My Triumphant Return to Running

The x-ray, while boggling, was clear: there was no longer any evidence of spondylolisthesis. The condition that prompted my chiropractor to exhort me three years ago to “unlove” my new running hobby had corrected itself — due, presumably, to me strengthening my core and losing some 20 pounds.

So, shortly thereafter, when I found myself with no fitness class scheduled for the first Monday of the year, I decided that would be the day.

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Spondy No More?

Back when I was pregnant with my son, in early 2011, a tiny wrong move sent me to my husband’s chiropractor for the first time. She treated me conservatively while I was pregnant, then moved to standard adjustments and therapy post-partum — but my lower back still hurt. An x-ray in Spring 2012 revealed why: I had spondylolisthesis. My L5 vertebra was offset at a Grade 2 level (the grades go from 1 to 4). An MRI the following year confirmed that spondy was in effect, and my joints were degrading, too. Yay for arthritis and a bulging disc at L4-L5.

I’ve been behaving as instructed for the past few years. I’ve lost about 30 pounds since having my son in late 2011, I’ve avoided high-impact exercise like running, and I’ve increased other activities like yoga and core strength exercises. For the most part, I’ve been feeling all right.

This summer, though, there was a stretch of about a month and a half where scheduling kept me from doing my normal activity. After that, I noted a definite uptick in my lower back pain. Nothing severe, nothing incapacitating, just a low-level tightness and discomfort in my lower lumbar region. All the time. With some sciatica thrown in for good measure.

Time for another x-ray, Dr. Smith said. I saw her last Friday for the results.

The conclusions are surprising — so surprising, in fact, that Dr. Smith didn’t believe the written results at first and pulled up the x-rays to see for herself.

There is now no evidence of spondylolisthesis. Only joint degradation.

I didn’t know that could happen, but there you have it. I lost weight and firmed up my core, and my L5 went back into place. Somehow. I’m concerned that might mean that L5 is unstable to a degree. I’m also troubled because now I only have a bulging disc to blame for all this discomfort, and I’m not sure how to treat it differently than my spondy.

I go to a physical therapy evaluation on Monday morning, per Dr. Smith’s orders. I’m curious to hear what they say. From what I’ve read, PT is the best way to heal or correct a bulging disc, so I’m totally on board. Plus, I’d like to get some definitive answers on what my biomechanical weirdnesses are, and how to correct them, and what exercises and movements are right for me, and which should be avoided. For that, I need a professional.

Glad I have a chiropractor appt tomorrow; my #spondylolisthesis is acting up so bad I’m skipping yoga today in favor of a walk. #backpain

Spondylolisthesis and Fitness

For various reasons, there was a span of about five weeks through late April and all of May where I didn’t do any extra physical activity, barring a couple of walks. I went from being active for 30-45 minutes a day, three days a week, to nothing for five weeks straight.

It should have been no big surprise, then, that my return to yoga class wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. My reduced core strength (among other factors, I’m sure) resulted in spondy-related lower back pain that lingered all week. For class the following week, I tried to take it easy and make appropriate modifications, but engaging my lower back was not a pleasant thing. Upward dog was just not happening, and even standing up from a lunge to warrior pose was challenging on one side.

Today was my regularly scheduled monthly visit with my chiropractor. I told her everything, and she informed me that backbends are now out of the question. No more upward dog. So, now I get to figure out how to modify my yoga flow to suit my non-backbendy needs.

I’ve also been toying with the idea of starting a weight training regimen of some sort, so I asked her: If I went to the weights side of the gym, what sorts of things would make you say, “Oh, don’t you dare”? Her answer, as a whole: anything weight-bearing that engages the lower back muscles. She said no back extensions, and nothing where I would bend over and pick something up from the floor and straighten up — no deadlifts or kettlebells.

(The bodybuilding.com link above specifically suggests a rowing motion in lieu of deadlifts, for those of us with lower back issues.)

I already knew that something like Crossfit, as much as I would like to try it someday, really isn’t for me. The WODs (Workouts Of the Day, for those not familiar with the parlance) tend to include running and box jumps, which are impactful and therefore out of the question. Now I know that the Olympic lifting is not an option, either, with very limited exceptions. Which is really too bad, because the idea of lifting heavy things and working toward lifting heavier things actually does appeal to me.

That’s not to say I can’t do any weight training — just not certain things. I still have plenty of options that won’t mess with my back. Actually, now that I’ve had time to sit back and consider, perhaps some bodyweight exercises at home might be a good place to start.

Well, in addition to getting myself back into the normal fitness class rotation, of course.

The worst that can happen is I have to take a day off work and try to get in with my chiropractor. Seriously, that’s about the worst case.

I feel like I’m in analysis paralysis: I know (or can find out) what moves to do for beginning weight training, but #spondylolisthesis!

I want to get into strength training. Like, working up to heavy stuff. I’m afraid of hosing my back by doing something I shouldn’t, though.

Hmm. I appear to have tweaked my back during my triumphant return to yoga. Nice to see you again, #spondylolisthesis! It’s been a while.

I Don’t Believe in Jinxes

…But if I did, I’d say I totally jinxed myself at this week’s Weight Watchers At Work meeting.

The director of the fitness center at my work knows about my back condition, and asked me if it’s been getting better lately, since I’ve lost 20 pounds this year. I answered yes, that I haven’t had any major issues in probably six months.

Cue the major issues.

Yesterday, I sat in a doctor’s office for two hours with my son on my lap, while he underwent a food challenge for his allergies. He passed the challenge, but my back didn’t. I didn’t realize what had happened until I went to yoga today, and the activity actually made it feel worse instead of better.

So, here I lay on the couch, with an ice pack under my lumbar region and my bloodstream full of ibuprofen. If I don’t feel better by tomorrow morning, I’ll see if my chiropractor can get me in over my lunch break.

I’ve been spoiled by my lack of pain lately; I thought it was gone for good. I thought maybe getting into a healthy weight range and strengthening my core would solve the problem.

Not entirely.