Houston, We have a Diagnosis

After almost 2 months of battling this “random” injury that first ruined the party at the Houston Marathon, we finally have a diagnosis.  Are you ready for it?

“Posterior annular tear of the L4-L5 intervertebral disc associated with diffuse 2 mm dorsal disc bulge which contacts the ventral aspect of the left L5 nerve root.”

What, that doesn’t make sense to you either?

In layman’s terms, I have a small disc tear and a disc coming into contact with a nerve.  All culprits are in my lower back (if you follow the top of your hip bones to your back, that’s where L4 is; L5 is right below it around your tailbone).


What now?
The good news is that minor disc tears heal on their own.  The bad news is they take a LONG time to heal and there’s no “magic” time frame.  It’s individual and will just take constant evaluation.  For now, it means almost no activity for the next 2 weeks. My doc wants to see me go at least 2 weeks with minimal pain and no flare ups (I’ve had 3 flare ups in a month so far).  This is the truly frustrating part – I’ve already been without running for a month and on minimal activity (max 1000m swim and spin with no tension) since February 5th.  For someone who lives for the endorphins created by intense activity, I’m going a little crazy with all this “stillness.” I may or may not have thrown things in the kitchen on Sunday.

My first reaction to the diagnosis was tears and complete despair.  I’d worked REALLY hard to reach my goal of Boston and now it appears that’s off the table until likely next year (there was mention of 6-8 months to rebuild).  During and right after the news, Batch (the hubs) let me cry, vent, + tried to make me see the upside, but I wasn’t ready to hear it.  Until just a few minutes ago.  He said “You’ve already accomplished things you didn’t think possible. Don’t lose sight of that just because you didn’t get 1 of your goals.” Oh, right, thanks “Dr. Batch”.

I’m still not feeling like Susie Sunshine yet, but I know it could be worse. I’m pretty sure this is a test and so far, I’m failing miserably.  A sweet co-worker said maybe this was a good time to focus on prayer.  Maybe that’s the lesson I’m supposed to learn?  Life lessons are for another day.  Today, I just know that Being. Injured. SUCKS.

There will be a comeback. I don’t know what it will look like, but I do know I’ve learned some valuable (albeit painful) lessons.  Stick around and let’s see how the next chapter unfolds…


About fashionablemiles

30-something runner, triathlete and wannabe fashionista
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13 Responses to Houston, We have a Diagnosis

  1. Terzah says:

    I’m really sorry–and I totally understand, both about the Boston thing and the waiting game while injured. I had some tears myself today (and I’m luckier in that there is ONE exercise I’m allowed to do). You WILL get through this. You were almost to Boston and you will get there! Be nice to yourself and it will come.

    • Thank you so much, Terzah! I’m sure I’ll feel better about it eventually and looking back it will just be a small blip on the radar, but right now it feels HUGE and all consuming. Sorry for your tears too! Glad you have something you can do!! 🙂

  2. kilax says:

    I think you get awhile longer to be upset about it. This is hard news to swallow, when you have so many plans and love to be so active! I hope you have a speedy recovery! (as speedy as possible, anyway)

  3. Call me if you want to cry, say bad words, feel pitiful and then pray. Then maybe cry and feel pitiful some more. That really sucks. – The good news is that you KNOW you can do it. And you WILL be able to do it again. But in the mean time.. feel your feelings. And shop and eat. 🙂

  4. Corey says:

    Oh, Holly! I am so sorry to hear this! Do you know what caused it? I hope you find some peace with it and you end up being able to see the “everything happens for a reason” in the end. Right now I am sure you haven’t gotten that far. Good luck with recovery.

    • No exact/singular cause other than I have degenerative disc disorder (I’ve known that for over 10 years) so I guess it’s just a symptom/result of that? I’ve been able to manage it by staying in shape and making sure to keep my core strong. Guess I didn’t do such a great time this go-round.

  5. Laura says:

    You absolutely need to vent and cry and be upset… I find those grief stages to be so true- denial, anger, depression and finally acceptance. I hope you can find peace with all of this, and that as you look back later you’ll be able to see all the character-building benefits that came from it! So sorry, though, there is no easy way to get through the healing process when you’re addicted to endorphins!

  6. Nick says:

    Saw your post on Lauren Fleshman’s site. Sorry about L4-5, I had surgery in 2001 and L5-S1 in 1994. If you already have a tear, it’s absolutely critical to eliminate any activity that could make it worse, like twisting, lifiting, or bending forward. Sell the golf clubs. Don’t pull weeds. You get the idea. Once the doctor clears you, go SLOWLY. And do core work like most people work the remote (ie with a vengeance). Disc problems are due to lack of muscular support. Build up to a 10-minute plank. I thought I was done with running/biking, but I stumbled into a core class, and…Eugene Marathon next month and two half-Ironmans under my belt, all which happened after age 45.

    • Thanks for stopping by! I love new readers! Thanks also for your insights. Unfortunately, this is round 2 of the same issue for me so I’m all too familiar with the recovery. Thankfully my first experience was 10 years ago, and I’ve been injury free in the interim. I definitely agree a strong core is the key to keeping this at bay- although sometimes it still just happens. Some of my issues I was born with, but I look forward to being back on the road soon!! 🙂

  7. I know that I’m posting this comment months after your diagnosis, but I can definitely relate to the whole ‘being injured and the stillness is killing me’ feeling. I started getting back into running after a long hiatus (wish I had ‘maintained’ activity better) and then strained my hamstring. So what did I do? Took off a couple weeks and then ran for a month before I decided the intermittent pain/ache should be professionally assessed.

    I didn’t realize at the time that my hamstring was to blame since I had migrating knee pain (behind the knee/upper calf/lower hamstring)… but to treat this I am going to a physical therapist 2x/week. So far I completed week 3 of PT and week 4 of no running/minimal activity and I’m going crazy! Luckily the scar tissue is gone, the inflamed bursa is subsiding and I might be able to do short run/walks possibly late next week.

    My injury happened toward the beginning of my training and has totally screwed up my schedule, but I plan to walk/run the half marathon race in October (since I would hate to drop out altogether). I just read about your recent half marathon (congrats) and found myself here to find the story behind your ‘comeback’. Heres to no more injuries for either of us!

    • so sorry to hear about your injury- it’s NO fun to be sidelined! good luck in your recovery. the key for me has just been going slow, cross training and listening to my body. have a blast with your october half!!

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