Thursday, 6 June 2013

Backpain extravaganza! Welcome to the show...

I woke up Tuesday morning & was surprised to find that I could barely move because my back was so painful. I vaguely remembered moving around a lot at night because I couldn't get comfortable, so it kind of made sense that something had gone wrong. The weird thing is, I had no back issues during the day or the night before - it was sort of a bolt out of the blue.

I have been fairly lax with my gym training, but I have been keeping active. I walk a lot at work & do some mild stretching at home when I feel I need to. I even avoid doing too much housework (ha, yes I know it sounds like an excuse) as leaning over a sink/ironing board for too long etc really causes me problems. So the fact that I haven't done anything (knowingly) to exacerbate things, is quite frustrating. 

It's difficult to get the right balance when it comes to stretching as too much can make my joints even more bendy, yet not enough causes me to seize up. 

Without waffling too much, I will outline my rehab gym session. I hope that anyone who suffers with the same issues as I do, will find it helpful. But everyone is different, so trial & error is the way forward. I normally do split gym sessions; legs, upper body & back all on separate days to give things a chance to recover & stop my whole body from aching at one time. But on this occasion, I did a whole body workout - just really light & took everything easy. 

I started off with front squats. I've never actually done them with a bar before (only with a medicine ball or Kettlebell) so it was quite an unusual feeling. Because I have fairly good flexibility in my ankles & lats, along with good shoulder mobility, Terry decided it would be much less painful for me than doing back squats. Turns out, he was right. I used the really light bar (about 10-12kg) on its own for the first set & only went up to about 25kg total. This is ridiculously light, but as I'm rehabbing & my back didn't feel stable enough to cope with heavy weight, it was more than enough. I did 5 sets of 5 reps which was plenty. 

Deadlifting came next. Used the proper bar & some very large 5kg plates to begin with. Anyone who goes to the gym will know that 5kg plates are normally tiny - this isn't a problem for anyone lifting big weights, but for a woman who wants to lift the bar from a normal height, big 5kg plates are invaluable; particularly when warming up. When I have trained anywhere other than Bulks, I've had to either lift my warm up weight up from ridiculously low, or put something on the floor to raise the bar up. Extremely inconvenient. So again, started on 30kg for 5 reps & once my back started loosening up a bit, Terry upped the weight to 40kg. Still very light, but just enough to get everything working without damaging anything. 2 sets of 5 at 30kg & 3 sets of 5 at 40kg. 

He tried to get me to do overhead squats as well, but I totally failed at this. I held the light bar in a press position while trying to squat, but my back felt like it was going to snap & I couldn't get down more than a few inches. It was good though as it told us where the problems were in my body; which parts were tight, which are injured, which are too loose. Knowing your own body is important, but it helps when you have someone who has had problems themselves that can alert you to what the cause is. 

Glute ham raises were unbelievably painful. I usually do sets of 10 reps with no help, but I was only doing 5 while using Terry's hands at the bottom of the movement to help get myself back up. I could feel the tendons in the back of my knees doing weird things which again helped to tell us where the problems are. 

I also did some very light dumbbell pressing (the little girlie ones that are about 2.5kg), followed by dumbbell pullovers. I actually chose the last exercise myself as I remember doing them before & my back stretching & cracking with each rep. It has to be my favourite assistance exercise because it really seems to stretch everything out and make your tight muscles feel much looser. I laid with my shoulders & head on the bench in a sort of bridge position, held a 5kg dumbbell above my face & lowered it backwards so my arms were stretched above my head. If that makes sense! It's really good for your core as well; I'd imagine that doing it on an exercise ball would make it even more beneficial, especially for core stability. 

My hip flexors are currently so tight that they're pulling everything out of alignment even worse than usual. Why? I have no idea. The only thing I can really think of is that I'm walking a bit funny where I've put on weight. Because my thighs now rub together (how fucking lame. I'm hanging my head in shame) and get a bit sore, I think I'm walking differently to compensate. Can something as simple as walking with your legs a bit further apart cause all this trouble? I think it's possible. But then it could be a number of things. But my pelvis is definitely well out of alignment to the point where my hips are crunchy, my knees are fluidy & my back feels like an overstretched elastic band. When you stretch an elastic band to its absolute maximum point before it breaks, you know where you're wincing waiting for it to ping you in the face? That's the only way I can describe how my lower back feels. My arse cheek has a tingling pain in it as well, probably where my pelvic alignment is all wrong & my nerves are being pinched. Although I'm still in agony, the super light gym session followed by the foam roller & stretching has definitely helped to ease things. 

I've read up about HMS a lot & find the NHS website particularly useful for showing people who want to know about it. This is an excerpt from there regarding injuries: 


If you have joint hypermobility syndrome, you may be at increased risk of injuring your joints – for example, by partially or completely dislocating them (when the joint comes out of its correct position). Joints, particularly the shoulder or knee-cap, can dislocate if overstretched.

A dislocated joint will need to be moved back into place, usually in hospital, in a procedure called a reduction. Some people with joint hypermobility syndrome may be able to put their joints back into place themselves. However, you should still seek medical attention if you have dislocated a joint.

You may also be at increased risk of soft tissue injuries such as:

  • tenosynovitis – inflammation (swelling) of the protective sheath around a tendon (the tough, rubbery cords that link muscles to bones)
  • bursitis – inflammation of a bursa (a small, fluid-filled sac found over the joints and between tendons and bones)
  • epicondylitis (tennis elbow) – a condition that affects the outside of the elbow, causing swelling and pain
There's a lot more in depth information online, but this pretty much gives you the outline of the injuries you can sustain. 

I wouldn't mind so much if I'd actually done something physical to injure myself, but when you do something fucking ridiculously pathetic like dislocate your hip when turning round to get something from a cupboard, it really takes the biscuit! But it's the nature of it & I guess I should feel grateful that I'm still mobile enough to not need crutches or a wheelchair. Some days I can do anything I want to without too many repercussions, but some days the stupidest things cause me pain. 

Terry has recently taken up weightlifting which has not only been useful for his strongman training, but for his newfound knowledge of flexibility problems. Because of his excessive muscle mass & strongman conditioned body, he really struggles with the flexibility required for weightlifting. He's been reading a book called 'Becoming a Supple Leopard' which has some amazing information and ideas in it; he's been using it to help us both with our issues and although him reading it is enough to help us both at the moment, I'm going to read it as well and hopefully learn more about how to help myself. The guy who wrote the book also has some excellent YouTube videos about being a 'hypermobile athlete' and how to get round your issues. I'll post some links in my next blog once I've done a bit more research and can give reviews on it all. 

The biggest problem a person with EDS/HMS has, is the fact that we look like everyone else a lot of the time. Having an invisible illness is awful because people say things like 'but you don't look ill' or 'you can walk; what's the problem?' - well the problem is not always evident as we can't walk around crying or screaming in pain all the time. The best we can get away with is constantly bitching about our joints hurting. But believe me, that gets boring when you say it enough. If we complained about our pain every time we had it, we'd never stop talking. And that's the truth. I hurt every SECOND of every day. Sometimes worse than other days, but there's not a single moment that I can sit down and say 'I am 100% pain free'. When you suffer with chronic pain, you become accustomed to suffering and tend to only complain out loud when it's really bad or affecting your everyday life. And that is a really sad state of affairs. 

As always, I welcome questions or stories about how you've dealt with joint/muscular problems. I've just seen a brilliant response on my last blog that I shall include in my next one. 

Sorry for the long-winded essay, I really need to work on being more concise in future ;)