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Update: Dealing with Spinal Injury


Hey boos. I’ve been waiting to put together a sort of update for you on dealing with spinal injury; waiting until I had more information, or at least had some sort of idea as to what we were dealing with more specifically. The good news is that my back injury seems to have (knock wood) flatlined for a few days; the bad new is…. well, stick around, and I’ll let you know. 

Before we get down to business, last day to win the Skoop Giveaway!

An Update on how I am Dealing with Lumbar Spine Injury. From the emotional challenges to treatment with the McKenzie method. Find out more at @suzlyfe

Let’s start with the emotional, because I know that you all want to know about the structural stuff, and I know that my mom wants to know about this part 😀 Also, this is a longer post, but I want to try to keep the injury posts to a minimum from here on out.

Emotional Update : The Sadface

Since the time of the injury, I’ve been up, down, and all around with regards to my emotions and my physical status; as has no doubt been obvious to anyone who has read Suzlyfe prior to this injury. And, let’s be honest, I have been in a bit in the weeds. Actually, “in the weeds” is a pretty good illustration: you have these moments of clarity in the midst of realizing just how much you are getting your ass kicked. Part of the problem with this injury, as I will explain in a moment, is that it varies every day, hour, and sometimes just within a few feet.

So that Friday when I claimed that I was making progress? By the time that most of you read that, I was emailing my doctor about the new pain that I was experiencing. That weekend, I will be honest, I broke down into a sobbing heap multiple times from fear and pain. 

It's important to have a sense of humor when you are injured! How to help a friend that is injured on

If this was a bone issue–ie you broke it, so put a cast on it and deal–I honestly would be able to deal. Like with my stress reaction--frustrating, but there you go. Another reason that this injury has kicked my ass mentally is that there was no rhyme or reason for what happened, there is nothing I can do to prevent it happening in the future, I just have to do my best to heal now. 

I’ve felt trapped. Trapped in my body, my apartment, this pain that prevents me from turning over in the bed, feeling secure in crowds, going grocery shopping. I can sit and stand pretty much without problem, but that just means that you are oh-so-rudely reminded when you start to move. I may be someone that loves a good biscuit sitting opportunity, but I like to choose to sit on my biscuit.

Crowds make me nervous; I can’t get out of the way. I can’t catch myself. I don’t even know if I’ll be able to wear my winter boots because they pull on and off!

Emotional Update: The Applesauce

I’ve been focused on trying to find the good, taking lemons and making applesauce, and that has helped me tremendously. Being surrounded by friends and family who support me has also made a huge difference. Alex, bless him, tried one tactic to make me feel better until I had to tell him that it just wasn’t working and that I loved him and appreciated him for it, but it was backfiring. Apparently, he needed to read my post on what to say to an injured athlete 😀

What do You Call a Running Coach Who Cannot Run? A Coach. I may not be able to run, but I am still Coach Suz. Discussing on @suzlyfe

Finding out that I would still be able to coach lifted a tremendous weight off of me. That isn’t to say that I am clicky clacking my heels (hahahahahah NO), but now I don’t feel as much of a timeline on me. 

I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety since 2001, and this year, though I think in many ways has been a huge and amazingly positive year for me (and there is still time!), I have also dealt with some significant depressive episodes and anxiety attacks. I have experienced both of these feelings multiple times in the past few weeks, but even so, I am holding on. I am ok. I may not be ok 100% of the time, but who is? As long as those highs outweigh the lows, I am still coming out on top. And you better believe that sometimes I have to actively remind myself of that. 

Ok, so on to the structural update.

Structural Update

I went pretty well into depth about the set up for my injury in this post (warning, it’s a bit of a depressing one, but it fully captures my mindset a week after my injury). For those that have more things to do with there day… the long and short of it is that I got hurt being a human being. There was no catastrophic event that resulted in me being injured; the injury itself was rather ambiguous in and of itself, as the post explains. 

“Diagnosis” Disc Dysfunction

The quickest diagnosis I could give you for what I am dealing with is disc dysfunction in my lumbar spine. We weren’t really sure if it was lumbar spine or Sacroiliac (SI) joint dysfunction because the pain presented at the SI joint area but the diagnostic tests that we did point to lumbar. I don’t have a slipped disk, but I do have a royally pissed off and potentially slipping disk that is going rogue. I have not gotten an MRI, but I am about at the point that if things don’t get better in the next week, I might say that it is time (plus, we’ve met our insurance deductible, so why not).

Apparently, the number 1 cause of slipping a disc? Straining while dropping a big one in the toilet. I may have Crohn’s, but this was not the reason, lol. 

What does the Disc Dysfunction feel like?

If I am jostled and have to throw my leg down, I feel immediate and intense pain. Walking, the pain is every step and changes between being stabbed and being punched. Flexing in my spine (think doing a full sit up, touching your toes, or coughing/sneezing), is no bueno.

Sometimes the pain is acute, sometimes more achy (see the stab vs punch comparison). When the nerve gets compressed, the pain starts to migrate or “peripheralize” laterally, aka it moves farther away from my spine. When that happens, I get pain on the anterior and posterior iliac crests (the hip bones) and near the trocanter (the main hip joint) as well as a bit down my leg. The aim of the therapy that I am doing is to get the pain as close to the spine as possible. Until the pain is directly on the spine, that means that the disc is still going for a walk. 

Disc Dysfunction Prognosis and Treatment

 The type of therapy that I am doing largely based on the McKenzie Method.  In a nutshell, my issue is “mechanical” and not pathological in nature (This site provides a great explanation). Thus, we are using mechanical therapy (ie, manipulation and active therapy) to fix the issue. First, you find the directional preference of the deformity and results in a cessation of symptoms. Then you move the joints in such a way that honors that directional preference.  For example, flexing forward (being at the waist) increases my symptoms, but doing a backbend the full range of motion results in a reprieve or decrease in the pain (the symptom). My directional preference is thus extension, and I do movements throughout the day that work my spine in extension. Think doing 10 back extensions every hour.


This isn’t a “just go get adjusted” fix. This is an ongoing, therapy-required issue were we have to get my disc to go back into its little slot by me manipulating my body throughout the day. In that way, it is similar to the other physical therapy that I have done: if I really want to get better, I have to put in the work. Even if it doesn’t necessarily always work. So far, like I said, the damn thing changes all the damn time. I’ll have a great day… UNTIL. Or I’ll have a terrible day… UNTIL. (see above)

Timeline for Recovery?

That’s kind of like asking when Thanksgiving dinner will be done: When it is good and ready. 

I hope to be able to engage in life largely without pain (or a very low amount of pain) by December.

Ok, running? Originally, I think we (the specialists and I) thought that I would be back to running and fine ish in 2 weeks. Now?

I hope to be running by the first of the year. 

And that kind of sucks to throw out there. If it happens before then, I will be ecstatic, but at this point, I won’t be surprised if I end up taking a full 2 months off of running. 

Unless I am miraculously better in the next 2 weeks, I will most likely drop down from the Rock n Roll New Orleans Marathon to the half marathon. My running focus is on getting to Boston healthily and happily. My life focus is on continuing to deal with the chronic pain and make my outlook increasing positive. 

keep going

I’m sure that many of you are pretty tired of the whole injury thing right now, and well, sorry? but it kind of invades everything that I do. But I am determined to work my way out of this mindset and return to being Suz. 

Thank you all so much for listening, reading, expressing your concern, and just being there.

And just to make everyone happy:

corgi puppy oatmeal adorable

Questions for me? 

Have you ever tried the McKenzie Method?

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