gym or take the day off when my back is hurting me if I need to. I now listen when my body needs a day off because it is too sore. I am still learning, but am now focusing on listening and intuitive eating to when my body is actually hungry instead of eating at set meal times.
- Form is essential. I focus on my form for any movement when I workout, which I never was concerned with previously.
Question of the Day:
What workout or non-workout injury do you/did you have and how have you overcome it? I’d love to hear your stories!