Friday, April 22, 2011

Little did I know I was working on my beach bod all winter...

Last September I started having back spasms, even if I didn’t know they were spasms at the time. I was in pain, lots of pain. I would get these sharp pinches in my lower back that would just not let go. It hurt to stand, it hurt to sit, it hurt to lay down, it hurt to sleep. I finally saw my doctor and she told me my options: chiropractor, physical therapy or massage therapy. I chose to start with massage since I figured it was just a knot that needed to be worked out and I’d feel better in no time. Plus I’d be getting massages paid for by insurance, right? Yay! But these massages were anything but relaxing. Once my massage therapist focused in on my problem area, it was an hour a week solely on that spot, and it hurt. She told me it was going to be a long process. I had problems that went beyond that one knot. I got worse before I got better. I almost gave up. After another visit to the doctor (a sub as my regular doc was on maternity leave by this time) after an especially painful spasm, and I was given a scrip for muscle relaxers. I never filled it.

The place I was sent for treatment was Universal Health Institute, a health center that focuses on more holistic care. I’ll always be thankful that my doc referred me there instead of pumping me full of drugs and shoving me out the door.

After a couple of months of massage, I was ready for physical therapy. Since that knot was the result of years and years of weak muscles not supporting my spine correctly, we had to figure out exactly where I was weak and bulk me up. Just a few simple exercises once a day, and I slowly started to notice strength and bulk in muscles I didn't even know were there...between my shoulder blades, my hips, my glutes. My clothes started fitting differently, my posture improved, but best of all, I wasn’t in pain anymore. I felt strong.

Six weeks later (that’s how long it takes to build new muscle), I started chiropractor visits. Slowly, over the months with my MT, PT and chiro, we worked backwards through years and years of back pain, long ago pains and twinges that I had completely forgotten about--we’re talking some that took me all the way back to high school. Muscles just kept overcompensating for other muscles that should have been supporting me until they just couldn’t anymore, and ended up spasming.

The twice a week visits seemed like a lot. I felt like I was spending all my time (and money) there, and wondered if I would ever get better since we always seemed to be uncovering new issues. Up until a few weeks ago when I suddenly “graduated.” I didn’t need them anymore, at least that’s what they told me. Of course I’m nervous that I’ll get lazy, that I’ll end up right back where I started, but my PT gave me the tools to stick with it. Over the months that she worked with me, she taught me all kinds of simple exercises of varying difficulty for each of the muscle groups I need to maintain (plus other areas to work on), so I won’t get bored doing the same routine all the time. And of course, the folks at UHI are always there if I need anything. I’ll still be in occasionally for tune ups with my chiro and MT, and to just say hi.

All it takes now is my own motivation. And I’ve done really well so far. I still do push-ups, bridges and ab work every day, even when I don’t hit the gym. I’m at the gym 3 to 5 times a week maintaining, plus I’ve started running (instead of elliptical), which I love. I’ve always hated running. I even took a zero half the days in my high school “weight training” class because they required us to run a mile every other day. Now I have a goal to eventually sign up for a 5K.

I know it’s only been a couple of weeks out on my own, but I’m confident that I’m going to keep it up. I’ll never forget how much pain I was in and I don’t want to feel like that ever again if I can help it. Plus, I look amazing. I’ve always been really thin, but usually too skinny to feel confident in certain clothing. But now I’m gaining muscle weight, and filling out in all the right places. I have a butt!

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