True Recovery

(While this is the same injury as mine, this picture is not my MRI.)

In the interest of full disclosure, the MRI of my lower spine reads like this:

1. At the level of the L4-L5, there is a large left paracentral disk
herniation measuring 8 mm in anteroposterior dimension x 12 mm in
transverse dimension x 12 mm in craniocaudal dimension, causing sever
left lateral recess narrowing, impingement on the left L5 nerve root.
There is no evidence of left nerual foraminal narrowing. Mild to
moderate canal stenosis is also seen. The right neural foramen is
normal. Mild bilateral hypertrophic facet degenerative changes are

2. At the level of L5-S1, the disk is desiccated, with a 3 mm right
paracentral focal disk protrusion, causing no signifigant neural
foraminal narrowing or canal stenosis. There is a focus of high T2
intensity zone within this focal disk protrusion, consistent with
annular tear.

Also in the interest of full disclosure, while there was a chain of events leading to the actual break, the incident that sidelined me happened when I bent over to pick up a pencil. I’d love to say it was the landing of 720 McTwist on my snowboard (that I will never get to ride again) or while doing a back drop in belly dance, but no. Fate afforded me not one amazing tale to boast with. There was simply a pencil on the floor.

I had the MRI on 2.2.10 and had been struggling with it for a half a year prior. With terrible math skills I deduce that for 2 and a half years I’ve been struggling with the long slow process of recovery from injury.

Treatments have included, very angry Thia women walking on my back, all the acupuncture needles possibly in the world, cracking bones at the chiropractor, Pilates, heating pads, pills, needles with electric volts, needles with motrin injected into my spine, ballet and dance to stay active and secure and strengthen my core.

It has been a long and painful uphill battle but I’ve made it through to the top of the hill and I never had surgery. I was determined. I never stopped staying active. I never took more then 3 days off. For 2 years even on the worst days I’d make myself walk 15 minutes a day to (prove to myself I still could walk) make sure the muscles didn’t petrify.

Yet, no matter what I did, I could not get rid of the shooting pains in my leg. They started at the top of the hip and collected in what felt like the center of my calf muscle. I would just grab my calf and hold it, squeezing it so hard until my hand cramped and let go. That effort only proved to be a momentary suspension on pain.

Then in December of this year I went to Grenada for 11 days. 11. I sat in the sun drinking beer and pina colada’s. Sure on occasion I went for a float in the warm water but more often than not I’d turn to my friend and we would complain about how much our butt’s hurt from sitting and sleeping. We decided the best remedy was to shift our butts to another angle. This worked out well.

Whatever the magical formula was, whatever it could be, all I know is when I rose from my lounge chair after the 11 days. 11. The pain in my calf was gone. It totally paid off. I have my limitations, I have to be careful and avoid certain actions but I dance now 6 days a week, compete in ball room events, do Pilates 3 times a week and the only thing that is sore after that are my feet.

So dear readers, to whomever is reading this, when I offer the advice of staying home, taking a break, having a beer and doing nothing it is because, for me, that is the final phase in the cure of finding your way back to a healthy life.

About TheSpinningDancer

I am a follower of the Church of Dance. Dream Bunnies and Mourning Doves follow me at night.
This entry was posted in ballet, ballroom, ballroom dance, dance, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to True Recovery

  1. ki says:

    I am having a similar problem. My MRI looks similar to yours with a L5-S1 herniation measuring 8mm. The doctor recommended a fusion. I’m a little (ok a lot) worried about that. Are you still feeling pain. Any advice would be greatly greatly appreciated


    • Hey, first I’m really sorry that this has happened to you. I wouldn’t wish upon anyone. I truly hope that you can find a path that leads you back to a good and strong place in your life and body.

      With that said I can only tell you of my experience and why I have chosen this course of treatment. I know you will chose what’s best for you.

      First thing, there’s no rush. There is nothing that says anywhere, you have to do this anytime, except when you are ready. It’s been 4 and a half years since my injury and I’m still figuring it out.

      Second, I have still not opted for surgery and here is why. I did a ton of research and there were some re-occurring themes that I kept encountering. The big one being, having a surgery for some reason or another usually / eventually led to another surgery.

      I don’t like surgery and unless one or both of these scenarios were to play out I won’t get surgery. One is my injury becomes worse and I become incontinent and or experience drop foot. if either of those were to occur, not only would it become messy but from what I understand, I would only have a couple months to fix the problem before there was a danger of the condition becoming permanent. I’ll take surgery over those options.

      I have chosen a steady path of acupuncture, chiropractor, electrical stimulus, Pilate’s (any exercise really to strengthen the core) massage and dance. (most of this might be covered under a health care plan)

      Has it been a long road? Yes.

      Will I continue for the rest of my life with the regiment above and never truly be healed? Yup.

      Are there flare ups? Absolutely. And some are worse then others.

      Do I have limits? Yes. But there are days, often months, where I don’t experience any pain and feel like a normal human. And then there are the days that I still hurt (even to the point I go back and consider surgery, but my pain eventually subsides and I keep going.)

      I accept that surgery someday might have to be done but I feel like (hope to God) by the time that happens there will be some medical advancements that will have figured something better out..

      Take your time, do your research, talk to your doctors, keep doing what you are doing, reaching out to people who have experienced similar issues and you’ll make a well educated decision that’s right for you.

  2. ki says:

    Thanks so much for your reply. Its good to hear you are still going after 4 and a half years. My thought process has been similar. I want to put off surgery for as long as possible. The more I have researched the more I have felt its a last resort option.

    Out of what you have been doing “acupuncture, chiropractor, electrical stimulus, Pilate’s (any exercise really to strengthen the core) massage and dance”. What have you found most helpful.

    So far I have been seeing a Physical Therapist but nothing else (I started to feel pain about 4 months ago and 3 months ago I realized it wasn’t going away and got an mri). Any ideas on what has triggered bad episodes over the last few years.

    Do you take anything like alleve or muscle relaxors? Sorry for all the questions.

  3. I take alleve and on the really bad days, (this seems to happen for some reason about once a year) I’ll get muscle relaxers.

    The best thing that I did was take take up Pilate’s and ballet. The combo I still do and they are core strengtheners and stretchers of ligaments, and subsequently the other things that I listed I don’t need to do much of any more really. I will though, cause they make the good days better and the bad days tolerable. 😉

    My triggers are usually doing really mundane things. The stuff I don’t think about. Washing my face and bending forward. What caused my initial injury in in the first place was bending over to pick up a pencil. Standing too long, sitting too long (beware of long plane or road trips), getting up too quickly with a twist, like getting out of a car. And ready, sneezing. Brace for impact. Once time I really got nailed pulling a door that I thought wasn’t locked. Vacuuming. Doing Laundry. Any lifting. Beware of these things that you never think about. They can sneak up on you now. =(

    • ki says:

      Do you take alleve every day. Or just when you have pain. I am trying to decide on whether to try and cut back on alleve.

      Do you feel there are more pain now compared to a few years ago. Im just trying to understand what to expect.

      Have you been able to travel much? Currently I am avoiding car rides except for short trips. My pain is tolerable I am just worried about triggering something with a car ride. Do you feel more pain above or below the knee?

      Have you had any luck with diffent shoe types? I have tried slippers (for the padding), barefoot, and those wierd shoes that have slots for your toes that mimic being barefoot.

  4. in the beginning, I was taking it seemingly like every day. I really, like you, tried to cut back unless the pain became bad. That was the first year. the second year, it was just when I had a bad day, and now, I’d say I’ll average like once a week. So yeah, just when i have pain.

    i do travel and for the first year I really avoided it, now, I travel all the time, in fact just got back from london. If you do have to take a long car ride, pull over and take breaks. I’d say after the second year I wasn’t worried about travel anymore.

    When it was at it’s worst, my pain went all down the leg into the calf and thru my big toe. I’d say the pain in my calf was the worst. It was constant and throbbing. When that went away, it was like the first time I really felt like it was going to be ok.

    As for shoes, I just get the doctor gel inserts, try to wear lower heals. those weird slot shoes, are just weird. the fact is, standing, is just going to kill you after a while. I had a flare up after standing for a concert one time.

    • ki says:

      Thanks so much for writing back. Its been really helpful. Its good to hear from someone that has been down the road.

      Its great to hear you are traveling and taking less pain medication. If you are ever in Austin for anything like the SXSW music festival or ACL and need a place to stay write me. My wife and I live 10 minutes from downtown and have a house sitting on the Colorado river.

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