Tag Archives: back problems

Breathe, Grasshopper.

I tend to see patterns in life, from time to time.

These days, there are a few things cropping up here and there, all through my rehab, and it’s starting to echo in other aspects of life, but I’ll spare you the excess drama there.

One is the idea of ending the crazy by focusing on the moment. Another is that of breathing deeply and purposefully.

They both sound pretty basic.

“Think about now? Okay. Got it. Breathe slowly? Uh-huh. Got that. Rocked it. Moving on.”

But, um, you’d be wrong.

Some say 75% of adults are breathing incorrectly. If your shoulders move when you breathe, you’re doing it wrong. Your diaphragm hits belly-level, so your gut should fill and expand rather balloon-like, I’m told. If not, yer doin’ it wrong.

Photo I took in Vancouver's Olympic Village. Unknown girl: breathing/being.

And being grounded in the moment? Well, for example, can you tell me exactly what your body is doing right this second? What do you really feel? If you’re not sure about it, that’s a no. That’s what being fully in the moment means. It’s about knowing what’s truly going on around you, what your body is doing, and more. It’s hard to attain, ‘cos we’re so interminably distracted by the go-go-go of life.

Part of why I’m changing things up by leaving for a smaller city is I’m just so lost from any given moment. I’m incomprehensibly distracted. It wasn’t bad enough that I had the constant drone of both traffic and airport traffic surrounding my neighbourhood and my work, but now my apartment pipes and my refrigerator both do nightly practice of imitating Wookie death-rattles.

Add to that the constant-whiny buses and the roaring-fast traffic encircling my work and home, and it’s amazing I can finish sentences, let alone blog or write longer works. Focus is hard when you’re constantly on Pedestrian DefCon 3 and you’re not built for it, like sissy-pants Me.

But I digress.

So, I have this new chiropractor who’s all Zen-Master-Geek-Lord about back health, which is to say he’s weirdly good in a “Dude, that’s too easy!” kinda way.

I have this new theory that, like doctors over-prescribe medications, docs like chiropractors can over-adjust patients just because we’re under the guise that we’re broken and need fixing. My new chiro will only make the adjustment if he thinks I’m restricted. If he’s not, he won’t do anything.

He has me breathing for homework. Everyone else has been all “Gimme 20 push-ups” or whatever, usually involving extreme effort, all of which has gotten me only 70% of the way I want to be, after 9+ months of back-rehab stupid, and a second such serious injury in three years.

Zen-Master-Geek-Lord, however, has me pursuing breathing exercises, followed by simple advice. Like after I asked him “But what abdominal muscles should I be contracting when I walk?” Zen-Master-Geek-Lord replied with “Never mind. That gets confusing. You tell people that, they start thinking too much, and counter-intuitive stuff happens.  Just walk one inch taller. That’s all.”

So, I have, and it seems to be helping. And it sounds STUPID that I should require such SIMPLE advice, but this is how we get injured.

We get injured because we UnLearn basic nature. Our human nature is, breathe deep by expanding your belly. One day, you get hurt, or sick, or something, and you start breathing differently.

It takes an average of 21 days to learn a new condition. Ergo, it takes 20 days to unlearn one. I don’t know when I stopped breathing right, but I’m betting it was long, long ago. What else don’t I do anymore? I’d like to find out.

I’ve unlearned a lot of good things in all areas, and I want to change that. I’m looking forward to attaining Change: 360. Life full of learning and unlearning for a while. Sounds fun to me.

Life’s stressful as I head to the new-world days, but it’s been stressful for ages, for all the wrong reasons, and now it’s because I’m embarking on newness. That’s awesome.

But when I’m stressed and tired: I forget to breathe. And when life went in the toilet with my injury earlier this year, my bad breathing probably got worse. Breathing deeply doesn’t feel stellar with serious back injury.

Lately, I’ve had three different health professionals remind me to breathe, and more asthma issues more often. It’s funny I should be told now that part of my injury is that I’ve stopped breathing correctly and it’s resulted in muscles around my diaphragm weakening, causing my chronic back issues in the lumbar region, and that the asthma’s likely more behavioural than biological.

And knowing that just breathing correctly is fixing my back, when exercising daily wasn’t, is kind of bizarre and Twilight-Zone-ish.

I breathe more in the summer. It's not hard, here.

All this is affirming for me that it’s the simplest things often have the most profound pay-off, or consequence, in our day-to-day, and also that neglecting fundamentals can have rippling effects. Affirmation comes in another form, too, in that the idea of moving away just to knock a whole lot of speed and stress off my day might be the right plan… especially if I wanna focus on the moment and take the time to breathe on a constant basis.

I’m very, very excited about the year to come. I don’t mind taking the opportunity to ground myself, take some breaths, and save my energy for humans instead of for mundane things like endless work commutes.

It’s good that I’m seeing patterns. The above may or may not compute for you, but it resonates loudly for me. It’s the “seeing things” mode I need to achieve before I can find my will to write, and write often. Hallway vision, as they say, has been AWOL for a good long time. To unlock the “Be a Writer” Badge might be a little inconvenient time-management-wise before my move, but it’d do my soul a world of good.

I guess that’s why I’m learning to stop and breathe. Maybe writing needs me to pause a whole lot more to get through the crap of daily life and find the marrow.

Next week becomes both about being still and moving forward. Taking breaks, but starting to pack. Balance, grasshopper. Breathe.

2012, you’re looking good. Can’t wait. Om. [takes a deep breath]

Not a Surf Bum, Just Bummed

I won’t be windsurfing.

Instead, I’ll be walking around in the post-acupuncture blissed-out haze I’ll be fortunate to have. Someone cancelled, and this back of mine that has been wonky since last Wednesday will be getting much-needed treatment. Lucky.

I’m bummed. I wanted to windsurf, but I won’t take the chance when I’m getting these warning twinges.

What’s happening? The same stuff that began a month before my back injury in 2008.

Basically, I’d lost 50 pounds that year via mostly cycling. With the wrong cycling posture, and with zero ab-work, the pressure on my lumbar built the entire summer.  It began with excessive tightness and tension twinges. Then the shit came down and crippled me for about six weeks, affecting me for nearly a year.

To say I’m alarmed to feel ANYTHING similar is a bit of an understatement, since it was only in about Sepember 2009 that my back began to feel normal again.

Right now, everything revolves around my back. The unfortunate reality is, I don’t have extended medical, so any money that gets spent is gone for good, and I’m really not in the position to afford more than “basic maintenance” right now.

Luckily, I bought two  (6)-packs of acupuncture in the hopes I’d get the money refunded from my last medical claimed. That failed and I’m out the money, but you can’t go wrong investing in health, and I still have the treatments for use.

So, it could be worse.

This morning I called and no appointments could be had. I pleaded desperately for first place on the waiting list.

Desperation, for the win! Got The Call at 1:12.

4:20 is when my road to wellness goes VrRRoom.

If I’m lucky, I’ll get cupped too. (Neat Eastern treatment that leaves one with huge welt marks but is amazing for muscle issues. OMG. I hope! My only real experience with it had me with better shoulder/neck-muscle loosening than a $90 massage would give me.)

Yep. Acupuncture. So, no windsurfing for me.

This summer is ending with a whimper, not a bang. It’s pretty anticlimatic that way, but…

It’s still a time of monumental change. Last Thursday, I submitted my application for a program I’m so wanting to get into. I got the call for a personal interview within a day. Tomorrow I go in.

Big things going down in Steffville.

We’ll see.

The back? Stupidity. Mine. I’m angry. I’m resolved. Sort of hit a mental bottom about it, because I remember how bad things got with the back and I can’t believe I’ve let myself slip to this point. I’ve been in a heady place about it yesterday and today.

The back problem’s mostly from overdoing it last week — I’d have been fine with overdoing it had I been maintaining my rehab work, like I’m supposed to, for the rest of my life. But totally have NOT been doing that. Last week? Two insane days of lifting boxes, climbing stairs, bending, etc, followed by 110km of cycling over the next few days, well… oops.

Note to Self: 40 isn’t that far away. Don’t be a dumbfuck.

Despite my freak-out at times this weekend, I’m cautiously confident this will pass pretty soon. The acupuncture appointment? Made me so damned happy. Nicely timed, my friends.

So, I kinda have missed out on the last great weekend of summer, and have had to cancel the thing I was looking forward to all summer as a personal check-point of sorts, but… it could be so much worse.

It’s a reminder, these lines we have to toe in order to keep ourselves safe, of just how important our bodies are. And balance, Grasshopper, seems the most important thing to attain for one’s body.

Stretching, a variety of exercise, posture, mindfulness — one without the others, for me, tends to be as harmful or more than not doing any at all. It’s like trying to live on only one kind of food. I could, but there’s no telling where it’ll lead.

A reminder, indeed.

A little fear of god and a very real threat of slipping back to a life of chronic pain is all one needs for motivation, if one has any brains at all.

Fortunately, I’m smart like dumptruck. Smarter, even.

So, then: Pincushion time. Yo, fix my Chi.

Occam’s Razor

Denis Leary was on Letterman the other night and was joking that he’d gone through five marriage counsellors that “sucked” before he found the sixth, who was awesome, but then he said that once he accepted he was wrong, everything went gr-r-r-reat with counselling.

I had to laugh.

I’ve been having the same epiphany of late.

For five straight days now, my back has improved every day. This doesn’t sound like much to you, but to me, this is life-altering. I have not had *two* days in EIGHT MONTHS where my back has improved each day, let alone five straight days. I’ve had a couple days where my back’s “felt good” here and there, but feeling good and improving are distinctly different experiences.

What changed? Continue reading

A Brief Bit of Reflection

[Ed Note: Just a reminder– This URL is NOT permanent; I’ll be back on www.smutandsteff.com before you know it. Do not adjust yer feeds or bookmarks.]

Adversity is like eating your vegetables; it can often be unpleasant and may even leave a bad taste in your mouth, but it makes you grow big and strong.

There’s nothing like getting interrupted on your path of positivity to a new and better you only to be thrown into a time reminiscent of the worst years of your life. A big reminder of from whence you’ve come can serve to recharge the batteries and fire up the will.

The last two weeks I’ve spent sprawled upon my back as my body rebelled against me for all the working out I’ve done this year — hours and hours of yoga, 1300+ kilometres of cycling, 40,000+ steps climbed in highrises, all since March, with much of the last three months interrupted by physical problems — have given me the opportunity to do a lot of thinking.

I’m still stuck in the whirlwind of mental processing that comes with change and turbulence for me, and while I can cut through it during a political rant, any kind of introspective writing has me hitting a lot of brick walls right now. It’s just how I roll. Continue reading