Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hazards of Travel: Watch your back!

UPDATE: Yoga really works! Some exercises to fix your back

Right: What I need right now ... the Yamaha-owned onsen Tsumagoi (means "Love your Wife") in Kakegawa. Those are my green-tea-soaked tootsies about 2 weeks ago ...

... AND I don't mean pickpockets, hijackers, or even Bangkok tailor-made shirt touts (the best in the world - the touts, not the shirts, which fall apart after 2 washes).

I mean: look after your back when dragging suitcases, sleeping in hostels, stepping off strange and uneven curbs (kerbs downunder), and yes, biking around like I've been doing for 5 weeks.

After 2 weeks customer evangelizing in Singapore and another 3 in Japan, I'm reporting to you flat on my back, after putting it out on my last day in Tokyo. I was simply folding a blanket and when POW! A sharp, throbbing pain above my left hip.

Somehow, I managed to get back to NYC - bracing myself and dragging two bags and a small backpack through Tokyo's train and airport bus labyrinth. Oh, how I wish I'd simply ordered my giant Kyoto nabe pot online from Takashimaya instead of lugging it all the way from Tokyo to NYC! I then survived a 14 hour United Economy Minus flight, with the NY/Penn Station airtrain labyrinth at the other end, made possible thanks to a friend who met me in Newark.

Of course, the first thing that springs to mind is a slipped/shattered/herniated disc. But I've been seeing a chiropractor his diagnosis is this: sacro-iliac joint pain, an extremely common ailment you can read about here:
www.sportsinjuryclinic.net/cybertherapist/back/buttocks/sacroiliac.htm

"If it was a disc problem, you treat it with ice," he said. The region below however, responds to hot baths, hot pads, and heat in general.

Just today, however, I had a bit of a setback.

I decided to cheer myself up by going out to dinner last night but today woke up in a cold sweat, feeling nauseous, crampy, and pre-menstrual, you name it. It felt somewhat like what I imagine childbirth to be, quite unfair for one so childless!

On leaning over the big white telephone, I must have passed out. I found myself wedged between the loo and the bathtub sometime later, still in a strange, cold sweat. Most disturbing was an egg-sized bump on the back of my head. It took a while to process how best to untangle myself from embracing the toilet, with that ad for a senior's medical alert device "Help ... I've fallen and I can't get up..." ringing in my ears.

I managed to find some ibroprufen - something I never usually take but I know 'mericans love, ate 3 and fell asleep. An hour later I was OK.

Was it something I ate? Perhaps the universe has a way of telling you "stay in bed!".

Anyway, here are some of the things I think may have led to tweaking my back, as we say downunder:

1. Spraining my ankle in Singapore 4 weeks ago - led to me favoring my right side
2. Rolling the folded bike using my right hand around for 5 weeks - a little bit hard for me at 25 lbs, being only 95 lbs and 5' tall myself - led to me favoring my right side
3. Here's one that applies to most cyclists - stopping and starting the bike on the SAME FOOT - in my case, favoring my right side.
4. Discovered my right leg is slightly shorter than my left - a condition found in up to 50 percent of the population, according to Google. This probably led to the knee and bike fit issues I've documented as a small rider here:  http://www.bikefriday.com/bikefit. In turn, this affects hips and upper body. Although I have worn good orthotics in my shoes for 20 years to stop foot pronation, these are probably due for revamping.

This picture from my chiropractor's restroom more or less sums it up this somewhat logical situation:



All this meant that I have been courting misalignment for quite some time, so that folding a blanket was the straw that broke the cyclist's back.

So no slipped disk or sciatica, just jamming in the sacrum/ilium (pelvic joint).

How cruel, especially since I completed a rigorous yoga teacher training earlier this year! Certainly some Feldenkreis might help.

The moral to the story is ...

1. Don't sprain your ankle.
2. Be careful when doing repetitive lifting on one side only
3. Alternate rolling or pushing youbike on both sides, whether a folding or regular bike
4. Alternate unclipping feet from pedals (now THAT's a real challenge)
5. Wear a balanced backpack or mount your bag on the bike, rather than carrying a one-shoulder bag. Ah, that's why my ultralight TCB isn't a shoulder bag
6. Find out if the problem stems from the bottom up or the top down - if you need orthotics. They'll set you back $200-$400+, or you can try these ones I've used to great effect for over 20 years - but clearly need replacing now!

OK, off running a hot bath, and not looking forward to getting up (slowly) from this laptop.

This is when you really, really want a Japanese style bath!


The bathtub at Pension Karuizawa Forest - what all baths should be like

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear about your injuries Lynette. Poor you. As a fellow back pain sufferer, I understand and feel for you.

Do take care, rest rest and rest. Hope you recover quickly in time for Christmas.

Al

Karl said...

Lynette, do you get any pain down one side, any numbness?

Karl