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Almost "normal" - week 8 spine rehabilitation milestones

early morning on False CreekIt is 7 am and the sun is streaming in through the window of my office and glinting off the waters of False Creek. I see three kayaks out on the water but I don't yet hear the strident voices of the dragon boat "dragons" exhorting the rowers to move it. My coffee, fresh ground, and mellowed with a touch of cream, is steaming on the desk. My back feels great and I am going to finish my coffee and head out for a walk on the sea wall.

After a rough week last week, this week has shaped up to be the best so far. The evening before I enjoyed a fun supper at Fortune Garden Restaurant on West Broadway. Yesterday with friends I walked from my place in Yaletown up to the Scotiabank Cinema on Smithe and Burrard, had lunch at Joey Burrard, saw The Lincoln Lawyer, and then walked home. Other than the fact that my pace was much slower than my usual speed walking, I actually felt "normal" for the first time in seven months. 

Although I should define "normal".  For me that is - absolutely no pain or pressure relating to the surgical area, moving much more freely and starting to regain ordinary actions, like picking up things from the floor, sitting comfortably to read or watch a play or a movie, or having a meal in a restaurant.

I do find that I need to keep moving- standing at my computer, or sitting and working rapidly stiffens all the muscles around my hip joints. I am trying to limit sitting at the computer especially after reading an intriguing article in the NY Times Magazine in which James Vlahos describes research  by Dr. James Levine that questions "Is sitting a lethal activity?' I haven't read the original reports yet but the work sounds fascinating and I have  added to my awfully long list of topics to review.

So why was last week (week 7) rough? Having been given the approval to go ahead with getting fitter and more mobile, with twisting, rotation and lifting heavy objects as the major ongoing restrictions, I decided to get some suggestions from a physiotherapist for daily exercises, as well as start back in the gym with my personal trainer. I credit Cale, my trainer, with keeping me dancing over the past couple of years through several episodes of back pain flareups.  I just wish I had listened more to his warnings about stretching and keeping flexible.  And to Julie my favorite massage therapist's warning about dancing for long periods in high heels.

some green to complement the blue waters and skyAnyway I was walking daily, extending distance and increasing pace, relying on my Urban Poles to keep me focused on posture and proper gait. And although the surgical area felt great, I started to feel increasing low back pain in the lumbosacral area. As you can imagine, I was fearful and anxious that the surgeons had fixed one part of my back, but I was now going to be hampered by pain in another part. 

At my second session with Cale, I whined pathetically about my fears. He listened to my sorry tale, informed me that the low back pain was due to incredibly tight hip flexors and proceeded to get  me working on stretching and moving. Like magic over the next day or two my hips loosened up and the back pain diminished. For once I was really diligent about stretching. I made sure that I stretched gently before I set out, and immediately after I entered my building lobby, I went through another stretch routine. 

The other approach to dealing with back problems that I learned about the previous week was the Australian Method of Spine Stabilization. I was introduced to a sequential series of exercises that activate the transversus abdominis and multifidus muscles through gentle contractions.  I had decided to go to a physiotherapist that would be within walking distance from my home. Thought I would check out the McGavin Sports Medicine Centre at the Plaza of Nations. When I called to book, I asked for a therapist who had worked with spine surgery patients. Anyway after working through the exercises he sent me off with a printout of exercises. They need to be done from 3 to 5 times a day and I have been surprising diligent about actually doing them. It is amazing how powerful a motivator a wake-up call like 5 months of excruciating sciatica can be.

The other important milestone is that I finally feel motivated to seriously attack the 12 pounds I gained though 5 months of relative inactivity. My best weight loss regimen as I found a few years ago is a low carbohydrate eating plan. Since I normally don't eat carbohydrate dense foods like cakes, sweets, potatoes, rice - for me to embark on low carb means switching my carb sources from fruit to vegetables, and cooking low carb foods. Check out my kitchen adventures with low carb pizza and breakfast muffins, and cauliflower rice with shrimp Mornay.

Next project is to switch from the Activator Poles to the ordinary Urban Poles. I will let you know about that in my next Spine Surgery Rehabilitation post.