Where to start? I’ve asked myself so many times in the past few weeks to put together the timeline… when was the beginning of all this? Christmas. I’m pretty sure. But probably before then. Let’s just start there. My husband and I went to Orangetheory in his hometown over the holidays. It felt great to sweat but after the rowing portion of the class, my lower back felt a little tweaked. I had been trying to use good form, engaging my core, etc. etc. so I decided that my historically, notoriously tight hip flexors must have pulled something in my back when I was rowing. My back hurt for a week or two — longer than I expected, but everything felt muscular. I didn’t think much of it and proceeded with my life…
I booked my plane for Boston. I registered for the Quad Rock 50 Miler. I went on epic runs through the woods and worked on summiting Green Mountain 50 times. It all felt good. Then, during the Austin Marathon, there was my back again, at mile… gosh, I don’t know… 10? 15? The right side of my butt seized up. I had to stop for a minute, not just to walk but also to stretch out the back of my leg. All kinds of weird little things happen during marathons, and I figured that my body was probably protesting the road miles, with their harder impact compared to trails. I was a little annoyed but was able to pick back up with a jog and finished the race just fine.
I came home from Austin and took a week for recovery, with a few mild gym workouts, a hilly 6-mile trail run, and a day on the ski slopes. I don’t remember that week being particularly painful — just normal post-marathon soreness. The following week, I picked back up with my 50-miler training: 9.5 miles on Monday, 14 miles on the road on Tuesday, and three more days of easy runs. I had a mountaineering course that weekend but felt so good after the first day that I even ran to the gym and back, swam a few laps, and did some squats. The second day of the course was a fun rock climb, and I remember feeling really great. The week after that was another big one: three decent trail days during the week, 8 miles on the road on Friday morning, and then an awesome Three Peak Loop on Saturday (18 miles and 5600 feet of gain). On Sunday, my husband and I went skiing and I remember it being a particularly epic day of long mogul runs.
However, at some point during that week, my back had started giving me some trouble. I don’t remember exactly when, but I know that I had booked a massage for that Friday, and I signed up for pilates classes to begin on Monday, both in an effort to fix what must at the time have been a little niggle. But by the following week, it was no longer a niggle. It was an issue. It hurt. Something was wrong.
What have I done since then? I’ve had two massages to try to release my hip flexors, I’ve taken three private pilates classes to stretch and strengthen, and I’ve gone to two private sessions with a woman who is certified as a massage therapist, pilates instructor, manual therapist, and more, and who has worked on myofascial release with me (let’s just call her my “bodyworker” for short). The first massage therapist told me I had a very tight iliacus muscle. The second massage therapist told me that it was my psoas, at least on the left side, that was tight; and she agreed with the first therapist that my right iliacus was tight. She said that my left hip was “compacted” and that my right side looked “loaded.” She said that one leg was longer than the other because of something going on with my pelvis, and she said the left side of my pelvis was crooked, or maybe it was tipped. She told me she corrected all of that during our session but that I should only do low-impact activities, or else I’d risk messing it all up again. She said I shouldn’t run this past weekend but skiing would be OK. “It’s low impact,” she said. I went skiing and I promise it was NOT low impact. What about my bodyworker? She told me during our first session that my sacrum looked crooked, like the right side was smushed in. Uhhhhh. She speculated that I might have fallen or suffered some other impact that set my hips and pelvis a little out of whack. Yes, I fell on the ice during my 14 miler — that one stands out because of the gnarly bruise I got on my knee. But I fall a lot. And I run down mountains. And I ski down bumps. I have no doubt that there were ample opportunities for body-busting. She gave me some gentle spinal/pelvic movements to work on, and she hooked me up with a firm ball to use for releasing my hips.
As interesting as all these sessions have been, unfortunately no one has been able to tell me what is causing the pain in the right side of my lower back. Why does it suddenly hurt to move from sitting to standing up? Why doesn’t it hurt when I run? How can I ski double back diamonds and go bouldering without pain but look like Quasimodo trying to gently slide out from my car? Why does it sometimes feel like the pain radiates down the back of my leg, and sometimes it doesn’t? Why does it hurt less when I’m moving, when my body warms up? I feel something pulling, tugging on my back, when I move in certain ways — what is it? And most importantly, why hasn’t anything fixed it yet?
This week I am going to try to see a chiropractor. I’ve always been nervous about chiropractors but my massage therapist recommended one. She and the bodyworker both think I might need a pelvic adjustment. If the chiropractor can’t help me, I’m hoping he can at least point me in the best direction — an orthopedist, a neurologist, a PT, someone else?
Of course, lingering all around us is the fact that Boston is quickly approaching. I had a good sob about it last Saturday morning, before sucking it up and getting myself out on the trails for 11 miles, which were the best-feeling hours of my day. I am going to run Boston if it means I can’t stand up straight for a month afterward, but I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.
In the meantime, please let me know if this sounds like anything you’ve experienced in the past or if you have any thoughts on my medical mystery!!!