In the Night Farm…Your Ride is Here.

Non-Negotiable

Well, that was depressing.

Earlier this week, I redeemed a voucher for an hour’s massage.  I was hoping to get some relief from the lower back pain that I reluctantly admit has been more or less constant since my first 2-day ride of the year.  Which was Pink Flamingo.  Which was in early August.

Time flies when you’re having Advil for breakfast.  And sleeping on a heating pad.  And letting yourself believe that it’s just muscle tension, because wouldn’t that be nicer than an actual injury?

You might recall that the lower back pain — which actually dates back at least to my high school era — became a real issue on multi-day rides.  The stiffness of a single endurance ride transformed into gasping pain by Day 2.  Trotting downhill was agony.  My lower back was by far the worst, but my upper back wasn’t all sugarplums and roses, either.

I rode anyway.  Sucked it up.  Gutted it out.  This is *endurance* after all.  We’ve all seen each other out there with colds and flus and sprained ankles and bruised ribs and broken arms and cheery grimaces that say “Hell, yes, I’m riding today!”  A little pain never stopped us.

(Except Ashley of Go Pony, who recently wrote:  “[T]he bottom line is, I don’t really feel like giving myself permanent damage for the sake of a hobby, something I’m supposed to be doing for fun.”  Which I’m pretty sure proves she’s smarter than I am.)

Anyway, my massage came with a detailed chiropractic evaluation.  The good news is that my body composition is excellent (low-normal bodyfat, high-normal lean mass, ideal hydration, etc.).  The bad news is that my back pain diagnosis looks like this:

  • Cervical Kyphosis
  • Severe Pelvic Unleveling
  • Convexity – Lumbars
  • Lumbar Hypolordosis
  • L5 Disc Degeneration
  • Plantor Fascia Collapse

Oh.  Right.  That explains it.

The doctor didn’t ask me to ride less.  He works with too many athletes to try something that stupid. 

Just in case, I made my message clear: “The riding is non-negotiable.  It’s what I do.”

Don’t get between me and my passion.

He says I’m fixable.  More or less.  In exchange for an ungodly quantity of money and time, the good doctor should be able to restore me to painless function.  After that, we’ll come up with some kind of maintainence regime.  I’ll probably have to drop by his office after endurance weekends for mitigation of the acute banging-up I’ve incurred. 

I won’t deny that I went home and sulked for two days.  I cried some.  Angry, mostly, because I feel betrayed.  I am so healthy, so strong, and now this?  I didn’t ask to have orthopedically challenged feet, which apparently precipitated most of the problems.  I give my body more nutrition, exercise, and sleep than just about anyone I know — which, as the doc points out, is probably why my inflammation has remained under control and allowed me to get this far.  Hmph.

When it comes right down to it, though, I reckon I’m lucky.  The damage isn’t going to stop me from riding.  I’m not that far gone.  But I might have been, had I ignored this for another year.  Even strong, well-nourished bodies can’t take a structural beating forever and come out unscathed.

And so, here’s my scrap of advice to all you other tough riders out there: 

Quit being so tough.  If you hurt, find out why.  Do everything you can to heal.    Your ability to keep riding is worth more than a boatload of cash.  Find a way.

It’s non-negotiable.

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7 responses

  1. Well said, Tamara. At the Old Dominion in June this past summer, my saddle slipped going up a very steep incline and I fell off Apollo, my lower back connecting sharply with a rock that was half sticking out of the ground. OUCH. I got back on after I re-set the saddle, but then I was trying to adjust to the new horrible pain in my lower back, and I came off again when we took a stream crossing a little too eagerly. I got back on AGAIN. And lasted another five miles before the pain was too great, causing giant poor-me tears to squeeze out the side of my eyes. I got off at the first vet check (mile 17), and I couldn’t ride again until September. I couldn’t lift my leg to mount, I had to use the trailer tire well! I have learned that, in the future, I need to pay attention to my body if there is pain and discontinue the activity that is aggravating it. Sheesh, you would think since we humans use a larger portion of our brains than he average intelligent animal, we could figure this stuff out. 🙂

    Very glad your problem is fixable, and definitely take care of yourself from here on in! You are right, our desire to ride is non-negotiable, so let’s keep it that way. 🙂

    December 24, 2011 at 9:32 am

  2. I love this post Tamara. Good for you for looking after your body! I a firm believer in chiropractic and massage therapy (obviously, as I’m in an equine massage therapist lol). My hubby has back issues from years of being a professional bull rider, and his chiro and massage therapist have made a world of difference for him. He is on a maintanance routine now and can sure tell if he misses an appointment!

    December 24, 2011 at 12:06 pm

  3. Tamara,
    I’m sure this is a real kick in the gut for someone like you, but with a brain like yours I hope you will know when not to overdo it. It’s one thing to ride through it now, but believe me, when you are older you don’t want to be in chronic pain. I don’t know much about endurance riding, but I would imagine when you are on a horse for so many hours there is a good chance for concussion…the horse too. So glad you sought out an opinion before another year passed. All the best to you and the crew (herd) at the Night Farm. Hopefully you have a little time off for the next few days and can enjoy the season. (Of course I know that this is not going to keep you down….or off your horses).

    December 24, 2011 at 12:19 pm

  4. funder

    I think one of the greatest lessons we can learn from being involved with horses is to be more fair to ourselves. Our culture is deeply invested in hurting our bodies in pursuit of physical achievements. Riding, especially riding endurance, gives us a counterpoint – you can push for amazing achievements and longevity.

    You’re not doing anybody any good by riding through chronic pain. Good on you for realizing that and taking the steps to fix it! 🙂

    December 30, 2011 at 10:35 am

  5. Hi Tamara- you have taken the first step.. find a good chiropractor. I share 3 of those issues with you.and a couple you don’t have listed ..things that have helped me tremendously are a shoe lift for the pelvis issue, (my entire pelvis is rotated and therefore I have one leg shorter than the other (about 3/4 if an inch), neck stretches and being hyper vigilant about my posture, maintaining good core strength and when I am riding focus on not letting my low back arch… keep it neutral.. This one takes constant reminding to myself but if my lower back starts aching, it’s usually because I am bracing…. good luck on your road to better back health…

    December 31, 2011 at 9:45 am

    • Good advice, Jonna. I, too, have a tendency to arch my lower back when riding — I’ve really worked on that this year.

      I’ve found an amazing chiropractor who is also a soft tissue specialist. I’m already out of pain for the first time in months. Hooray!

      December 31, 2011 at 10:45 am

  6. Pingback: Move More « NightLife

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