Photo: Noel A. Tanner
So I had one of those "Oh f@#k!" moments this week at the gym.
I'd actually been having a great workout, fueled by excessive amounts of caffeine and awesome tunes, and I'd cruised through my cardio and most of my weights in fine spirits.
I'd just finished doing some shoulder presses and was returning the weights to the weight rack when, like a total dumbass, I broke one of the fundamental Gym Safety Rules:
Bend Your Knees, Not Your Waist, When Lifting or Lowering Heavy Weights!
Duh. I know this. But I got careless. I bent mostly from the waist to put the weights back and not enough from the knees and then....
Owww. Followed by the sinking uh oh feeling you get when you know you've "done something" to your back.
As it happens, I've had some previous experience with this sort of dumbassery before. I've had a couple "episodes" where I could barely move for a few days, and the recovery period lasted almost 6 months. (A doctor speculated that I probably have a herniated disk, but since I'm not gonna do anything surgical even if it's true, I've never had an MRI to confirm).
The bad news about this history is that I knew this most recent injury could end up being a Big Freakin' Uncomfortable, Inconvenient Deal. But the good news was, my previous cluelessness had taught me some helpful lessons on what to do next!
And rather than waste perfectly good stupidity, I thought I might pass on some advice to those who have not yet been through the "Acck, My Back!" experience before.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I am a lazy blogger, not a doctor. Consult an actual physician if you have injured or are preparing to injure yourself.
So you've heard of the acronym "RICE?" Well, it's a helpful reminder about what you're supposed to do in the wake of a painful and possibly debilitating sports injury. But it leaves some important things out.
Let's elaborate a bit, shall we? Now while I'm generally a proponent of whole grains, I think this situation calls for some WHITE RICE. So here's what to do immediately after you've injured your back:
Whether this is going to be a couple of uncomfortable hours or many months of a chronic injury, you are only going to have a few short minutes of optimal sympathy from your family and friends. Might as well take advantage of it while the injury's fresh! Chronic injuries may be painful, but no one wants to hear about them. So milk it while you can.
After you have hurt yourself, STOP YOUR WORKOUT. This seems so obvious that no sensible human needs to be told this, right?
Well, the first time I injured my back, I clenched my teeth and finished the remainder of my workout, because I had things left on my list! I avoided only the back exercises.
Do not be this dumb! Whenever you've clearly "done something" to your back (or your calf or thigh or neck or whatever)... Adios. You're done for the day.
I: Ibuprofen or other anti-inflammatories.
Obviously not if you can't take these because of allergies, sensitivities, stomach problems, or other reasons. But my big mistake the first time around was not keeping the inflammation under control because it seemed more "virtuous" to keep the pills to a minimum. When I finally went to a doctor, I discovered that I'd needlessly prolonged my symptoms and could have returned to normal functioning much more quicklly if I'd just taken a few pills.
T: Teach Yourself Injury Prevention Techniques
Once you've hurt yourself, all those warnings you've been blowing off about strengthening certain muscles and stretching others and moving and sitting properly? These suddenly seem a lot more relevant and important. The trick, however, is not just to do these things for a while and then start blowing them off again once the injury fades from your mind.
Alas, it seems I have not mastered this "trick".
E: Experiment With Body Positions That Don't Hurt as Much
When you're back's messed up, you may not be able to just plonk yourself into your regular chair, or sleep in your normal position. You may feel dorky standing up when others are sitting, or tilting back in your chair, or lying down for a day when you have things that need to be done, but try to do what you can to irritate your injury as little as possible.
Your injury needs to heal, and it's not going to do that very well if you're putting constant pressure on it. Tell your boss to go to hell if he doesn't like you lying on the conference room table during staff meetings.
Er... or maybe not.
Seriously, take it easy. Depending on how severe your injury is, you may need to hunker down completely for a day or so and it might then be a long gradual easing back into activity before you can resume all the hard ass stuff you did before.
But "rest" does not mean remaining immobile for weeks! They used to advise people to stay in bed for absurd lengths of time with back injuries; now it's much more about walking around and getting gentle exercise back into your life, which can actually help healing.
This seems to help me a LOT. Right after I injured myself this time, I went home and used my Moji. Even though it's designed for knees, it worked great! (If you don't have one, ice or bags of frozen vegetables work too). I iced 20 minutes at a time, 5 or 6 times that first day, and that plus the ibuprofen really seemed to calm things down.
I have absolutely nothing interesting to say about this, but it's supposed to be a good thing when you have an injury.
Really? This is part of the standard "RICE" advice, but how the hell do you elevate your back above your heart? Are you supposed to spend the day upside down? Instead, I think they must mean Elevate Your Mood!
So if your doctor doesn't prescribe painkillers with any entertaining recreational potential, I discovered that a big glass of merlot works very well as a muscle relaxant, pain reliever, and mood elevator. NOTE: This is probably not actually medically advisable, so check with your doctor first and don't try to sue Crabby if you burn holes in your stomach or start seeing green unicorns flying through your living room. And always check labels of any drugs you are taking to see whether you can safely combine them with alcohol.
The Happy Ending:
Turns out this was not one of those Bad Back Episodes; I discovered pretty quickly that it must have been a minor strain. I have kept moving but have avoided anything heavy duty; I'm about to ease back into my normal routine but will be very careful.
Where You Can Get Actual Medical Information:
Mayo Clinic has a whole bunch of information on back injuries. (And specially for you hypochondriacs in need of something new to worry about, there's a section on rare and serious conditions related to back aches).
And Because it's Friday
I have a little extra silliness to squeeze in at the end of this post!
First up, the weekly Juice Quiz! Don't worry, this week it's only one question:
Why does Crabby have so few friends?
1. She has an unconventional theory about personal hygiene that she'd love to tell you about;
2. Crabby does not actually exist; she is a software program dreamed up by the folks at Google to subtly dissuade people from getting fit so they'll spend all day at their computers instead;
3. Crabby has an irrational fear of a common communication device;
4. Crabby has all the friends she needs! So what if they all live inside her head?
The answer is revealed here . (Oh, and there's a new giveaway too, this time it's one of those cute little Flip Camcorders.)
Pity The Mutants
And next up, our pal Pubsgal mentioned a funny website in her comment yesterday, and I went there and spent quite a bit of time giggling over it. It's called Photoshop Disasters, and it collects examples of commercial photoshop abuses, both subtle and not-so-subtle. I couldn't help feeling sorry for those models with freakishly big heads or long limbs or short necks, extra or missing fingers, or heads screwed on backwards. But the mutant children are particularly poignant.
Photo: Photoshop Disasters
Have a great holiday weekend, and try not to injure your back or let your arms melt into your pool toys!