a miracle beyond explaining

Remember Beatrix the Back Brace?

You might have read somewhere that I have this back problem.

Over the last four years, varying degrees of pain from excruciating to consistently annoying didn’t always limit my activity (two marathons, multiple 4-inch heels) but it does tend to mess significantly with my sleep. It isn’t that I don’t have those nights were I zonk out into a deep and dreamless sleep (well, the dreamless part rarely happens). But chalk it up to a high tolerance for pain, a general acceptance of the situation even after so-called “surgery” to repair my torn disc earlier this year, or maybe a little avoidance too, on most days I don’t let it bother me and you wouldn’t necessarily see me after a rough night of sleep and know I’m running on fumes. (Or maybe you do and you are too polite to mention it.)

The latest diagnosis for those who haven’t been following my progress is that the disc is repaired (so I didn’t wear Beatrix for nothing) but I have arthritis in the lumbar joints around where the damaged disc resided. This realization was good news to my physical therapist – because the pain is manageable – even if admitting I have arthritis feels aging to me.

Under the watchful eye of my PT, for the last three weeks, I have stepped up my fitness routine. The positive aspect to be pain being as a result of arthritis is that activity helps reduce the pain. That is, while I was restricted with the torn disc, with arthritis I’m encouraged to be active. With that in mind, I signed up for a package of personal training sessions at Fitness Together, a gym that exclusively offers individual workouts. I have taken a number (okay, three, but the results are amazing so it feels like more) of ballet barre classes at Red Bow Studio. Back in my weekly PT visits, my suite of exercises has increased in pace and difficulty, and each sessions concludes with an extended period of “body work” (code for deep massage) followed by 15 minutes of electro-stimulation therapy under a heating pad. All that and I’m still taking a killer amount of Naproxen, which is an improvement over the muscle relaxants and narcotics my doctor prescribed the last time I saw him.

As I mentioned, collectively we have been plugging along with this routine for about three weeks. Then on Christmas Eve, I woke up groggily, feeling rather puffy-eyed from my melancholy of the night before. As I lie in bed getting my bearings, I suddenly was struck by a sensation I barely recognized.

For the first time in four years I was waking up to zero pain. Zero. Not an ounce of stiffness, not any low-level lingering discomfort. On the zero-to-ten-zero-is-no-pain-ten-is-the-worst scale I was a zero.

On Christmas day, same deal. This morning, maybe just a hint of stiffness, but otherwise, no pain. I don’t know how to explain how I went from waking up – on average – as a seven on said scale to waking up a zero, but for now I am attributing it to this new increased level of fitness training and activity.

I still miss running. I still feel pangs of jealousy when I see runners on the road on my perfect weather days. Today I am going to pack up all the winter weather gear and clear drawer space for the new indoor workout clothes I got for my birthday. But for now, I’m going to savor these pain-free days and nights. I hope beyond hope they continue.

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