Posted by: krusty505 | June 14, 2011

Down, But Not Out!

I like to work out… vigorously! Most of my adult life has basically been scheduled around exercise in one form or another. I enjoy cycling, running, hiking, rock climbing and mountaineering. I don’t do all of them all the time, but essentially my life has been about being fit. All that changed in mid-April.

At 42, I obviously have some physical ailments. My back bothers me from time to time, and my left knee suffers bouts of tendonitis. I have also broken several bones over the years while exercising, but none of these things has left me too down and out, and certainly I have never felt truly “broken.” Currently, that is not the case. I am officially feeling less than optimistic about the future of my athleticism, and in the process of trying to nail down what’s wrong with me, I am beginning to realize that the medical community has no better idea what’s going on with me than I do. I’m also acutely aware that it is very low priority to any medical professional involved that I get better any time soon.

Here is my saga: In mid April I was running with a buddy, training for a 100 mile trail run. About 15 miles into a 26 mile run with 6000 ft of climbing, my back started acting really wonky; spasms that stood me up stick-straight had me thinking I was going to have to crawl out of the Sandia Wilderness. I limped it back to my car and called a physician buddy in Connecticut for some advice. He told me to take 2 Xanax and 800mg of ibuprofen and to give up on the 100 mile run. I said yes to both. This was a huge blow to my plans and my athletic ego, but I knew it was the smart thing to do. Unfortunately, several days of rest and the drugs did not stop the pain in my back. I was worried.

Shortly thereafter, I ran into yet another physician buddy at REI. He knew a good back surgeon and would “hook me up”; he also ordered me an MRI. In the act of waiting for my surgical consult, I was running with Natalie, and my tendonitis started to act up big time in my knee. I have been able to suffer through this pain for the duration of many runs, take some time off, and have few lasting repercussions. Not true this time. My knee was not cooperating, and I was limping around on it for several days. In fact, I still have a pretty bad limp. At this point, my back was running a close second to my knee in terms of pain, and I was desperate to exercise.

Meanwhile, the back surgeon told me he wanted to do a bi-level fusion, basically turning 3 vertebra into on and eliminating the two problematic discs. I told him to go ahead and schedule it, but I have yet to hear back from him or his staff. Hmmm. I guess it wasn’t a big priority, which is fine because I really don’t think this is the right approach. At the same time, I made an appointment with a pain specialist who has helped with my back in the past. When I finally got in to see him, he strongly urged me NOT to get the fusion. He was fairly confident that he could help with my pain. He also scheduled me for a procedure in which the nerves between my facet joints are literally burned out of my back! That sounded fun. After 3 injections of cortisone (2 in my back and 1 in my knee), I wasn’t really any better. Still not running, still not riding, still driving myself and poor Natalie crazy with my pent up energy and constant obsessing.

I started madly Googling knee pain trying to determine if I had torn cartilage or ligaments. In the process of doing this, I stumbled across something called Active Release Technique. I thought it sounded promising and tailored just for athletes. To wit, I have been seeing a chiropractor for around 3 weeks and getting 2-3 ART treatments a week. I am running again, but it is far from pain free running, biking still hurts my back, but I can do it, and I abhor swimming. Hiking is right out. Totally painful. What I do like about this guy is that he listens to me, he seems at least tacitly interested in healing me, and he sincerely wants me to remain active through the process of healing. I hate resting, and I truly think it’s a mistake not to move my body through this tough time.

I ran into yet another buddy in the jail today. He’s an attorney, not a physician, and he recommended a good physical therapist. I guess I will be calling her, too. Oh, and by the way, I saw a crazy ass doctor yesterday who thinks I may have a Baker’s Cyst, whatever that it, so tomorrow I’m having an ultrasound at, get this, a heart group because Baker’s Cysts can be on or near a major artery in the lower leg, and a vascular surgeon has to remove them! WTF?!

At this point, I’m ready for the hand of God to come down, touch me and instantly fix my body. Any suggestions on how I can score that treatment? Thanks.



  1. I know you and I are going through the same pain issue as I am. Do it all! To help my chronic back pain that is connected to my sometimes knee pain I do a combination of acupuncture, deep tissue massage, stretching, and exercises specific for the weaker areas (a physical therapist can help here). I also have a foam roller that is a great alternative to massage! And unfortunately, not eating gluten seems to have alleviated a lot of my aches and pains. There seems to be a connection to gluten and inflammation. It’s pretty easy to see if getting off the gluten will help- just stop eating gluten for two weeks and you will either notice your pain has gone away or lessened or it hasn’t.
    The doctor thought I had a Bakers cyst but it was ‘just’ my cartilage wearing away. He told me I only have a certain number of runs left and only a certain number of jumps I can do!
    And lets not forget the good ole’ bee sting therapy!
    Dude, I can’t imagine you not exercising fanatically!

  2. All I have to say is, keep your fingers crossed! Chris needs to get better soon or he is going to jump off a cliff! And I might join him. (Nothing worse than an athlete who can’t train.)

    Love you honey 😉

  3. Chris, I have been struggling with a herneated disk for a couple years now. There are three things that make it feel better or even be better: 1. Time off, 2. Physical therapy and 3. yoga. I sometimes joke that it really takes one injury/illness to fix another. And by that, I mean, something to force you to take the time off that your body needs to heal itself. My back was almost at it worst again a few weeks ago, and within a couple days of the frustration building, I came down with one of the nastiest 3 week colds I can remember having. Could’ve been strep, but I never had it diagnosed. Between that and a very busy travel schedule, I forced myself to take 3 weeks off.. from everything physical. I thought I was going to go crazy, get fat..even worse..get used to not doing anything.
    I’m a week back into my workout schedule, and I feel better than I have in a long time. My back is not 100%, but it feels better than it has in a long time. I’m riding and hitting the weights, albeit slowly and monitoring my back closely. Sure I lost some fitness, but how much? I feel good on the bike, and I can still do 15 pull-ups. I’m still waiting to start running again (outside.. treadmill feels okay).
    I know my back is not fixed, but it feels a lot better. I told Alice, “I will let my back heal completely the next time I break my leg.” I was kind of serious.
    Alternative workouts.. when I first injured it, and spent 2 months(!) doing nothing but going to the gym and using the eliptical trainer.. it was awful, but it was easy on the back and joints and does a pretty good all-over workout. When I was back on the bike, running and lifting again, I hadn’t lost that much fitness and it took less than a month to feel on top again.
    We’re all getting old! But you never have to stop working out.. you just have to know when to take it easy or do somthing different.
    Hope this helps borther!

    • Thanks for the thorough response. I can totally relate to what you said about “going crazy, getting fat or getting used to not doing anything.” I have secretly been wishing I would get sick just so I would be forced to rest; I can’t seem to get myself to do it otherwise. Natalie keeps telling me, “I think you should rest. I think you should rest,” but I don’t listen, not do I fear, will I. I did start seeing a physical therapist, but in classic Chris fashion, I think I’m actually doing the exercises too much! Hoping that if I just do them 5-6 X a day, they will magically make my back better. I wonder what kind of yoga you do? Of course, when I was into yoga, it was like a gymnastic endeavor, so I doubt that type of yoga would be therapeutic. What about Pilates? I was thinking that would help stabilize my core. Have you tried that? The pool seems like the best workout for me, though I don’t currently love it. I just got back from the pool now, and things just feel more stable. I guess if I embraced it fully, but back and forth on the black line is just not my idea of a natural experience. Sorry we missed each other when you were in town. Don’t let it happen next time!

  4. Hey Chris, how’s it going? Hope you’re feeling better since these were posted. People around here show these types of seemingly unrelated symptoms all the time, and usually after many months of tests, it turns out to be Lyme’s disease. Of course, Loudoun county where I live is the tick capitol of the country. But, I know you have done some running in Connecticut – were you off road at all? It’s a simple blood test to find out – the Western blot. Good luck!

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