Advice from Alaska

For the last several days I’ve been staying off my feet and taking over-the-counter pain medication. When I walk, I generally use a cane (if I haven’t left it somewhere). As a result, my pain level has been greatly reduced. I have no intention of sitting around for the rest of my days, however.

I am still riding but the arrival of winter has nudged me into dialing back the mileage and intensity. On Saturday, I rode Big Nellie in the basement for 80 minutes. It’s a nice change of pace and infinitely preferable to riding while anxiously looking for icy patches on the pavement. Yesterday, I rode the CrossCheck outside. Temperatures declined into the 30s and winds picked up with each passing mile so I cut the ride short at 17 miles.

As I may have said earlier, I quit PT and Feldenkrais, at least until I give the pain doctor a shot (so to speak) at my problem. My friend Julie (a Rolfer, jewelry maker, proud momma, and Alaska backcountry bad ass hiker) said that I should give Structural Integration a try. (This should not be confused with Functional Intergration which is the basis of Feldenkrais.) In my current physical state, I will have to take a pass on her advice; Rolfing (one method of Structural Integration) can involve rather aggressive manipulation of body parts (in contrast to Feldenkrais which more closely resembles Reiki).

Julie’s Rolfing suggestion follows up on part of the conversation we had in Astoria, Oregon at the end of my cross country tour. I mentioned to her that a few years ago I had a problem with sharp pain in my right leg. While having a Thai massage, the therapist hit the problematic nerve in my inner right thigh and I flinched in pain. The therapist decided to skip over that part of my body. Julie said that if it had been her she would have dug right in.

It’s interesting that massage, Feldenkrais, Rolfing, and, for that matter, chiropractic, all profess to address the same body problems. Whether one method works probably depends on the pathology involved. At the moment, I know from x-rays that my back is showing numerous signs of age-related deterioration, complicated by my genetic make up, a previous back surgery, and a whole lot of wear and tear. Hopefully, tonight’s MRI will give an better view of what is causing the specific pain that I’ve been dealing with.

In a few weeks, I may be able to ramp up my activity level without pain.

I met Julie the day after I reached the Pacific coast on my 2018 bucket list cross country bike tour. I was feeling what I called afterglow. I want to feel that way again.

Thanks, Julie, for your suggestion. One of these days I hope to meet again. Come to think of it, I haven’t ridden a bike in Alaska yet.




5 thoughts on “Advice from Alaska

  1. I think no matter what modality you use, the two things you will need are patience and time. And perseverance. When my back was at its worst, it took months to get back to normal. If you look for a quick fix, it simply won’t work. I doubt any one of the modalities you mention will work any faster than any other. I wasn’t a bike rider back then, so be grateful you can keep riding through this. I am not certain if bike riding will hurt your recovery. That is something the provider will have to determine. But I agree with letting the MRI drive the decision making.

  2. Glad you are thinking about my advice. One thing I want to clarify, when I said “I would dig right in”, it was intended to mean I don’t “skip” or shy away from peoples discomfort. I work really hard to stay right with you and problem solve. That does not mean I will irritate and dig on an intense painful area. If you have an acute pain, your body will clamp down around it, protect it. I simply work to create space around an injured area and help you figure out how to turn the bus around, to change your trajectory to healing. Healing will take time, sometimes more than we want.
    While Structural Integration may be more aggressive than some other modalities you mentioned, the actual work depends on where each person is at. I have worked on many folks in a lot of pain. I do not ever envision that I am “fixing” them, especially something like stenosis. I simply want them to live more comfortably in their body.
    I have some other specific thoughts about what is going on, and I will shoot you a message soon. Happy you are getting an MRI, really good to know exactly what you are dealing with.
    Would love to see you riding in AK one day. Juneau would be a piece of cake since we only have 40 miles of road!

    1. Sorry if I gave the impression that you were unprofessional in any away. Not at all my intent. FWIW the nerve pain simply went away in time. Maybe I’ll get lucky with this stenosis pain, Given my family history, I doubt it.

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