The Chiropractor With The Broken Back

by Dr. Christopher on August 23, 2010

Rugby isn't a deathwish. It's a lot of fun and a teacher of life lessons.

I recently went on vacation to Delaware with family.  With nothing but the beach in “Dela-where?”, I got to relax and read.  Whenever I read, I sit.  Therefore, I was doing alot of sitting.

Towards the end of the week, I started noticing “tension” in my lower back. 

For all of you anatomy-heads, I’ve concluded that I often get pain in the quadratus lumborum bilaterally.  (This muscle is a secondary lumbar spine stabilizer.  Secondary because it tends to overwork and become painful when the primary muscles, such as psoas, multifidi, semispinalis, rotatores, don’t work optimally, often from too much sitting!).

Having not done much exercise to load my back, I didn’t think much of the “tension”.  I went to the gym to workout.  We were practicing Fight Gone Bad, in honor of  MurphYou can help me raise money for the Fight Gone Bad event on Sept. 25 here (every dollar counts!).

In the first round, I was just starting some Sumo Deadlift High Pulls when I felt it … significant pain in my back provoked by any bending at all.  Juiced up and adrenaline rushing, I shovelled together the shambles of my body to finish the workout.

I herniated a disc.

Later that day, I went to a BBQ.  Demolished some hamburgers, hot dogs, and more than a couple of cookies. 

After sitting a while, I went to stand and started walking.  It was then that I realized that I couldn’t stand up straight and walked like a duck, forward lean and ass out.  I’ve had back pain before, but never this bad!

The morning after the incident was the worst. 

If a disc is injured, either within the disc’s walls or herniated outside, it won’t like increased pressure.  As you sleep, the discs take on water because gravity isn’t squeezing the discs between two vertebra.  Morning pain that lasts for 30 minutes after getting out of bed, then diminishes is either caused by disc or muscle stiffness.

Each day after that, it continued to get better.  I iced for 15 minutes every hour when I remembered.  I continued to sit for short periods of time, then stand and move in directions that were painful, just to maintain any flexibility I was in danger of losing.  I also made sure to eat strict (mainly fruits and vegetables) and take some fish oil capsules to ensure that I had an optimal healing environment on the inside. 

Two days after the incident, I can do most of my activities of daily living.  I know I herniated the disc because I have the faintest feeling of “sciatic nerve pain” going down my right butt cheek and into the top of my thigh.  (Again for the anatomy heads: I’m assuming I irritated the posterior part of my disc because I’m comfortable in lumbar flexion.  If I thought the “sciatic nerve pain” was a referral pattern from the lumbar facets, the symptoms would be provoked with lumbar extension, not flexion.  The symptoms also aren’t provoked with any hip movement, including a SLR, which I can get to 90 degrees).  I’m not too worried about the nerve pain though because of my current level of functionality.

First Hand Experience

Friends, family, and patients … they all give me a hard time for the amount of activity I still maintain.  I crossfit.  I began playing rugby again.  I tend to put my body in what some may call dangerous situations. 

How compassionate can a person be unless they can put themselves in another’s shoes?  Those who have gone through cancer or have had their loved ones die are always more sympathetic to those who experience similar things.

The way I see it … I’m becoming not only a better doctor, but a better person because I’m learning to feel the pain that people go through. 

Experiencing from a 1st-person perspective gives me great awareness in how to deal with any problem. 

Here are some injuries I’ve experienced in the recent past:

1.   3 days ago: Herniated disc.  They are not fun!  The lesson here is not to get one of these.  Luckily, I’m healing quickly.  My brother still isn’t healed after four months!

2.   2 weeks ago: Achilles tendinosis on right side.  Developed this now chronic issue in my right achilles tendon with too much barefoot running.  My left achilles tendon is loving life.  Whether I have an existing issue biomechanically (such as scar tissue somewhere) or crappy bone alignment that won’t allow me to run barefoot anymore is: To Be Determined.

3.   1 month ago: Grade 2 concussion.  This beauty is described as a concussion with no loss of consciousness, confusion, and what makes it dangerous, the amnesia.  I didn’t lose consciousness but I did black out for half an hour and didn’t even remember going into the rugby game.  (My mom strongly dislikes rugby and I never told her about the concussion.  I hope you’re not reading this Mom!)  I also tried to call some people that I was no longer associated with.  That would have been embarassing! Lesson?  Avoid running into a big man’s knees with your forehead.

4.   2 months ago: Strained left achilles tendon.  Again, I had been running a decent amount barefoot.  Then, I was attempting to glorify a friend’s chiropractic practice in a flag football tournament fundraiser for Cerebral Palsy at Giants Stadium when for no apparently reason, I could hardly walk on my foot anymore.  The Giants looked at me with disappointment.

5.   1.5 years ago: Burnt feet.  When doing a firewalk, stop doodling in your notes and listen to the gentleman instructing you on how to do the firewalk.  Also, walk faster than you would for a morning stroll.  If you do these things, you won’t be the only person out of fifty to give yourself severe burns that take 2 months to heal like I was.

Every scar has a past that makes for a better future. 

Here are some life lessons I’ve learned from my painful experiences:

1.   Everything happens for a reason!  Any observation, experience, or bit of knowlege is a chance to analyze, learn, and grow from that opportunity.  As long as you are humble enough, you can always take a positive out of a bad situation.

2.   Be Like a Dog. A chiropractic friend taught me this one.  If a dog injures his paw, he may limp.  Watching the squirrels through his window, he will attempt to chase those (possibly dangerous or annoying?) squirrels on his injured paw on a daily basis.  The dog is healing the way nature intended.  Healing requires:

  • Time
  • Building Blocks – whether it’s a house of steel (fruits, veggies, healthy protein) vs. a house of straw (processed foods) is up to you.
  • Progressive Loading -which the dog is doing by walking and running more and more each day. 

When we are injured, we can be like a dog by most importantly, not resting for weeks at a time, but slowly moving, stretching, and easing into exercise again. 

3.   Listen the 1st time.  I noted how I hurt my achilles tendon in a flag football tournament.  I failed to mention how I hurt both mildly a couple times each in the previous months leading up the game.  Obviously, the Achilles tendinosis problem happened for a reason, right?

4.   Fear isn’t real. I refuse to not do what I want out of fear or worry about regret.  If you have a desire or a dream that keeps popping up in your head day after day, night after night.  It is there for a reason.  The more the world wants to see one of your dreams become a reality, the more it will persist as a thought in your head.  It’s only fair to act on your strongest dreams and desires.

I get hurt so I can live out my dreams and so that I can help others through their hurt. 

What lessons have you learned from your sufferring?

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Dennis August 24, 2010 at 8:50 am

Great stuff once again. Now you can provide true empathy to all of your disc patients. People who learn from their injuries always become better at what they do. This will make you a better doctor, athlete, coach, and person. Your message is clear, concise, and effective. My favorite part is about the dog with the injured paw, it is a great analogy and makes perfect sense.

On the other hand sorry to hear about the disc amongst your litany of recent injuries, I enjoy the addition of the burnt feet, it’s funny because it’s true.

Love you buddy!

Eileen August 24, 2010 at 10:37 am

What good is life if you just watch it from the sidelines? Jumping down from your safe perch on the fence and getting your knees dirty is the best way to learn first hand the true meaning of life. You get out of life exactly what you are willing to put into it.

Every injury I have had was a gift that helped me to understand what my patients were feeling as they progressed through the healing experience. The presence of empathy within the doctor patient relationship is essential to the healing process. Those injuries help you connect on the same level with your patients. They will see you as someone who feels their pain, and therefore can walk through the “fire” with them…. and be healed by the experience. It’s a beautiful thing… trust.

ps…. consider wearing a helmet more often.

Love, Dr. S

Meghan August 24, 2010 at 1:45 pm

i agree. I am a L.M.T, and at first I am distraught when I injure myself, but I have come to appreciate the knowledge and increased empathy that comes with it.

Christopher August 24, 2010 at 2:07 pm

Hahaha, it is so true! Thank God that our bodies know how to heal themselves! Can’t thank you enough for your constant support. Love you too Dennis!

Christopher August 24, 2010 at 2:11 pm

We are always on the same page Dr. Santipadri! I especially like “you get out of life exactly what you are willing to put into it.” I’ve been working more myself on acting on my desires, as bold as they may be. I’ve noticed a weight off of my shoulders because of this. I feel that it is because I’m putting more of ME into my life. Really liberating.

I don’t play football anymore Dr. S! The helmet got retired with my football career.

Love back!

Christopher August 24, 2010 at 2:14 pm

Great awareness Meghan. And I’m sure your clients can appreciate that.

They might ask “Oh, you actually aren’t perfect?”

We’re all human, living out our lives. Sometimes we put people on pedestals or look down upon others. In reality, we’re all on the same plane, growing together.

Matt August 25, 2010 at 10:42 pm

Chris, great article!
I love this phrase…
“Any observation, experience, or bit of knowlege is a chance to analyze, learn, and grow from that opportunity. As long as you are humble enough, you can always take a positive out of a bad situation.”

Life is… live it, reflect on it, grow!

Just out of curiosity did you try any End range loading(either prone or standing) after the disc injury.

Christopher August 26, 2010 at 8:20 am

Thanks Mattie! No, I did not try any end range loading as I was not immediately seen by anyone else and did not think to do it standing. From standing, I could not flex/extend/laterally flex to ANY degree without pain for 24 hours. Since event, I have gotten substantially better every day, don’t have any more referral down the legs, and as of today, am going to practice tonight! Yay for healing bodies!

Sameer August 29, 2010 at 4:03 pm

Putting yourself in others shoes is a great way of relating yourself to their problems and concerns. It gives you a better understanding on how to deal with the situation and make yourself a better doctor. Every personal experience that you encounter in your life is not only a lesson of your own but also a key to connecting with others who may have gone through similar situations and hence building that doctor-patient relationship. Great article!

Christopher August 29, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Thanks for comment Sameer. I agree, any experience that allows us to have empathy and compassion for others helps us be better doctors, and even better humans. Hope all is well!

orem chiropractor March 28, 2011 at 3:23 am

Ouch,its to bad for that chiropractor.I agree with you sameer every personal experience that we encounter in your life is not only a lesson of our own but also a key to connecting with others who may have gone through similar situations and hence building that doctor-patient relationship.

Dr. Christopher March 28, 2011 at 8:49 pm

Thank you for comment orem chiropractor.

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