Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Week 16 Progress Report

On my last post I mentioned that I hurt my back. I was put out of commission until Monday, so I don't have much training to report. Tuesday I swam in the morning for an hour and then I did 70 minutes on a spin bike in the PM. Wednesday I had a shorter run of around 50 minutes, and then I hurt my back. I was not really concerned at first. I assumed it would resolve itself quickly and I would be back in business very soon. Every once in a while I will twist my back in the wrong way and be uncomfortable for about a day, so that is what I was expecting, but on Thursday I was actually worse.

By Friday morning, when I was still in significant discomfort I started to become concerned. Sure it was screwing up my training, but more important than that, I was concerned that I there was something more serious a foot than a pulled muscle. I thought about it for a while and could only think of three possibilities. The first was that the pain was a symptom of unstable angina. Given the fact that I had some strange heart rate effects in my training in the past, I get very nervous when it comes to my heart. I even did a Google search and found that my symptoms could be angina, and that some patients with back pain are sent home with some pain killers and then die from heart attacks. That freaked me out, but if it was angina it would not last three days, so that probably is not it.

Another possibility was that I pulled a muscle on my run. I did take a water bottle with me which I held in my right hand. I do not normally run with a large bottle filled with water and I may have pulled a muscle. But the thing is I do not remember any pain while running, or even shortly afterward on the walk home. If I pulled a muscle while running I think I would have felt it soon afterward. In fact, I do not remember a sudden onset at all. It kind of crept up on me.

The third possibility is that it is stress related. The muscle could be experiencing a spasm from too much tension. I was skeptical of this possibility at first because I am not a type A personality. I am very laid back and do not really reflect very much on the stress I experience every day. But I am the type of person who holds everything inside and can bottle up a lot of what I feel which must add to the stress.

I made an appointment with my doctor, who did not seem concerned in the least. He said that he experienced the same thing and that it was from sitting at a desk all day typing without proper support for my back. I mentioned the possibility of stress, and he pretty much laughed it off. He gave me a funky stretch to do (which btw does nothing for me) and then changed the subject to my blood pressure.

I have been under treatment for high blood pressure for a few years now. It was under control with diuretics at around 140 over 80 for the longest time. One of my goals with training and weight loss is to get off of the blood pressure medication. I have lost about 40 pounds since last year and as of a couple of weeks ago my blood pressure was down to 120 over 70. I was really excited about that and looking forward to getting off the drugs, but when my doctor took my blood pressure on Friday it was 150 over 90 which is really high. He wants to put me on a stronger drug now. That was really depressing.

Later, after more thought, I have come to the conclusion that the higher blood pressure reading seems to confirm the stress theory. Blood pressure, particularly after being under control for many months and significantly improving in the last four months does not just jump up on its own. There must be a trigger. I must be experiencing some significant stress that has made me really tense, so tense that it has cause my blood pressure to shoot up and made my back spasm.

After reflecting more, I do have to admit that it has been very stressful at work for me. It really isn't the work itself, it is more the fact that as the case I am working on comes to a close, it is not clear where my future leads. I am a contract attorney, so I go where the work goes. If the work dries up I move on. It is not such a bad thing in itself, but I have a wife and daughter to support and money is very tight right now. If I am out of a job, even for a short time, it will be a hardship, and I guess that even though I was not willing to admit that to myself consciously, I still had a lot of fear built up inside and my physical symptoms are just how thee feelings are manifesting themselves.

So what to do about it? A full weekend of R&R! Friday night, I went out with some old and very good friends for some great food and great conversation. You know the pain in my back just seemed to melt away. It seems to come back at night, but Saturday I played in the pool with my daughter. We had a great time. There is nothing like watching your child laugh and smile to make you feel ok with the world. The next day we went over a friend's house for a BBQ. We had some wine, some good food and even played some more in the pool. I played "keep away" with couple of other grown men, like we were just a bunch of adolescents. We had a blast and I did not have a care in the world.

By the end of the weekend my back was mostly back to normal. I sometimes get some discomfort at night (perhaps a new bed is in order) but I am back training. Yesterday, I did a bike/run brick of 20 minutes on the bike and 55 minutes on the treadmill, and today I swam for 45 minutes and then followed it with a 25 minute run.

I guess the moral to the story is to make time for training, but don't neglect friends and family. They are really what keep you going.

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8:35 AM  
Blogger Rachel said...

Back pain sucks. Sounds like you need a new doctor. I would try a physical therapist, a chiropractor, a massage therapist, or a combination of the 3. I get back pain from running, swimming, and biking that's part of normal training. Afterall, you're using that muscle a lot and it's pretty easy to strain. Does it get better with ibuprofen? If so, it's muscular. It may just be a pull that needs some rest. Does ice help? It can take a few weeks to recover, which kind of sucks. Anyway, your doctor sounds like he's full of crap. I hate quacks like that.

10:10 PM  

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