The Back Story
The best part of having a sciatic nerve injury is being able to joke about having a (literal) pain in your ass. You can even take a metaphorical approach, and attribute your ass’ angst to another individual (your spouse! your mother! your kids!) or perhaps something less personal, like the clients who all seem to want meetings the week of Thanksgiving or the way parents clusterfuck handle afternoon pick up at the middle school.
After aggressively defending the backline in a parents v. kids soccer game, I pulled my right glute muscle. Not to be beaten, I promptly continued my regular running/CrossFit regimen with ample amounts of stretching. I’m not too old for this! I even pushed myself to PR my 295# deadlift. Perhaps it was in that heartbreaking moment of triumph and humility (where I thought I lifted 300# only to recount it at 295#) that I achieved my bulging disc.
Finally after five weeks of “pushing through” my pain with exercise, stretching, acupuncture, and even a visit to a massage therapist/soft tissue expert who treats world-class athletes like Samantha Briggs, I went to the doctor. And she looked exactly like Dr. Mindy Lahiri. My self-diagnosed condition of Piriformis Syndrome seemed right on, and she prescribed ibuprofen around the clock with regular doses of physical therapy.
The next four weeks included:
6 Messages/calls to Dr. and PT about worsening stabbing pain and frequent numbness
2 Attempts to secure Diclofenac (stronger NSAID) from pharmacy in Tijuana
5 Prescriptions: (Tramadol, Vicodin, Valium, Gabapentin, Diclofenac)
14+ Appointments: Chiropractor, Acupuncturist, Doctor, Physical Therapy, Urgent Care, Emergency Room, Neurosurgeon
4 Pleas for MRIs: two from myself, one from PT and a final request for an expedited MRI from my ER Doc
After that resorted I to a 24/7 cocktail of Vicodin and naproxen sodium. Not the most holistic of treatments, but it was the only way to get by until meeting with a neurosurgeon nearly three months after my initial injury (yes it was likely the hyper-extending-goal defending-boot that did this). After reviewing the MRI together, I decided to have surgery (a microdiscectomy) the following week.
NEWSFLASH: Surgery means you are in a hospital, and in this case, you are kept overnight and by the way, afterwards you will not really be able to function like the superstar you think you are a normal working mom (even if you can walk) for some time. Which is super hard before Christmas. Huge props to my tribe who brought me an amazing care package and dropped off dinners. I’ve summarized the goodness here, and added a few extra items I found particularly helpful from hospital to recuperation.
The Perfect Surgery Care Package:
- A variety of magazines (especially the gossipy ones or the meaty ones they won’t buy for themselves but love, like-Harvard Business Review, luxe Euro fashion mags, literary quarterlies, Net a Porter, Lucky Peach, Domino)
- Tea (herbal, calming and especially: Smooth Move-a natural laxative to help counter your high narcotic intake)
- Dark chocolate (treat yo self)
- Energy bars (GoMacro, GoodOnYa, Green Superfood because even making yourself a snack seems like epic effort)
- Lip Balm*
- Muscle Lotion or Hand Lotion*
- Essential Oil Blend (for stress, anxiety, transition, healing)*
- A lovely scented candle
- Slipper socks
- Sweatshirt dress (especially for back surgery-avoiding waist bands was key)
- Inspirational notes, cards, mini posters (I tacked them up next to my bed, at home)
- Hydro Flask (keeps beverages cold or hot and with the straw lid it doesn’t spill while you’re in bed)
- Tray (okay, I’m spoiled here, but I like a little flat surface for my phone, remotes, pens, and earbuds)
- Eye Mask*
- Heating pad
- Dinner Drop Off (roasted chicken, soup, comfort foods)
*These items are extra helpful for the hospital stay, as well as your rejuve. I was so glad I had my headphones, music and eye mask in my noisy, brightly lit, shared hospital room.
Fast forward three weeks and I’m walking on air (with just a slight limp), my face isn’t scrunched with pain, my eyes are bright. I’ve gone more than 24 hours without one of my little pills, and while I’m not running-lifting-jumping, I am hopeful.
I miss CrossFit terribly, and don’t know if that’s still going to be my jam when this is all said and done. Maybe I transition to Pilates or try Aqua Zumba. No matter how strong and determined we are—there is still this little thing called “aging”. I don’t say this with defeat—but with awareness. I’m soft right now, and feel how just three months have weakened the hard work I’ve accomplished over the past few years.
At the time I was injured, I felt strong. I WAS strong. But that's a simple statement. We are complex beings that house dynamic components. While we are capable of incredible feats, we are not invincible. I valued my body for its strength, but little else. I consistently fail myself in attitude, and this experience has forced me to be more accepting of my body in all of its forms and functions—to treat it gently, with respect and reverence.