Monday, January 22, 2007


Friday morning, I headed to the gym early to do some strength training before my first client. I was feeling a bit tired, as is often the case on Fridays, especially at 5:15am. The plan was to do some leg strength training first, then some light upper body.

I did a warm-up set of squats - 15 reps with 135 lbs. Then I immediatly did a set of 30 v-ups - I like to work core training in during strength training. I felt like I was in slow motion, and attributed this to just being a bit over-tired. I began my second set of squats with 200 lbs, and my mind was elsewhere. I was counting the reps, and simultaneously thinking about what I had to do that day. Five, six, the weight didn't feel so bad and my strength was coming around. Seven, just five more reps... Then it happened. As I pressed the weight up from the squat position on my eighth rep, about 1/2 way up through the range of motion, my low back gave out! My low back spasmed so bad that my strength just went dead. It was as though someone turned the main power switch on me off. I froze there in pain, then somehow managed to re-rack the weight.

My whole lower back, from the left side across to the right was in such a spasm that my stomach was protruding forward. This was caused by the erector spinae muscles siezing up. Think of a muscle flexed and not lengthened. I hobbled around the floor of the gym, with my hands on my low back looking like the lead in a gay broadway play (not that there's anything wrong with that.). I couldn't sit and the pain was intensifying. I tried to stretch out on the precor stretch machine, but my low back wouldn't budge, remaining in this arched position. Little did I know that the fun was just beginning.

How I got in my car and drove home, I don't know. I cancelled my clients that day and went upstairs to lie down. Every little movement sent severe pain shooting through my whole body. My low back would grab and sieze up something fierce. I like to think I have a pretty high pain threshold. I've been in some "interesting" accidents that caused many broken bones and well over 500 stitches cummulative throughout my years. I've put myself through some very, very uncomfortable situations. But this was setting a new bar.

Lisa wanted me to go to the hospital, but my stubborness wouldn't allow it. I felt that it was purely muscular, and that the vertebral column was fine. I didn't feel a pop as though I ruptured a disc. Then again, I have never had any major back issues like this before.

Friday, I didn't budge from bed. It hurt to just roll over onto a side. I got up once during the day to use the bathroom. On Thursday, the previous day, I ran 90 minutes at a 6:30 average pace comfortably. Friday, it took me 20 minutes to walk 20 feet from my bed to the toilet!

Friday night, I got up again before bed to brush my teeth and the pain was at an all time high. I was standing in my bathroom, sweating in pain, and lightheaded from lying around all day. Lisa was worried and said I didn't look right, to which I replied "I'm going down Lis!". I passed out and fell back on Lisa, who, unfortunately for her, broke my fall and prevented me from slamming my head on the toilet.

Lisa was panicked, and called my parents who came up to get the kids, and then, once they did, she called 911. The Monroe ambulance was here in like 5 minutes. First a cop came up and asked a few questions. Then he hung out in my room, more interested in the action movie on the TV than what was going on with me. Then, three EMT's came up and checked my vitals. I, once again being stubborn according to Lisa, refused to go to the hospital. I knew now it was muscular and that there was nothing that the hospital was going to be able to do. It was 9:30pm and I'd be strapped to a board for a bumpy ride to the hospital and then lay there forever, waiting to get checked out, only for them to tell me there wasn't much they could do. I was already taking a muscle relaxer and pain killers. A doctor friend of mine prescribed them for me in the afternoon, although they weren't doing much. The reason I knew it was muscular is because of when I passed out. When one passes out, there muscles totally relax, going limp. For the 20 seconds upon awakening from my passed out state, I was still a bit incoherent, but I stood up quickly, pain free and walked back to bed quickly. If it were more than muscular, I don't think I would have been able to do this.

Fortunately, my kids weren't here when the ambulance came. The EMT's were very nice. They pressed against my feet to see if I could feel (looking for nerve damage) and not only could I feel it, but I'm quite ticklish on my feet. Lisa got a laugh out of that one.

I slept maybe two hours that night. The pain is always worse in the middle of the night. I sleep on my stomach, and since this wasn't possible, it made things that much more difficult. For those that sleep on their sides, what the hell do you do with the bottom arm?

Saturday, I saw no progression. My uncle who is a chiropractor came by to look. He concurred that my erector spinae were still siezed up, and we couldn't do much until they relaxed. He put some bio-freeze on my low back and headed off. I continued to ice and heat. Getting out of bed was still a very painful chore. I slept no better Saturday night.

By Sunday, I was so sick of laying in bed, yet there wasn't much I could do. Then, it got worse. Lisa took Kate and went to pick up Ryan at CCD. Well, I get a call from her telling me that her car won't start. She called Volvo road support and they said they would be there in an hour. We thought of who we could call to go get her and the kids and bring them home, but no one was around. I started to get dressed and it was excruciating. I have never felt so helpless and man did I absolutely hate it. This is the worst feeling. I was able to get in touch with my cousin Liz who picked them up.

I continued to lay around and since things happen in threes, it was inevitable. the Patriots lost!

It's now Monday morning and I'm beginning to feel better. If I were at a 10 this weekend with the goal of getting back to a 1, then I'd say I'm at a 6 today. I think I'll be ready to head back out to work tomorrow.

How long this will set me back, I don't know. On Friday when I was laying there in pain, I was thinking "man, I'm not even 40 yet! First, I had that freak shoulder issue in Hawaii and now this!" The fact is though that I'm just pushing hard and not paying enough attention to myself. My shoulder - I go from hardly no swimming to more daily yardage than I've done since college in one week. As a coach, I'd never have one of my athletes do this! With this back issue, I am notoriously tight in my posterior musculature. This combined with being early morning, on a friday of a busy week and doing squats after a set of v-ups that fatigues the supporting core muscles - another stupid thing that I'd never have an athlete do. I guess it's good to learn the hard lessons on myself. I rarely have gotten injured throughout my lifetime of athletics. Much of this is due to good genetics. I am biomechanically very strong. I just can't take this for granted though. Live and learn.

I do know that I will never go through this again, barring some freak incedent that's out of my control. I'll do whatever possible to assure that this doesn't occur again. This means more posterior stretching and more warming up. Sometimes you have to experience a very low point to make changes and realize how important your health is. I never want to be in a situation again with my family where I feel so helpless. This was the worst part of the weekend by far.

Never a dull moment here!



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