What a difference a week makes

About this time last week I was ready to throw in the towel on physical therapy. My knee and hip were regressing and I was getting frustrated.

Then I raise my saddle a couple of millimeters on Little Nellie. It seemed to help. Surprisingly the new position didn’t bother my back either.

When Little Nellie’s front shifting went to hell, I switched to the Cross Check. Again, I raised my saddle a couple of millimeters. The first ride didn’t cause me pain but I felt like I was getting no power transfer to the pedals. My physical therapist suggested I leave the seat up and see if my body adapts to it.

That night, Monday of this week, I went to a concert in DC. I stood on concrete for over four hours. If you have a messed up leg and a back back, standing on concrete for hours is not a great idea. My legs were incredibly tight for the last hour of the concert. And my lower back was aching.

It took about an hour to get home by car. When I got out of the car my left hip and knee were screaming at me. They felt like they did before the cortisone shot and the PT. I thought I had screwed the pooch.

I took two ibuprofen PMs (with a sedative) and went to sleep. About six hours later I woke up with my left knee screaming at me. In a few minutes the sedative put me back to sleep.

I slept until 9:30. It’s the latest I’ve slept in months. I woke up groggy only to learn that I had overslept my 7:30 doctor appointment. I’ve never missed a doctor appointment. (He fit me in anyway.)

Then I went for a bike ride on the Cross Check.

I was expecting to feel like a cripple. Instead, I rode like I had a tailwind. Other than some brief soreness on the outside of my left hip, my legs felt great. My back did too. I rode 32 miles and could have gone on for another 10 without any difficulty.

Today, I rode the Cross Check again. That little bit of soreness outside my left hip came and went within 10 minutes. I rode hard into a headwind without discomfort. My route took me from the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River up the Custis Trail, a roller coaster of short, sometimes steep hills. No problem. I didn’t notice any discomfort beneath my left knee cap or near my left hip.

The ride home was a blast because I had a tailwind and it was gently downhill back to the river. I flew in a big gear. 35 1/2 miles with plenty of pop left in my legs.

I haven’t felt this strong on a bike since last year when I came home from riding to Portland.

So much for throwing in the towel.

Getting Well

After my trip to London I was a physical wreck. I think I am starting to get well.

My one-month cold is almost gone. Lord knows my sinuses must be tired of producing so much gunk.

I have had a nasty pain in my upper left arm for more than a year. It’s occasional but extremely painful, like someone is stabbing me. It seems that the shorter stem I put on Little Nellie is helping a lot. I haven’t woken up with a dagger in my arm for a few days. Now that I think about it, the pain went away when I was on my bike tour on The Mule, a bike with a similar reach to the handlebars. (This is not a coincidence; Little Nellie was custom made to mimic the geometry of The Mule.) So, maybe the culprit is the geometry of my Cross Check. Hmmm.

My left hip is still wonky but it’s definitely better. I do two PT exercises specifically for it. Then I do my runners calf stretch. This, for some reason, helps with my lower back. After that comes my mishmash of about 20 yoga and PT exercises. The whole thing took me 30 minutes today. I am going to add some foam roller exercises soon because why be bored shitless when you can torture yourself too!

My left knee is still barking a bit. I use a pillow between my legs when I sleep and this keeps it from aching at night.

For whatever reason my legs no longer feel like concrete. My thighs are still tight, so tight as to completely rule out certain yoga asanas from the book I am using.

I was weighed at the doctor’s office the other day. 218 pounds is way too heavy for me. I spent some time backing up pictures from my laptop to an external hard drive. I saw a picture of me at the 50 States Ride, six months ago. Yep. I done ate too many cookies this Christmas. The added weight probably isn’t helping my legs, hip, and back when I walk 7 or 8 miles in one go either.

Off to bed for this busy boy. I have to get up at dawn to get a CT scan. They will inject me with contrasting dye. It imparts a warm tingly feeling from the top of the head to the groin (I don’t know why I’ve never felt it in my legs) as it spreads through the blood stream.

Too bad this anti-freeze doesn’t linger in the system. I have a 35 mile bike ride to do tomorrow morning.

 

The Trifecta of Pain Post Mortem

A couple of days ago I was somewhat concerned that Thai massage, followed by snow shoveling, and a physical therapy session, all withing the space of 17 hours would wreck my body. As it turned out, I made it through the Trifecta of Pain with flying colors.

The Thai massage (with a bit of Reiki at the end), although painful at times, was a very soothing experience. I don’t normally pamper myself like this, but I am glad I gave this a go.

This morning we had three or so inches of wet snow. I pulled out the wovel and went at it. Each time I use this gizmo I am amazed. Snow shoveling is one of the most stressful things you can put your back and heart. Woveling is a piece of cake. It is actually not much harder than mowing the lawn. And it makes quick work of the snow.

Later in the morning I went to my physical therapy appointment. We worked on my balance. To my surprise, after some awkwardness, I did most of the exercises without losing my balance. I don’t know if this gets me anywhere with my numb foot but it helped my ego quiet a bit. The PT folks were curious to hear about the Thai massage. I mentioned the pain I had with my quadriceps and IT band and that became the focus of the session. We used a foam roller to massage both areas. This was incredibly painful, much, much more so than during the massage. Then we tried using a lacrosse ball to work out the tightness in my IT band. This was not as bad.

And so the Trifecta of Pain is over. It was not nearly as painful as I had expected.

Climbing aboard the PT Boat

Today was my second physical therapy appointment for my numb right foot. Of course, this meant that when I woke up my foot felt fine for a few hours. I drove to the appointment because the temperature was dropping almost as fast as the wind was howling. Along the way, my foot became number than it has been in weeks.

At the PT place, the therapist I saw last week, put my right foot, now back to its usual numbness, through various gentle twists and turns. The working theory is that a big nerve in my foot has been damaged or is entrapped. The gentle twists and turns of my foot, ankle, calf, and entire leg are attempts to address this.The technique is actually called nerve flossing. I didn’t notice much difference. I was handed off to another therapist who gave me a number of exercises to do that seemed simple but actually were not all that easy, if done correctly.

Most of the exercises were designed to address my lower back and core strength to deal with the possiblity that my problem was related to my back. The doctor had alread ruled this out but the first PT person said that it’s possible that the EMG test was done when the nerve was not fully misbehaving, and thereby led to a false assesment.

I was doing fine, partly because many of the exercises were variations on the PT I routinely do for my back and core and on the yoga poses I do. Two exercises were particularly notable. First, I was doing something called the pointing dog. It involves kneeling on all fours and extending your right arm and left leg while squeezing your stomach and butt. Nearly all the exercises involved squeezing core and butt so by the time I got to the pointing dog my stomach and butt were pretty much all squeezed out. When I did the exercise my numbness in my right foot untensified and spread from below my ankle to pretty much my entire foot. Instead of numbing it was now tingling. We modified the exercise and made a note.

The second exercise that seemed to be fruitful was using a lacrosse ball to knead the muscles in my calves, my quadriceps and my hanstrings. This had no discernable effect on my hams or quads, but it hurt like hell on my calves. Each calf was all knots of tight muscles. Ah ha!

Of course, I have no idea if this has anything to do with my numb foot but it was interesting none the less. I go back next week for two more PT sessions. In the meantime, I am reconsidering rolfing, because it seems as if it might involve the kind of deep muscle massage that the lacrosse ball is getting at. A friend of mine highly recommends a rolfer in DC. Once I close the loop with the neurologist at the end of the month, I may give the rolfer a call.