When I awoke to a dull ache in my lower back last spring, I assumed it was just another post jogging ache. I had been an avid runner for over 10 years and was in pretty good shape for a 50 year old woman. Having endured several running related injuries including tendonitis, achy joints, and heel spurs, I had still managed to soldier on with the help of rest, anti-inflammatory medicine and exercise. In retrospect, my resilience and ability to diagnose and treat my previous injuries set me up for an over-confident and incorrect self-diagnosis.
I applied ice the follow day then performed exercises I viewed on YouTube for what I had self-diagnosed as Piriformis Syndrome which is the compression of the Piriformis muscle on the sciatic nerve. Within 24 hours, I was in excruciating pain and unable to walk. Bed rest provided no relief because the muscle spasms were intense and incessant even when reclining. I made my way to my chiropractor three blocks away. The three minute trip took 20 minutes to drive because I could not sit up very long. My chiropractor performed manipulations that initially brought some relief, but two days later the pain was unbearable.
I went to an orthopedist who prescribed muscle relaxers and anti-inflammatory drugs, but they offered no respite from the pain. He eventually ordered an MRI that showed a pinched nerve due to a herniated disc. Based on the escalating pain between the first dull ache and the intense spasms days later, I can only assume my actions worsened the condition.
What would I have done differently if I could turn back time?
1. I would have rested and applied ice to the injury only.
2. I would not have attempted to perform exercises for an undiagnosed ailment.
3. I would have visited my orthopedist before visiting my chiropractor. Though chiropractic services served me well in the past, performing manipulation without MRI confirmation of the diagnosis is a recipe for disaster.
4. I would have requested an MRI much earlier in the process to determine the correct diagnosis.
5. I would have purchased my inversion table sooner. It does bring relief in the morning and after a long day.
After several months of medication and physical therapy, I am pain-free. Mornings are tough because my lower back sometimes aches, but a few gentle stretches after applying my trusty hydro collator provide the relief I need to get my day going. I still have the herniated disc and have considered minimally invasive surgery to correct it but since I now live relatively pain free, I can take my time deciding whether I want to take the plunge and go under the knife.
Experience is a very good, if at times unforgiving, teacher. Though I may have sabotaged my recovery with a few missteps, you can be sure that I will use what I learned and proceed with caution the next time I am injured.