Fitness, Physical wellbeing, Recovery

Put your back into it (me and my herniated disc)

It was all going so well. In 2019 I lost about 3 stones, managed to become IBS symptom free and was probably the fittest I’d ever been, doing a variety of exercise and loving it.

2020 started well and I was starting to consider seeing a personal trainer as I wanted to push myself further, but as we all know, 2020 had other plans for us all.

My back was niggling a bit before lockdown. I remember having to go very low impact at Zumba for a few sessions early in 2020, get the frozen peas out, but it seemed to recover reasonably quickly.

Managing the pain with some frozen goods!

Once lockdown hit I began working on our dining room table with just my laptop. Spending 8 hours a day hunched over is not going to do your back any good. I was determined to keep active so threw myself into at home exercise. I suppose I was going from one extreme to the other and like many people my whole daily routine was thrown out. Soon my back was troubling me again. I was experiencing referred pain down my right leg and up to my shoulder and neck.

I adjusted my working position, got a stand for my laptop, plugged in a keyboard and got a more supportive chair. It helped a bit but by the summer I was beginning to feel something was really wrong. My back pain had been hanging around for a couple of months and was worse first thing in the morning, I literally had to crawl out of bed and would be as stiff as a board for the first hour or so. It got me out of unloading the dishwasher first thing as I literally couldn’t bend down far enough, so every cloud 😉

By the end of August I decided enough. Nothing was working and it wasn’t going away. I bit the bullet and contacted my GP but also got in touch with the lovely Mel of Fitter Rider. Mel is a personal trainer and I knew of her because I had attended some of her other half’s, Mareks Fitness circuit classes a few years back. I needed someone who had experience in women’s health ( I’m peri menopausal and originally thought that might have something to do with my joint pain) but who would work with me and my current limitations.

Mel immediately assessed my physical stance and quickly gave me some daily corrective exercises to practice. Within a month these had started to help. I wasn’t pain free but I was in pain a lot less and mornings were easier. Mel also helped to give me the confidence that I shouldn’t just put up with the pain and it should be investigated.

The lovely Mel from Fitter Rider and Monty, who makes regular, welcome appearances on our Zoom sessions.

Having spoken to my GP it was agreed I should see a specialist and perhaps have a scan. I am fortunate that through my husband’s work I have private medical insurance so I could quickly get an appointment. The consultant I saw I do think thought I was a bit mad to begin with. My appointment was late afternoon, probably the best time of day for me in terms of mobility. I still have decent flexibility, but can no longer touch my toes which I have always been able to do, so for me my flexibility is reduced, but for an outsider I would still present as flexible. At that time of the day I’m also relatively pain free, I can only describe it as being aware I have a back issue, but not in pain like I am first thing in the morning.

The consultant sent me for an MRI scan and I was quite expecting that to come back with nothing, so I was a little surprised but also relieved in a funny sort of way when it showed I had a herniated disc. I wasn’t just imagining it! The consultant said it was the worst example he’d seen that week and one of the worst that month and he’d expect me to be in far more pain.

Looking glam for my scan!

I put down the lack of unbearable pain down to the fact I am usually very active and I do try and look after myself. The prognosis for my back medically was either pain relief injections or surgery. Neither appealed and as I was “managing” my symptoms I declined further treatment, but I have the option to go back if my symptoms get worse.

The diagnosis did however explain why things like downward dog and sit-ups seem to make things worse and gave Mel something to work with, she could design a programme that would challenge me but not make things worse. After discussion with her and my consultant, kettlebells were out, as was anything too high impact, but I also now knew what exercises to avoid and Mel and I worked out safe exercises I could replace any no go ones with.

I’ll be honest I wallowed for a few days afterwards. It felt unfair that I had done so much to get fit and change my lifestyle and now some of it had to be curtailed. However I quickly tried to move that mindset into all the things I could still do, and to be grateful that I wasn’t in worse pain.

Mel has been great. She has encouraged, listened but challenged me to progress. She regularly switches up my programme and always has modifications up her sleeve to make it work for me. I feel supported and what’s more I have greater awareness of posture and how to use my muscles when doing any exercises and day to day challenges. Mel has also embraced the challenges of the pandemic with most of our sessions delivered on Zoom.

Getting ready for a plank!

At this time my back feels ok most of the time and mornings, well I have good and bad days. Definitely not having the normal natural activity in our days is not helping but I feel I have a plan and we’ll hopefully be able to manage my back without more drastic measures. I at least have options. And I’m continuing to exercise 4-5 times a week and starting to be able to add some impact back into my workouts and definitely upping the strength and resistance parts. The main difference is I can’t just jump out of bed and do a workout, it has to be later in the day when my back has been mobilised.

I would encourage anyone with back pain for more than 6-8 weeks to see a GP and get it properly checked out. There was lots I was doing right to manage the condition but also some key things wrong that could have made it much worse in the long run. Even, if like me, the pain was manageable, get a proper diagnosis so you can treat your body properly. I am fortunate that I have had the means to work with a personal trainer but even without that knowing what the issue is can stop you doing more damage.

I’m so glad to get the chance to work with Mel. She works me hard but I really look forward to our weekly Zoom sessions and look forward to be able to do them in person sometime soon.

2 thoughts on “Put your back into it (me and my herniated disc)”

  1. Oh my god Jo. There’s a parallel! Thank you so much for sharing. Something similar with me. Just so impostor get these things checked out sooner rather than later as you say. So glad you’ve worked out a way forward. X

    Liked by 1 person

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