So for this weeks blog I thought I would share my personal story in overcoming an injury that set me back a long, long way and taught me some rather valuable lessons.
The injury occurred in June 2014 where after spending a Friday afternoon training at Langley Park I suffered a nerve impingement injury in two different vertebrae in my neck, C2 and C7 to be exact. I awoke the next morning with a slight burning sensation in my lower right Trapezius. I had never had any sort of nerve impingement prior to this so unfortunately I didn’t realise that this was a warning sign and went and trained with my mates in the park.
I didn’t feel quite right at training so I didn’t push myself that hard but teaching some of the guys at the time I ended up doing a lot of demoing, interspersed with periods of rolling trying to work out what was going on. The burning sensation didn’t get any worse or better throughout the day so I hoped that with a bit of rest it would subside. Boy was I wrong…
Late Saturday night/early Sunday morning I woke up in bed with an intense burning sensation (including periods of a strange numbness) running down from my neck all the way down the Right Lat, Chest & Shoulder all the way to my Right Thumb. No matter what position I lay in the sensations would not go away. I took painkillers, tried to free up my neck and shoulders but to no avail. As I said before I had never experienced Nerve Impingement issues before but I knew without a doubt that this was what I was dealing with now.
I put up with the pain all day Sunday and Monday I booked into a Physio close to home to get treatment. Unfortunately the Physio that I got in to see had recently injured her wrist and it was consequently strapped. This meant that she wasn’t able to manipulate me in order to release the trapped nerves, she was able to massage and needle the area but this only had a small slightly alleviating impact upon the injury and my condition. All the while the nerves were continuing to suffer further damage.
On the Tuesday I had to fly to Barrow Island for work for the day, I thought that the alleviation from the treatment I had received was going to be enough to get through the long day I was facing. Unfortunately it turned out to be far from the case and after a long horrific day I realised that I needed further treatment.
On the Wednesday I was able to get manipulated by one of the other Physio’s and I felt an instant relief flood over me. There was still a strange numbness throughout my right side but no longer was there painful burning. However now I needed to deal with the fallout.
If you don’t know a lot about the Nervous System I won’t go into too much detail about it’s role as there’s a lot of different parts and functions to it however you can find out more information at the link above. In a nutshell though the Nervous System sends signals to our Muscles, when nerves are impinged those signals are magnified. When they are damaged as mine now were the signals are lessened and therefore the muscles receive less stimuli meaning that they will not function as well.
So prior to this injury I had taught myself how to do Muscle-ups, the Human Flag, Levers and various other Calisthenic/Street Workout movements. I was strong, fit and possessed great muscular endurance due to the way I had been training.
Now I couldn’t even do a Push-up, I couldn’t hold a cast iron frying pan in my right hand without my wrist dropping and losing control of the frying pan. I could still do a Pull-up amazingly but however this was only because I could pull nearly all of my bodyweight through my left side, the right side just didn’t even engage. My right Lat literally wobbled like jello when I moved it with my hand. Within days I lost massive amounts of muscle from the right side of my torso, you could actually see the size difference between the left and right!
All of that hard work I had done was gone in one fowl swoop and I had to start all over again.
So I dedicated myself to my recovery, a recovery that I knew was going take a long time as Nerves will in an optimum setting only heal about a mm a day. My nerves were damaged all the way to the tip of my right Thumb from my neck so there was a long way to go.
So I attacked my recovery on every front I could think of. I knew that I wanted my body to be in the optimum state for recovery so I ensured that I never went into a calorie deficit (basically I indulged in as much good food as I possibly could). I had acupuncture and overdosed on vitamins and Himalayan Rock Salt (to this day I don’t know if that helped but it didn’t hurt so hey).
I started out with doorframe Rows and Push-ups with sets of 50 reps at a time, eventually increasing the intensity of the exercises. I rolled and stretched the muscles as much as possible as it became evident to me that as I had gotten stronger I had also gotten tighter and more inflexible. This injury was a wake up call!
I also had Physio sessions with Trevor at AirYoga where we started working on getting the right side of my upper torso into the correct movement patterns as my body had to relearn these patterns again. I ended up doing a lot of training on Rings with the AirYoga crew, something which I hadn’t done as much as Bars. I believe training with Rings helped me recover quicker than I would have otherwise as they are unstable which means your CNS and the Stabilising muscles are worked harder than on stable surfaces.
I’d like to say that it all came quickly back to me, but it didn’t. It was a long gruelling process. Effectively I wasn’t back where I had started, I was actually coming back from a place that I had never been before. It took me about 12 months to start feeling like everything was working normally. I learnt a lot about myself during this time and to this day it still serves as a timely reminder to me about what it’s like to be an absolute beginner.
I can thankfully say that I am almost fully recovered, the tip of my right Thumb is still slightly numb and it may never fully heal but I can deal with that no problem at all.
I’m now a better mover than I was back then, I’m capable of more things than I ever was before. My handstands are better, I press into Flags easily, I don’t quite have the same Muscular endurance for Muscle Ups that I used to but I know I could get it back. I’m far more flexible and I’m training to do the Iron Cross and Planche so I have come a long way. More importantly though I’m a better Coach with a greater understanding of what it’s like to not be as strong as the person next to you.
In a way I’m actually happy that my right Thumb still isn’t quite ‘normal’ as it’s that little reminder of what I have learned and where I had come from.