July 12, 2013

To Run Or Not To Run?

Unfortunately, not much news to report on the cervical spine front, other than how much time I’ve wasted calling doctors in the Dallas Metroplex area to try to get an appointment. Almost every receptionist I spoke with said that their respective doctor would be happy to squeeze me in at the end of August, because apparently spinal injuries are non-urgent and you can just sit tight for six weeks or so. Fortunately, a Twitter referral came through for me (Caron, I owe you big time!) and I should be able to see this guy the week after next, or sooner if he has cancellations. I’m pretty psyched that he has an incredible sports background, and has probably seen it all!

That said, my physical therapist in New York is amazing, and the facility seems to be really geared toward athletes and runners. They even have a running club and tons of articles on how to run safely and injury-free. Score! This morning I went to my physical therapist armed with a list of questions that my family and friends forced me to said I should ask. Is it really safe to run? How long, how far, and how fast? How can it possibly be safe to do a high-impact activity when my discs are out of alignment – won’t that make it worse? And damnit, it can’t really be okay for her to run, is it?!

But instead of giving up and just telling me to quit running (which, let’s face it, would have been a lot easier than answering all my questions!), the good PT instead pulled out a cool model of the human spine and did a little demonstration. The spine normally has four curves: sacral, lumbar, thoracic, and cervical. These natural curves are there for a reason – if the spine were straight, it would break under impact/pressure. The curves are what make us able to sustain movement and bounce, because they bend a bit back and forth to absorb impact.

The Natural Curves of the Spine
Source: About.com Anatomy of the Spine

When I’m sitting, because my lumbar curvature is (hopefully) stabilized by the chair, it’s the thoracic and cervical curvatures that are bearing my weight. My neck muscles are ridiculously weak, which explains why sitting is so painful for me – the neck muscles are trying to work overtime to hold up the big heavy object that is my head. (Fun fact: the human head is about 8% of your total body weight!) On the other hand, when I’m running,  it’s the lumbar curvature that absorbs the impact – while my head and neck basically float on top (assuming they’re properly aligned). Since my lumbar curvature is fine, running is fine too. So there.

In general, I tend to have very good standing posture (thank you, 18 years of ballet training), so it’s not all that surprising that I’ve injured my neck/shoulders rather than my lower back. This also means that standing/walking/running is a lot more comfortable for me than either sitting or lying down! Plus, running actually helps me to relax the tight muscles in my neck/shoulders, and both my doctor and PT agree that it’s probably good for me to keep doing it. (Though as I mentioned yesterday, they put the kibosh on any/all weight lifting activities.) I’m trying to look at all this as a good thing – after all, my friends have long teased me for barely running at all in between marathons, so this is my chance to do a bit more of it. I have always focused more on cross-training rather than straight-up running because I think running in moderation is better at preventing injuries… but then, here I am now 🙁

Since my PT and doctor encouraged it, I went for another run this morning. It was just 3 miles, and I didn’t even look at my pace, but I focused on maintaining good posture and keeping my arms relaxed throughout – and it felt so nice. The breeze coming off the Hudson River was refreshing, the rippling water was incredibly peaceful, and while my Mizuno Wave Sayonaras didn’t make me feel quite as fleet-footed as on Wednesday, they still felt pretty darn good. I think they’re a really great shoe for that kind of short distance run, and from a shallow standpoint, the bright fun colors also make me feel pretty and perky 🙂

I still haven’t decided whether I’m going to run the Boilermaker on Sunday (though I’m speaking at the expo tomorrow either way). If I do run, it certainly won’t be for time! While my doctor/PT told me that it’s fine to run, and I feel a lot more comfortable after hearing the above explanation, I’m still very stressed about the week ahead and don’t want to jeopardize that in any way. How am I going to fare when I’m back to work and hunching my spine over my laptop to GSD?

There are a lot of logistics that still have me very concerned – like the plane ride there, going off my meds in order to be able to drive, and how well my clients/coworkers will take it when I can’t sit for more than half an hour without a standing/walking/stretching break. Whenever I think about that stuff, I can literally feel the tension start to build and my shoulders start to rise up – no bueno. I’m just going to try to take it one day at a time – which goes along well with how I’m tweaking my to do list habits this month anyway. But on Sunday morning, “run the Boilermaker” will definitely not be on my to-do list; it’ll be something that just happens (if it happens).


4 thoughts on “To Run Or Not To Run?”

  1. Listen to the doctors, but think twice about any prescription meds they think are necessary. Goodluck to getting back to feeling great sooner rather than later – sounds like you are getting it figured it out!!

  2. It’s interesting how the spine works!

    Don’t stress too much about what others think when you are in the plane or go back to work. You are injured. I think it is totally acceptable that you will need to stand up and stretch!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join the List

Subscribe for instant email notification of new posts.

Join the List

Subscribe for instant email notification of new posts.

© 2023 by 50by25. All rights reserved. Actions taken from the hyperlinks on this blog may yield commissions for 50by25. View my FTC disclaimer.

Scroll to Top