Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Ignore-itis, Ignore-amus

Regardless of blood loss, all chainsaw injuries should be considered serious. And most of us with CPR training, common sense or with any luck both would at some point encourage the victim to remain still at least long enough to ponder how close they came to dismemberment. As I’ve mentioned before, we New Englanders prefer the less-reasonable ‘shake it off’ method of triage which offers no life or limb preserving benefits whatsoever. In fact, nobody would bother to turn off the chainsaw given the blind faith we have in the magic of a few colorful expletives, a moment of composure, a nod of acknowledgement from bystanders and the ingenious use of duct tape. What’s worse is we’d brag about it later in a way that implies we’re not really bragging at all and that chainsaw ‘mishaps’ ‘aint nothin’. If statistically we have fewer cancer deaths it’s not because we’re healthier. It’s because we prune our family trees with the artful use of stupidity.

In that spirit, it took a fellow New Englander in the evening class to coin the phrase ‘throwing meat at your feet’ to describe a last-ditch sit-up in which you toss your hands to create enough momentum to sit up. It’s not pretty but more importantly it gets the job done. I’ve been throwing meat– namely my uncooperative left arm – for some time now in the hopes of shaking off whatever shoulder injury was getting in my way while I still managed to get the job of pressing done. Damn my dynasty of the dimwitted.

At some point I had to acknowledge it wasn’t working – with or without the colorful expletives. As a trainer too, I knew my dumb-ass behavior would inevitably invite my clients to join me on my little island of idiocy. We could all compare scars and trade surgeon’s business cards. Besides being a bad career move, I set out to be a trainer not a vigilante.

So I’ve suspended all exploration of the fascinating world called ‘Overhead’. Instead I go rolling around on a Lacrosse ball several times a day in the hopes of locating trigger points and eventually eradicating them. In the meantime Mr. Yuck stickers are wasted on me since I have a special poison control feature called a projectile vomit button on my scapula that can almost make me hurl with a little pressure from the ball. Try rallying yourself to roll over that bad boy six times a day.

Some of you might remember that my last run-in with a lacrosse ball wasn’t so pleasant either. My nephew Gunner was whipping them at me while I did laps around his cul de sac. Apparently he’s an intuitive healer with a calling to cure my ills while I had mistaken him for a bored pain in the ass trying to fill the void that Halo left by making me jump and flinch like a sissy. Sorry sugar, my bad.

While I further cultivate my dysfunctional relationship with all things lacrosse, I couldn’t give training the cold shoulder (I know that’s a really bad pun but I write this stuff to amuse myself). So how do I forge ahead with plans of world domination from here? I feel like the exiled trying to stage a coup.

Harlan, our resident poster child for the down but not out, would have some insight on this. He also graduated from the school of Don’t-be-a-Nancy-boy with top honors. He ignored every red flag in favor of goal posts and finish lines.

Of his history, Harlan said, “Sports included baseball, basketball, track, soccer. Soccer and running continued into and after college. Anytime I got injured be it shoulders or knee, I would find a way to work around the pain or most of the time once I got going the pain went away.”
You’re body doesn’t keep asking politely forever. Eventually it has a relationship-altering hissy fit that tells you it means business. In Harlan’s case it became impossible to ignore really fast.

“My injury was a complete rupture of my rectus femoris tendon. Surgery was immediately because I couldn’t walk or move my leg without reattaching the tendon. For many years before the surgery I had knee problems/pain, which was diagnosed as tendonitis and tendinosis. Both of these signals were ignored and my activity level foolishly did not decline. The injury occurred from ‘overuse’ and not enough rest. Ever since high school, a day didn’t go by without a trip to the gym and/or run. I always wanted to see how hard I could go at the gym and how fast I could run,” said Harlan.

The answer to how hard and fast became, ‘not at all’ for a longer rehab than Harlan cared to ponder after years of constant activity. In his defense, Tendonitis and Tendinosis is commonly tolerated without resolution. If I bothered to get a diagnosis, I’d technically be in the same camp. Obviously, this isn’t the path I want to keep jogging down. The problem is that it takes the right practitioner with the right information to offer a better answer than ‘no exercise until the pain subsides’ especially since it generally doesn’t. For competitive folks with passion and goals, this isn’t enough.

Though I think I found the right practitioner and a workable solution, Harlan did not. Because of that, I’m currently looking at the pre-surgical side of rehab and he’s facing the post-surgical slog. Though we’ve both been slowed considerably, his term is much longer.

Harlan said, “Shifting gears to slow down is almost impossible. The most difficult part is mental; realizing you have brought yourself to a certain point and now all you can do is sit there and watch your body weaken is really tough. To go from being active and athletic as a little kid and throughout adulthood to not being able to workout is tough to handle, especially mentally.”

From what I can see, Harlan is always working. He’s in the gym, adapting the WOD and stretching. Yes, it’s not the same intensity but his commitment hasn’t waivered. For me, I’ve been able to continue the squat protocol and design lots of workouts that focus on my lower body while giving my shoulder a break. The trick is knowing when to start ramping up and knowing what the balance is.

In Harlan’s case, he set aggressive goals which may have been too aggressive. “Obviously I wanted to get through rehab as quickly as possible, in hindsight maybe that was a mistake, but I don’t think so, because I always followed the doctor’s instructions. If the doctor told me 6 months for rehab, my goal would be 4-5 months. The other goal I set for myself is to be smarter about training and get more rest. I would slow down for a few weeks or so and then it was back to the old level of high intensity,” He said.

I keep telling myself that I’ve got two weeks before I’m back to full capacity and even though that too might be an aggressive timeline, I’m not ready to consider alternatives. Frankly, it’s frustrating to be moving away from my goals.

It’s a frustration that Harlan knows. He said, “I didn’t realize how difficult it would be mentally to deal with the lack of exercise. I knew there would be frustrations, but having been through major injuries as a kid, it helps me to deal with the frustrations as an adult.”

Currently, Harlan is facing another surgery to try and repair a knee that hasn’t been healing as expected. It’s hard to say what contributed to that but any time you have surgery, outcomes can vary. It’s why the greater effort should be invested before surgery is necessary. Unfortunately our healthcare system doesn’t have a lot of information to offer about soft tissue treatment other than to address the pain with over the counter medications. This isn’t a solution.

My solutions spackles together a few different approaches. Regarding the trigger point therapy I'm doing, Dr. Ladd Carlston points out, “Trigger point therapy is actually really important and necessary for a more speedy recovery of the muscle - BUT if the shoulder is not balanced, the darn thing will keep getting strained and overworked...” Um, that’s ominous. I’m also working with a massage therapist once a week and an ART specialist in Kirkland as much as necessary. It goes without saying that I’m eating to avoid inflammation, sleeping as much as I can and staying hydrated as general maintenance and to promote healing. If it sounds like a lot of work, it is. But it took a lot of work to break me, too.