My greatest fear these past three months or so has been a big imaginary finger on a rewind button. Every time I felt a small sore spot to the right of my spine, about a hand’s width above the top of my glute, I’d worry that my back pain was returning.
You see, that was the final part of it all, this sore spot to the right of my spine, above my glute. Around when that stopped showing up regularly, that’s about when the physio discharged me, so my greatest fear wasn’t so much re-injuring my back, but rather a niggle appearing, and all that physiotherapy treatment reversing and my being in the state I was in mid-June, bent at a bit of an angle, trying not to cry and really not wanting to move.
I didn’t say it was rational. I mean, it’s fear – fear generally has no basis in rationality at all; if it had a rational basis, it wouldn’t be fear. It would be justified. So I knew the fear was irrational, but it didn’t stop it showing up. If your injury progression consisted of it continuing to flare up with no discernible pattern, you get a little gun shy.
I can’t remember if I’ve told you this, but my new “you’ve got a race on Sunday niggle” stopped being shin splints and starting being that small sore spot. It showed up the Wednesday before Stay Puft, and I worried about it a little, but also noticed that I hadn’t developed shin splints, so I figured the back spot was my new pre-race psychosomatic injury. When it showed up again before Wallygrunta, it semi-confirmed my theory it was my new pre-race psychosomatic injury, but this time it hurt a lot more, so my fear that I’d actually done some damage and the big imaginary finger was parked on the rewind button was more debilitating than the actual lower back pain.
Now, let me say, I call it psychosomatic, because I’m fairly sure given a barrage of radiological imagery there’d be nothing visibly wrong, but just because you think it’s probably all in your head doesn’t mean it doesn’t bloody hurt.
I’d gotten used to shin splints, and when they’d regularly recur just before a race it became a part of my preparation; Bodyglide, shorts, socks, sports bra, shirt, shoes and shin splints. I’d wake up on race day and they’d be fine, but they’d niggle away the week before and became a good physical reminder to take it a bit easy beforehand – yes, I might be in Sydney on holiday, but if Sunday is half marathon race day, then maybe don’t walk about 15km sightseeing on Saturday.
But the spot was something else. Shin splints hadn’t effectively taken me out of action for 6 months. Shin splints was about 2 weeks of me running while they developed then I realised what I’d got, nipped down the physio round the corner and sorted it in a few Saturday appointments. I also knew how to fix shin splints – a boatload of calf exercises, icing of shins and some self massage. My initial back injury had me going to the physio three times a week and sometimes having to resort to popping ibuprofen like they were M&Ms. As to knowing how to fix it, I’m still in the throes of learning that.
That’s the best thing about pilates. I bowl up to class pleased that I felt the sore spot when I leant over in the shower that morning. I spend 10-15 minutes of the class learning four new stretches and some manoeuvres on the foam roller and the sore spot dissipates. Next time it shows up I throw everything at it, admittedly resorting to searching Google Images for “hip flexor stretch” because I couldn’t remember how to hold my pelvis when I dropped my knee a bit in order to stretch my hip flexors.
Last week I’d had the sore spot recur and I’d thrown everything at it again, but I hadn’t been able to get my iliotibial band stretches to work properly, so when I rocked up to pilates I asked Lauren how I needed to do it again, and I was successful on the left, but on the right I was locked up solid, so I learnt some more manoeuvres on the foam roller to loosen that up, and bingo, I was able to do the stretch. I threw everything at it again, and it all came good.
It seems to be all the muscles that connect to my pelvis; and there are boatloads of individual muscles that connect to the pelvis – double digits. If they’re tight, then I get back pain as it all pulls on my lumbar spine. It’s a daisy chain effect; I’ve used the Bakballs to loosen my back muscles, so when I lie down and stretch my hamstrings, I’m able to then stretch my glutes. I’ve had to stretch my quads so I can then stretch my iliotibial bands, which once they are loose, will let me stretch my hip flexors.
Saturday this past weekend was the Busselton Half Marathon and Fun Run; Jeremy did the half and I did the 10K (57m09s). I signed up to race on Thursday so I don’t think my body had time to develop my pre-race psychosomatic injury, but today when I was driving to pilates, my back had that small sore spot. I wasn’t worried, because I’m learning how to make it go away.