Sunday, 20 June 2010

The Hurt Locker

I woke up Friday morning and the dull pain that has been with me on and off for over 15 years was back, yes my back had gone again. It's been like having a persistant bully working on you trying to beat the human spirit that lays within all of us. The root of my pain comes from a RTA I was involved in all those years ago. I was on a bicycle he was in a car (no license and uninsured!!), my right of way but he smashed into me. It really was a moment went I actually thought I would be dead, and when I woke up 20 feet down the road in one piece and (seemingly) Ok I counted my blessings.

There are lots of these dotted all over Flanders, I find them strangely calming.

I used to be a lot fitter then, rarely taking the tube in London and making most journeys by bike. So for many years after my accident I never had any issues. Then one day I had the worst spasm to date, which was also slightly embarassing. I was getting changed after my commute to work (around 15-17 miles) and I was taking my tights off, lifting my leg up my back went into a painful spasm and I hit the floor like a sack of spuds. I couldn't move for ages and must have been there for 15-20 minutes. I wife came and collected me, I was a grumpy mess.

 This has no cycling reference, I just like butterflies, amazing things.

So I needed to get fixed as I refused to let this beat me. Many times in my life I have been told you'll never do this or that again and I didn't want to walk down that corridor again, but that's a different story. I had been to the Osteopath before and had some great pain relief and made progress enough to actually not be in constant pain. This time I thought I'd try a Chiropractor and ended up going to see some good people on the recommendation of an Australian massage therapist friend of mine. X-rays where taken and a when they sat down with me they struggled to see how I should be able to ride at all. My spine was not straight! It resembled a piece of cooked spaghetti as both my lower and upper vertabrae had compressions on either side which was twisting and pulling on me.

I think the process took around 10 weeks in total, and cost me loads of money. I was off the bike for around six of those weeks, which as it was coming into Spring was a pain and thr frustration of missing one of my favourite seasons was hard. Since that period of getting fixed it has flared up again, but thankfully I know how to ease the pain. This involves some stretching, massage (with oils), core stability work, painkillers and riding the bike. Ironically one of the things that can set it off is lack of fitness. My body needs the pain and the hurt locker of exercise to stop the pain that can come by being unfit, it does seem perverse.

That's one of the things I love about PRO riders is that they go out to train in all weathers. They look like normal people but they seem to have an extra few ounces of grit & determination comapred to us meer mortals.

So why has it flared up again and so badly, well these where my thoughts at 5:30 this morning. I think it's a combination of things as if it was one or two they wouldn't bother me and I would continue in my normal world. Lack of riding and core work, this makes my body soft and doesn't give me the strong muscles I need to support the skeletal system. This leads onto the next one, I'm too heavy at the moment. I've found shifting the weight that Swine Flu added (post illness and no exercise, not during) to be tough, due in part to not training (it's a viscious circle) and this does not help. Finally the last contributing factor is 4 plane flights in 5 days in the last 10 days or so. Being 190cm of 6ft3" planes are cramped unless you can afford the expensive ticket, but normally it's not an issue.

So the recovery process needs to begin. Stretching, massage, core work and riding the bike. It'll take as long as it takes, and God willing, it might be only a few days. I don't want this piece to sound as a big downer as I am generally upbeat about it. Unlike many people when they are ill or in pain I am in the position to know what is wrong with me, and on a whole know how to deal with it. Having this issue has given me an extended reason to be happy as it makes me appreciate the days with no pain, and as a father of three boys I need my body to work as they are active and enjoy the outdoors. I suppose what I am trying to say is 'don't take for granted what you have got' as my fitness was robbed from me by somebody who should not have been driving at all. Maybe I need to do something crazy again soon, and I'm not a one for causes (another story) but maybe I need to raise some cash for victims of bicycle related car accidents, any thoughts on this would be appreciated.

So enjoy your ride today it's a great day out there, and in the words of Faithless 'This is my Church, this is where I heal my hurts' and I'll enjoy mine again once I can get back on a bike.

1 comment:

Tom Jennings said...

Sorry to hear about your injury - what a bummer. Especially the bit about the uninsured driver - I'd be seething too, but try and let it go, as stress is another factor in back pain! Also, you are completely right about core work, makes a huge difference over time. Out of interest, have you tried Pilates? I've heard very good things from other cyclists. Good luck with recovery and keep taking the ibuprofen!