An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
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Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Looking back...

It’s been a tough couple months. Almost three months now, actually.

As I last posted, I had started a tae kwon do class with my young daughter in August. And I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly. I’m getting close to my first belt test for the “advanced white belt” – yeah, that means I’ll be an absolute oxymoron (some would say “minus the oxy”), an advanced beginner. But it’s been with some struggle, along with some time on the sidelines.

You see, I got injured.

My wife warned me. She cautioned me about not pushing myself. She said I need to really take it easy because these are all moves I am not accustomed to… And she’s completely right. But it wasn’t actually the tae kwon do that injured me.

It happened not long after my last post. As in just the day after I posted. My second class.

I knew that these first classes would have a lot of unconventional things in them, being that it was the week leading into the belt test for the students that were already in the class, so it included a lot of “fun” kind of things to unwind a bit. After just a few warm-ups, we went into some line sprints. On the second sprint I noticed that my left foot was dragging on the stride recovery. And on the third sprint I felt something “go” in my low back. My left hamstring locked up, and I hobbled in. I finished the class, with squats and roundhouse kicks and all, but was pushing down pain the whole time. It wasn’t debilitating, but certainly wasn’t comfy either.

And this started me down my current path of chiropractic treatment (ineffective), an MRI which revealed the issue, physical therapy (also ineffective), and to where I am now which is waiting out the insurance approvals for a “guided injection” that should happen in about 5 weeks.

But this really goes back MUCH further. February of 2019 was a cold month, and my driveway got pretty icy. On one of those icy days I was climbing out of my truck, just getting home from work, and my left foot slipped. I didn’t fall, but it was a comical contortion of catching myself on the door and nerf bar. My hamstring really felt it, and for a couple months after I suffered from a lot of hamstring cramps. I just figured I’d pulled the muscle, and it was being slow to heal. You know, being an old guy and all, recovery needs more time.

The stiffness in the left hamstring kept increasing, but it didn’t affect my riding, so I delayed having it checked out. I wanted to get through my events before looking at potential time off.

Looking back, though, it’s clear that these were the early symptoms of the issue that became suddenly much worse in that second tae kwon do class – a lumbar disc “extrusion” between the 5th lumbar vertebra and the 1st sacral vertebra (aka. L5-S1). This is compressing the sciatic nerve, and causing pain, loss of strength, and sometimes tingling and numbness down the gluteal muscle, between the ilio-tibial band and hamstring, and down into the calf, as well as weakness in dorsiflexion of the left foot (pulling the foot up).

The MRI revealed several degenerative issues in the lumbar spine, the official diagnosis being that my low back is "messed up". But most of those things are somewhat common in my age group, and aren't causing symptoms currently. The real concern is that L5-S1 disc extrusion.

I ended up taking over a month out of the tae kwon do classes, but I’ve been back in and doing everything my pain levels and mobility will allow. I’ll have enough classes to take the belt test in December, and I’ll only be a month behind my young daughter.

And that is about when the injection should happen. And while it won’t solve the underlying structural cause, I’m hoping that it solves the pain and flexibility issue.