July 9, 2013

Someone’s Got a Case of the Mondays

(Or, you know, Tuesdays, since I didn’t end up writing a post yesterday.)

The short version is, after a fabulous weekend in the Hamptons with Blake, Ashley, and Theodora, I came home pretty stressed out – I had a lot of work to do before the weekend was over. I finally made my Sunday night deadline, and then got to packing up for the week. I was supposed to fly to Dallas first thing on Monday morning, work all week and celebrate my birthday with my Dallas friends and coworkers on Wednesday, then fly to Albany on Thursday night to celebrate with my family there (in my new house!). Saturday afternoon, I’ll be speaking on an Ask the Experts panel at the Boilermaker race expo, then I have a wedding back in Albany on Saturday night, and Sunday morning I was planning to run the Boilermaker and then head back to NYC for a week of staycation.

None of that is happening now.

While innocuously folding dresses to pack in my suitcase, my neck and back started stiffening up. No real surprise there – I had been under a lot of stress, and for some reason, my left trapezius often seems to get tense when that happens. Following my usual protocol, I reached with my right arm to try to massage it a little bit, and since I was home, also dragged out the foam roller. When that didn’t work, I didn’t stress – I was heading to bed soon (9pm on Sunday nights for my early Monday flights, because I am such a party animal), and figured a good night’s sleep would take care of it.

But instead of “a good night’s sleep,” I didn’t get more than an hour total. The tension in my neck/back turned into agonizing pain – to the point where I would literally start crying when I breathed wrong and sent shooting pain through my muscles. I should also note that I have a very high pain tolerance – in 1999, I was in a car accident where I literally broke my back, and didn’t know for a week because I thought it was just mild soreness. I have never experienced pain this bad before, and I knew something was terribly wrong.

Scarf Brace
The scarf was my attempt to minimize movement until I saw a doctor and got a legit neck brace.

After a full day of doctors, therapists, pharmacies, and painkillers, I still don’t know exactly what that “something” is that’s wrong, and even the Percocet that’s making me completely loopy isn’t doing anything for the pain. I’m headed for an MRI tonight (at 9pm, because apparently imaging facilities in New York City never sleep either), but my doctor and physical therapist both suspect a cervical disc prolapse. This typically presents in 30-50 year olds, and is caused more by wear and tear than any specific incident, so me getting it two days before my 28th birthday makes me feel old and worn out. Furthermore, since I’m taking this week off as sick time, I had to cancel my vacation next week. I have the days banked to use, but two weeks in a row is just too long to be away from my client responsibilities; as it is, I feel awful about taking off this week with hardly any notice.

I’ll hopefully be posting a review of some new sneakers later today (which was what my Tuesday post was originally supposed to be). At the moment, though, I’m not in the mood to write about sneakers; I’m miserable not knowing when I can exercise again. Maybe that sounds stupid, but I’ve finally settled some things down that open up my schedule to sign up for fall marathons – and yet, I have no idea if/when I’ll be able to run. When I think about my birthday tomorrow and what would make the day special, it’s going for a run around the city or doing some workout classes to make me feel strong and healthy, and then going out for drinks with all my friends. The injury is keeping me from working out at all, so I’m lying in bed like a worthless blob, and the medicine means I can’t touch a cocktail. I’m going stir crazy in bed, but even the slightest attempt at stirring (like reaching for  my cell phone when I get a text) can produce sharp pain that again makes me cry. I am not a happy camper, and while I’m trying hard to cheer up and find ways to be productive without moving, it just isn’t working so far. Even more than I need to find out what’s wrong and start healing my neck, I need an attitude adjustment, STAT.

Maybe y’all have some tips?


19 thoughts on “Someone’s Got a Case of the Mondays”

  1. Oh no! Good luck with your MRI. Hope you hear some good news and aren’t out of commission for long. Completely stinks it’s right before your birthday, too :(.

    Keep your head up!

    Also … you must have an amazing tolerance. Damn, girl! And I thought I did because I’ve never had an issue getting tattoos. On a related note, if you wanted some really cool tats, I bet you’d have no issues ;).

  2. Oh jeez, that sounds awful! 🙁 Well, consider this a vacation to get caught up on any reading or movie-marathon watching you’ve been dying to do! I hope you feel better soon and I hope the MRI comes back with some concrete answers for you.

    I’m pretty new to your blog, so I didn’t realize you traveled to Dallas frequently. Maybe when you are able to get down here, we can get together for a run!

    Take care!

    1. Kim, I would love that! I’m usually in Dallas every week and should be back next week… though not yet sure if I’ll be running then.

  3. Hi Laura, So sorry to hear about your recent onset of neck pain. I am a long-time reader and have really enjoyed your blog. I especially enjoy your comprehensive focus on health, and not just focusing on one form of health. How wonderful you were able to go the the Blend retreat, that is something that I would love to be able to attend.

    I am a physical therapist and you might benefit from reading “Treat your own neck” by Robin McKenzie. It’s what I primarily use with my cervical pain patients and the results are pretty immediate. You can order it for about $9 on amazon. The first recommendation is when sitting, to first slide hips all the way back in the chair, then place a small towel roll/pool noodle/small pillow in the small of your back. This is called erect supported sitting and by correctly aligning the lumbar spine, this can allow the thoracic and cervical spine to move towards normal alignment. You might need to adjust the size of the lumbar support until you find the right size. They sell a lumbar roll, but you can use what you have on hand. The book is very good about laying out a step by step progression and when to progress the exercises and when to back off. You want to sit with the lumbar support every time you sit to allow the tissues to heal. The book will then talk you through what exercise to add to the erect supported sitting.

    A physical therapist that is Mckenzie certified would be beneficial or a physical therapist that has gone to at least Parts A and B. I hope some of this helps and that you can enjoy at least some of your staycation. Of pain relief benefit might also be alternating heat then ice every 20 min. It won’t cure anything, but can help with pain. Please keep us posted on your progress and feel free to email me with any questions/concerns. Hope you feel better soon!

    1. Just ordered the book – thank you SO much for the recommendation! Do you recommend the Arc4Life Cervical Traction Pillow also? I’ve found that gently pulling up on my head with my hands (as if it were in traction) provides a lot of relief, so that pillow is tempting. The MRI tonight went well so hopefully by tomorrow afternoon I’ll know what’s going on and then can treat accordingly.

      Thank you SO much again for your long, detailed, helpful comment!!! I sincerely appreciate it.

    2. I’ve never used the pillow, so I don’t know. I don’t think it would hurt, just seems a little pricey. Another cheaper option would be (if this doesn’t make sense let me know and I can try to explain better):
      Option 1: Roll up a small towel horizontally and place horizontally in long end of pillow. This towel roll supports your neck while sleeping and putting it inside your pillow helps it stay supporting your neck, instead of migrating around your bed as you roll.
      Option 2: Using a length of rope and a towel to provide gentle cervical traction.
      Tie a length of rope to doorknob
      Roll up a towel lengthwise
      Fold rolled towel in half lengthwise
      Tie ends to rope (making a sling for your head)
      Correct length is when sling is tied and center of towel sling barely touches ground
      Lay on back with head in towel sling (cupping base of skull)
      head is towards door and feet away from door
      Scoot away from door until feel gentle stretch in neck
      Straighten legs to increase traction, bend knees to decrease traction
      May use pillows under arms if need support to shoulders
      Set timer and try it for 5 minutes. Do NOT fall asleep!
      If pain feels better after, can try initially 2-3 times/day
      Centralization of pain (pain moving toward neck is OK to continue)
      Peripheralization of pain (pain moving towards hands = stop and do not continue traction)
      The McKenzie method I believe is the most powerful and best tool, but until the book comes, this might help. Please review this with your physical therapist and do not perform it they believe it is contraindicated.
      Good luck and hope this helps!!

  4. I am so sorry fit girl! that picture of you says it all. I hope and pray you can find some relief soon. You are so active in your life both work and play. I know this is driving you absolutely bonkers!! You are in my thoughts!

  5. Yikes! Just seeing this now…make sure you let us know what the doctor says. Something similar happened to me last year for a few days. It just went away on it’s own but it was realllly weird. I hope you feel better and are able to take a few days of rest, you obviously need it!

  6. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this 🙁 I hope you get some answers and feel better soon. Percoset is definitely enough to make one loopy, like seriously.

    FYI, we can commiserate on lack of answers together. Granted yours is way more serious, I’ve been struggling about not getting answers on some allergies and rashes and hand problems I have been having 🙁 It just sucks when you don’t know what to do to fix it. I hope we both get some answers soon. You deserve to be happy and smiling:)

    1. Laura, I am so sorry to hear about your issues! Do you have any next steps to get answers and it’s just a waiting game to hear back, or is it totally up in the air?

  7. More testing now, since the skin tests didn’t come up with any allergies now time for needles. Must be something I am breathing in or eating that I am allergic to .

    How is you neck doing?

    1. UGH, needles are the worst – good luck!

      My neck is killing me today but I’m about to go for a run and see if that helps. My doctor/PT have figured out that my standing/walking/running posture is awesome, but my sitting/lying posture is awful, so activity is actually more helpful than rest. Go figure!

  8. Hi
    As someone who lives with 3 herniated discs, what helped my pain was a 108 Sun Salutation day that I had already registered for before my injury. I could only do about half of them, but that night was the first night that I had no pain at all in the areas that you are talking about. Granted, my herniations are on one side, but it felt amazing. I find that if I am not keeping up with the yoga, I get the spasms in my shoulder/neck, esp after working my 12 hour shift as an ICU nurse. I think that sun saluations help spread apart my discs.

    1. Thanks so much, Susan! I am definitely going to be looking into lots of yoga once I meet with my physical therapist on Monday and get my dos/don’ts.

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