I was doing so well. 6 weeks in and the usual pain getting up in the morning was diminishing and anytime I felt tightness, I knew what stretches and exercises would expel the pain. I had my second video consultation with Nicola and I was to move onto more twisting exercises to replicate what I would be doing in my profession - primary teaching. I had to open up my back to the feelings of twisting from different heights and angles as we teach little people and would often be down at their level. Nicola also said I could up the overload a little, starting to push the level of tolerance, that's the fundamentals of strengthening muscles. You're pushing the level of stress they feel comfortable working at, only then do they repair stronger to cope with the increase in demand. The growth in muscle fibres and size is known as hypertrophy in the sport scientists world (there are some things we do remember from our degree!).
I obviously took Nicola's overloading suggestion a bit too far. I went for a longer bike ride than we have been doing (we were keeping to 30min rides as this was when we felt discomfort) but we felt good on the bike and thought we could stretch and manage the pain when we arrived home. But we didn't factor in that we had lil NITP in for the afternoon plus we did some maintenance on a friend's bike so in hindsight, we overdid it. We knew that night it was going to be a sore night and decided the floor would be a better place to sleep than a soft bed. We found a hard floor, although we would wake up with dead arms now and then, gave us a more comfortable sleep but something was a bit different this night. We couldn't find a position to sleep in and eventually settled up in the fetal position on our right side.
We woke up rigid and basically unable to move. We were thrown back to square one. Every sharp jolt took our breath and we tried to stand up straight but our back wouldn't take it. We noticed too that we were leaning to our right side a lot. Looking in the mirror confirmed that we had a serious lean. Had I popped a disc? Did I trigger a misalignment? And after all this hard work, we were back where we started!
Mrs NITP suggested to ring the GP for more diazepam but I didn't want to go down the drowsy route again. I was well stocked up on Ibroprufen and Cocadamol along with every piece of physio equipment under the sun from Meglio. But I was bed bound for the next 2 days. It took an age just to roll or lean myself up out of bed. I could go downstairs for 5-10mins but then I'd have to come back up to bed again. Might as well been in prison! My wife kindly took the sofa because I needed the whole bed just to roll over to get out or change sleeping position but it was becoming quite clear I couldn't lie on either side of my body.
I decided to ring the GP because the pain had spread across my right side of my back and I began to have aches in the top of my quads and groin. The lean was still there and obvious. I had stopped the stretches from the physio and yoga because I didn't want to aggravate anything. I was referred to the specialist physio team but the wait was from 4-6 weeks. My school was due to return the following week and I was hoping to recover to at least get myself in for some lessons. I dropped into school to do some class prep' but within 30 seconds of sitting down, I was on the floor stretching out. This happened about 5-6 times within 2 hours, who wants their kid's teacher educating the class from lying on the floor?!
The pain was becoming quite serious. I felt I was recovering quicker in terms of accessing a range of movements but these weren't for long because I was beginning to seize up again. Remember, no one has actually physically touched my back to this day and I was at the point where I needed someone to check it over. I took myself to the walk in unit at Teddington Hospital and the first thing the nurse said to me was 'Your back is crooked!'. Cheers! I was given a stronger anti-inflammatory Naproxen and told to contact my GP as soon as I can and it had to be Bank Holiday weekend hadn't it?!
The next 3 nights though was probably the lowest I have ever been in this mess. Like clockwork, the tablets had worn off with the painkillers around 3.30am and the aches would start to build up. One night, I had to go downstairs super p****d off and cried. The pain was bad but it was the annoyance because I couldn't do anything without triggering a session of torture.
Tuesday morning came and I waited 45 minutes to be told by the receptionist that the GP was closed for a week and they wasn't even calling patients back. They could of saved me the bother by maybe putting a message at the start of the call?! Where was I to go now? I was worried that there could be an underlying issue with my back and I wasn't getting the level of consultation I needed. It would be too dangerous to self-diagnose no matter how much research I was doing, I needed help.
- Wait for the specialist physio team referral (4-6 week wait)
- Go to an A&E and ask for an x-ray and a consultation (this wasn't an emergency but what if there was a spinal issue and I'm damaging it more everyday?)
- Private physio
- See a chiropractor (not a fan)
- See an osteopath
One of the teachers who left my school this year had recommended an osteopath way back in July and I put it off because we're not blessed financially but I was in a desperate position. I managed to find an osteopath in Teddington, distance was a main thing because I couldn't travel far in a car or walk. I called the centre for some advice and agreed to come in for a consultation. Cost - £53 which is quite standard and if it works, it's money well spent.
In the mean time, my GP called me as a follow up for a discharge from the hospital. I updated her and told the doctor I had booked an appointment with an osteopath. She wasn't a fan of the option I took, she basically wanted me to see out my video consultations with Nicola and wait for the referral. I couldn't. I could hard walk or sit, what's to say it won't get worse in that time or there is something serious going on with my back? She asked me to come in for an examination because I wanted to be signed off from work. The doctor couldn't visibly see a misalignment. It comes and goes during the day and she encouraged me to up the pain killers and see out the course of Naproxen. I came away thinking I was being pushed into a direction I wasn't overly comfortable with. I was crying out for immediate physical intervention, I believed I had a window here which if the issue wasn't properly addressed, the issue could end up digressing.
I booked myself in for a consultation with an osteopath in Teddington and thankfully had an appointment that week. In the mean time, I managed to get hold of an old cycling buddy who was now a physio' for the NHS, more specifically working in the intensive care units for patients with respiratory problems so to say he has had a busy summer would be an understatement. I really appreciate the time Josh took to offer some advice and guidance and he gave me some core exercises which would help with the misalignment while I waited for my osteopath appointment to come around.
Thankfully, my Dad was around to drop me off as there was no way I could of made the bus journey or walked it. The consultant Janet at Teddington Osteopaths ran out of space on the information I was giving her on her diagnosis paper, I should of just referred her to this blog! After some checks in the spine and some bending movements, she couldn't see any spinal/disc issues which was a big relief. She continued to manipulate and massage my back quite gently in comparison to our recent appointment (we will get to that!). That weekend, the aches from my right leg started to disappear. That's all I needed. Some physical digging in to the muscles. I think Mrs NITP had appreciated the amount of moaning about my aches and pains had dropped considerably!
I went back this morning (Monday) for another appointment but with Oli who gave me a much more intense session. My back was pulled, stretched, rolled, kneaded and clicked in all sorts of positions. But again, this is what I've been crying (literally!) out for all summer! With COVID-19 restrictions, it has really put a lot of people in limbo with treatment and I wasn't serious ill although you could argue seriously injured but with video/phone consultations the approach understandably taken by the NHS at the moment, there is probably a lot of people like myself who have had to research symptoms, exercises and other treatments just to get ourselves out of this constant state of pain. That's not a criticism at all, I have felt a few times lost not knowing where to go with my back injury and although I have a sports science background behind me, I am not a specialist and think self-diagnosing is dangerous. But at the same time, most of the exercises and feelings I have had about my back has been confirmed by the professionals I have spoken to.
Oli was very helpful in explaining some of the processes he was doing especially opening up the thoracic part of my spine to ease the pressure off my lumbar region. When asked about a rough time frame, he said around 2 weeks and I should be able to up the intensity of my exercises. I have another video physio consultation on Wednesday with Nicola, I might just read my blog to her...