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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 1:24 pm 
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For anyone who might have seen my thread in 'Health and Fitness' documenting my weight loss/exercise activities, and wondering why I had stopped updating...

Here is why
Spoiler:
Image

This is not a new problem for me. I've had lower back issues going back 25+ years, when I was in my early 20's. I was diagnosed with 'Degenerative Disc Disease', with several areas affected. Primarily L5-S1 Radiculopathy. I was in the military at the time, and was given the 'choice' of surgery (fusing the vertebrae together was their suggested treatment), or deferring and changing my AFSC (other branches refer to it as MOS) from Aircraft Crew Chief to something that didn't involve physical activity. I ended up cross training into IT related fields and spent the next 15 years of my career in various datacenters, and managed the back pain with stretching, and muscle relaxers (Motrin). I managed to avoid surgery until two years ago, the pain finally got bad enough, and after talking to my Doc, decided that surgery was a better alternative than trying to deal with the pain, and the pain meds.

So in May 2008 I had what the Neurosurgeon called a 'Micro Discectomy' (in my records they referred to it as a 'Partial Excision L5-S1'), which by his account was a fairly minor procedure, going in from the back (as opposed to the abdomen, which just sounds gory) and snipping off the part of the disc that was bulging and pressing on the sciatic nerve. The surgery was successful, as it alleviated pain, although I do have some permanent numbness in my right foot (loss of sensation, but no loss of strength), but by all accounts the surgery was a success, in that I was no longer in any pain, and no longer taking muscle relaxers or pain meds at all.

Fast forward to April of this year, I started my weight loss and exercise programs, and lost 60lbs, and started walking, working my way up to some jogging, and eventually 'trotting' 3 miles at a time, and running a couple of 5k's.

In mid July, I started experiencing some tightness in my right hamstring, which I attributed to 'overdoing' the running, so I took some downtime to rest. Then when I resumed running, I started having the same problem with my left hamstring.. so.. more rest. Then about two weeks ago, I was out for a lunchtime walk/jog from work, and just as I started jogging, I felt a sharp stabbing pain in my right calf, which immediately cramped up so bad I couldn't even walk on it.

I went to my GP, suspecting that I might be having some reoccurance of my back issues, but upon examination, the though he felt some swelling and wanted me to have a vascular exam to eliminate DVT as a possible cause of my leg issues. The vascular exam came back negative (thank goodness). The circulation in my legs is good. The calf was still in a state of perma-cramp, and my hamstrings occasionally tightened up on me as well, and I noticed that when standing, the numbness in my right foot was getting worse. So I asked my GP for a referral to see the same Nuerosurgeon who did my first procedure, and have him look at a fresh MRI (man I LOVE that tube! :p).

So the image in the spoiler tag is one of the new MRI images. It shows a significant bulging on the disc at L5-S1 again. This is almost identical to how the MRI looked two years ago before my surgery. My appointment with the Nuerosurgeon was fairly brief. Basically, he said I need the procedure done again. He explained that it was likely the running (more accurately the impact from running/jumping) that caused this to re-occur. He told me that I need to stick to exercises that do not involve any vertical impacts, or lifting heavy weights with a vertical load. He said cycling should be ok, and swimming too. And that I can do other exercises, as long as I can tolerate it. Basically, he said if it causes pain, numbess, etc.. don't do it, or I risk more permanent sciatic nerve damage.

So, I'm currently in the mode of trying to let the inflammation calm down to see where I am. I'm not having enough pain that it's affecting sleep, or requiring meds to function, so I'm not going to have the surgery just yet. I'm going to be scheduling a follow-up with my GP, and will work with him to try some physical therapy geared towards strengthening my abdominal muscles. I talked to some personal trainers about this, and had a strength assessment done. Apparently I have a serious imbalance in the strength in my back/abdomen, where I have very strong back, glute, and leg muscles, but my abdomen is not strong enough to counter it, which causes a rotational force on my hips that puts a lot of stress on the lower back. So, I'm hoping that with PT and working some specific exercises, building up core strength (without causing more damage), will mitigate some of the pressure on the back of that disc.

In the mean time, it seems my running days are over, probably forever. I'll be making some adjustments to my workout routine. I joined the YMCA, and cancelled my other gym membership, mainly because the Y has lap swimming all day, and there is one near my work and my house. So I'll add some swimming to my routine, as well as spin bike/cycling, whatever resistance/weight work I can do without compromising the injury, and whatever other out-of-the-box exercises I can find to continue to build a good base for fitness/health.

Anyway, this i was supposed to be more of a rant on the frustration of the situation (finally getting healthy, only to have this flare up), than a life/medical history...

I'm not going to let this deter me, or become an excuse for not getting and staying healthy. It's just something I'm going to have to manage and deal with along the way.


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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 1:33 pm 
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I was worried, until I got to where he told you cycling is still okay. Go go biking!

The core/back imbalance is something that I've been pondering lately, as I've lately started taking my posture a bit more seriously. I have seriously bad abdominal muscle tone and it shows in my posture. Maybe I should take it more seriously rather than suffer down the road.

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 2:57 pm 
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Kaffis Mark V wrote:
I was worried, until I got to where he told you cycling is still okay. Go go biking!

The core/back imbalance is something that I've been pondering lately, as I've lately started taking my posture a bit more seriously. I have seriously bad abdominal muscle tone and it shows in my posture. Maybe I should take it more seriously rather than suffer down the road.


Or you could be like me and ignore it despite suffering now due to genetic defects. Yay!

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 3:31 pm 
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Genetic defects like being freakishly tall? =P

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PostPosted: Mon Aug 30, 2010 3:37 pm 
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Na.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spondylolisthesis

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 10:00 am 
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Midge is freakishly tall also. I wonder if there is connection to back problems and height.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 10:06 am 
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Teekeela wrote:
Midge is freakishly tall also. I wonder if there is connection to back problems and height.


Frequently, yes.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 11:54 am 
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LOL 6' 5" is 'freakishly tall' ?

I wonder how the seven footers feel. :p


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 2:33 pm 
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Other suggestions:

Eliptical - moves a bit like running, but no impact.

Stairstepper- more up and down motion. Sometimes hard on the knees.

Walking in the pool - About chest deep. No impact and actually puts a mild distraction (pull upwards) on the lumbar spine. Wear water shoes if you do this.

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 3:57 pm 
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Those are great suggestions SG! I already do some of those (I haven't done the pool walking yet, because until this week, I didn't have access to one).

The problem is though, that none of those exercises, including cycling, are nearly as good of a cardio workout as running was. And none of them are quite as satisfying from a 'showing progress' perspective as going from barely being able to walk a mile a day, to being able to run 3.5miles in 35 minutes, which is about where I was at when I had to stop.

it's much more difficult to formulate goals around the other activities. Cycling is my second choice, and is somewhat more favorable than the others because there are distance metrics that can be measured, but for me, my body already attuned to cycling, and thus I have to ride a lot farther and a lot harder to get the same workout I did running, and not to mention that Summer is almost over, and cycling in the Northwest during any season that isn't Summer isn't much fun.

All that said, I'm not using any of that as an excuse to quit, or even slow down. I just need to get creative and find other ways to motivate myself to do the activities that I am able to do without compromising my sciatic nerve root, cuz I need that to stay intact as much as possible :p :D


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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 4:18 pm 
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Swimming is better cardio than running ...

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PostPosted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 5:10 pm 
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I've read that it's the best cardiovascular workout you can get, period. Comming in second? Jumping rope.

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