When Only Time Will Heal an Injury

by NanciArvizu

Keeping in shape is more than exercise and diet. It's about listening to your body and knowing when to stop.

I injured myself by not letting my self heal. I didn't listen to my own body, the one I was working so hard to make better. I didn't stop when my body asked me to, so it stopped without my permission.

Interestingly, I am not alone in my self inflicted stupidity. It seems there's a whole herd of people like me who "push through the pain" only to find even more pain, and possibly worse, on the other side.

What's up with this mentality? "The doctor said there's nothing he can do." And he's right. He can't stop you from going for that 3 mile "quickie" when he's advised you take a break from running until your knee stops throbbing and you're able to get out of bed without toppling over. On the flip side, he also can't make you get up off the couch to start exercising or force you to put the bag of potato chips down either. But that's another topic. We're sticking to the over doing on the exercise part today.

When the pain started in my lower abdomen, I related it to something else and kept on running. If only I had listened to my body back then. I might have gotten my belly button pierced by now. More on that later.

Keep Moving Forward

It's too hard to stop when it's this beautiful!
Pinnacle Peak Trail, Scottsdale AZ
Pinnacle Peak Trail, Scottsdale AZ
Nanci Arvizu

On A Rainy Morning A Long, Long Time Ago

It all began in bed.

But not like you're thinking!

We'd been camping for a week on Doran Beach in Bodega Bay, northern California and it was our day to pack up and head home. All I wanted was a few more minutes in bed and I'd gotten myself into a tangled position trying to hold off my screaming bladder.

My bladder won and I got out of bed, noticing a strange pain in my back. Well, kind of my side. Nothing major, I wasn't worried, considering how I'd been laying and all I wanted to do at that moment was pee.

I helped get the trailer packed and we headed out on time. But my back felt "off" the whole ride home - the whole 2 day drive home. I couldn't get comfortable. We made it home and I gave myself a few days to unwind, unpack and get a good stretch and walk in before worrying too much about my still aching back. Or side. It was kind of in "this" region (picture me with my hand hovering over the lower quarter of my back and spine.) Kind of there. In other words, it wasn't a specific spot of pain that was bugging me.

By this time the little annoying spot in my front lower abdomen had started making is presence known.

After a week with no relief I visited my massage therapist. She diagnosed a dislocated rib after an amazing massage. Hey, no reason to not get a massage, I was there! When I told her about the little spot up front she told me she thought it could be my Illiopsoas muscle. Since it's connected to all the areas I was complaining about, it made sense that I'd probably strained it when I'd dislocated the rib. She recommended a chiropractor and of course, another massage. And a glass of wine.

The chiropractor agreed with the dislocated rib and put me back into place. I had to visit him two more times to make it stay, and I'm happy to report a year later, it's still in place.

The little spot in front is another matter.



Pinnacle Peak Hiking Trail, Scottsdale, AZ

Otherwise known as the Treadmill
High Point, Pinnacle Peak Trail
High Point, Pinnacle Peak Trail
Nanci Arvizu

All In

I dove head first into an exercise regimen without listening.

Please understand there were other things going on with my health at this time - my hormones were out of whack, my thyroid was causing problems and my baby was leaving the nest for college. Yes, a lot going on.

One fun thing was happening though. I'd met another woman who was ready to commit 3 to 4 days a week to exercising. At the time we were going to the McDowell Mountain Aquatic Center in Scottsdale. Excellent gym and lap pool, by the way. 

We went consistently and I dropped ten pounds quickly. I made a few adjustments and I dropped another 10. We took our workouts to the next level and added weights, kettle bell, yoga and outdoor hiking. Finding the Pinnacle Peak "treadmill" trail in north Scottsdale made exercising seem like being on vacation. I dropped another 10 pounds.

In seven months I went from a size 14 to a size 6. A size 6 jean with a t-shirt and no extra shirt was needed to cover the muffin top. Because there was no muffin top.

But there was this little spot in my lower abdomen still bugging me. 

Hiking Gear I Like

I can't get enough of the outdoors.
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Made You Stop!

When your body quits

Summer was coming. I had a goal.

I've never been comfortable wearing a 2-piece swim suit in public. Even though I've never been that big, I'd never felt I was bikini body worthy. But having lost 30+ pounds and dropping 5 pants sizes, I was thinking, hmmm. Maybe. Just maybe.

I set a goal. The goal is that if I am able to buy a swim suit - a 2-piece swim suit at Diane's (or similar place like Everything But Water) and wear it in public, I'm going to get my belly button pierced. Maybe I'll do a fakie just to give my family a jolt. It's an ongoing joke I've had with a couple of close friends in my life, getting my belly button pierced. The bikini isn't a joke. It's the Goal.

I cranked up my workouts and dialed in my diet just a little more. I exercised every day, either a hike or my "floor routine," a mixture of yoga, kettle bell and a few Tony Horton moves. Some days I did both. I loved it. I love the way I feel after exercising. And I especially loved the results I was feeling and seeing.

One beautiful morning in March, I'm outside doing my floor routine, really getting into a Tony Horton ab move. Sizzor kick/swing, with upper torso lift, twist and reach, bringing opposite finger tips and toes together in the air. As my right leg extended down to the ground, I felt a "pop". No pain, just a pop, like a guitar string had been given a hard pull.

I complete the set. I finished my whole routine. The little spot didn't hurt, but I could definitely tell it was there. 

I hiked Pinnacle Peak Treadmill the next day.

I did my floor routine the next day.

And I hiked the next morning. By mid-day I knew I needed to do something about the spot in my tummy.

It still did not hurt. It was uncomfortable. I was aware of it when I walked, sat, drove the car, turned to pick up something, sit down, stand up. It was there all the time. 

I got in to see the doctors assistant that afternoon. She dug around in my abdomen as she named off the possibilities of what could be going on. Hernia, strained muscle, ovaries, kidney stones were a few thoughts.

I left the doctors office in pain - for the first time my spot hurt.

Because of insurance changes I wasn't able to go directly to imaging for an ultrasound, instead I had to wait until the following Tuesday.

I spent the weekend in so much pain I could not walk. I sat in bed with an ice bag on my gut for almost three days straight. By the fourth day I had to get out of bed because I had things I had to take care of - I was expected in Seattle by the end of the week. And there was no getting out of the trip.

The ultra sound showed nothing. The blood and urine tests showed nothing, ruling out a kidney stone. I went to Seattle and gimped around taking taxis when I normally would have walked. It was depressing, not being able to walk like I was used to.

Back home I visited my massage therapist again. She told me, again, I had strained my Illiopsoas muscle, although now I'd really, really strained it, and I needed to stop. "The only way it will heal, is to let it rest," she said, her voice stern. She put her hands on my shoulders and looked me square in the face, "you have to STOP. Or it will not heal."

Yeah, tell a runner they have to stop. I wasn't running at the time, but having been a runner, a hiker, a walker - a moving in a forward direction person - all my life, STOP was not in my vocabulary.

My body on the other hand, liked the word and had the final say.

I had to stop.

Controlling Anxiety

Like any other addiction, going without exercise is hard.

Believe it or not. 

For the first two weeks after returning from Seattle and after my massage therapist threatened to rip a leg off and beat me with it if I didn't do what she was telling me to do (or stop whining about it!) I sat on my butt and enjoyed my new 3D TV and ate way too many bags of BBQ'd potato chips.

I iced my gut constantly. I rotated heat, ice, heat, ice, all day, in between the reduced chore list I now had. Fortunately my husband picked up the slack around our little ranch. The hard part for him was that I didn't have a visible hurt, there was no blood, cut or even an x-ray image to prove I was injured. Believe me, I'd tell him. It hurts, it's there and I'm the only one who can heal it.

I'm the kind of person who hurts myself to the point of "yes, it's really bad," but not bad enough to warrant an operation (like a hernia) or proceedure (for a kidney stone) and have the doctor wave his magic scalpel over me and *Poof!* two weeks later, I'm healed. Noooooooo, I get to do the physical therapy route and take 6 to 8 weeks of reduced everything. There's nothing the doctor can do for me. 

The hardest part: Stopping Everything. No kettle bell. No yoga. I couldn't get down on the ground or back up without using that muscle. It made me crazy.

The worst part: Not being able to walk comfortably. I would find myself gimping, dragging my leg, swinging my arm - you know, walking like the hump back of Notre Dam. And knowing how walking like that could throw a lot of other things out of whack, I did my best not to gimp. It meant taking small, slow steps, but it was walking. Moving forward. Slowly. Painfully slow.


Figuring It Out

I finally stopped and a miracle occurred.

My severely strained Illiopsoas began to heal.

After a few weeks of very strict bed rest, I was finally able to walk with out pain. WITH OUT PAIN. I was still aware of the muscle, not just the little spot, but all the way up my side and up under my rib cage. I was careful to not let my knee go behind the plane of my hip as I walked but I was taking a little faster and longer stride. 

Moments began happening where I would walk a few dozen feet or so before even thinking about it - no pain, no awareness of the muscle, just normal walking. Then I'd feel a twinge, reminding me to slow down a bit. So I would. And I was okay.

I was getting better.

Where I Am Now

The long road to recovery.

I'm not putting a goal date on the calendar, giving me something to hope for - like "Today I'm hiking Pinnacle Peak!" Not going to happen.

Every day I do a little more, but I listen to my body. I stop when it says stop. I don't do one more rep, or another set. Or anything. I stop. 

I'm walking more, more often, more distance, and more "normal" for the most part. I still catch myself gimping a little and when I do I stop, straighten myself up and focus on taking smooth strides. Walk like an upright human. 

After this experience I think I've learned a few things. First, to those of you who are unable to walk for any reason, you have my sympathy. To those of you who deal with pain that is "unseen-able" and do not have understanding and support around you, hang in there. Do what you have to do to make you feel better. And when someone tells you about their pain, believe them. It's important to have some one believe you.

I've learned to listen to my body. All those little aches, pains and "funny little spots" are signs that something isn't right. I am paying attention now. 

When your massage therapist says "this is what is it and this is what you need to do about it," don't argue with her. Just do it. 

My goal stands. Bikini in public + belly button piercing. It just might be fall before I make it. It will still be warm enough here in Arizona!


Updated: 05/22/2015, NanciArvizu
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NanciArvizu on 08/09/2017

Still on the road to recovery!

DerdriuMarriner on 08/07/2017

NanciArvizu, Did you meet the biking and piercing goals?

Rose on 08/15/2015

That was a really compelling read. Yes, resting and sleeping is often the best thing a person can do if they are in pain.

NanciArvizu on 06/03/2015

Thank you, Mira. I find it amazing I've done it too, especially after struggling for so long. But it really comes down to commitment!

Mira on 06/03/2015

Nice read! I find it amazing that you lost so much weight, and I can believe it when you say that it's addictive. I should exercise more but I'm tied to this computer for long hours :)

NanciArvizu on 05/23/2015

Thank you!

CruiseReady on 05/23/2015

Spring is here, and summer is on the horizon. Fall will be here before you know it. Here's to you making that bikini goal, and having a nice celebratory moment when you first wear it in public!

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