I’m not quite sure where to start……
It’s been a while since I last posted anything, unusually long for me as I try my best to keep blogging whether that is to reflect on my own experiences or to keep others updated on conditions throughout the winter months. Until recently I wasn’t sure of writing about the last few weeks as its been a pretty depressing experience all round. However, having done allot of web searching I thought my experiences may help others in their struggle with injury and (hopefully for me) continue to keep a diary of return to fitness and climbing.
It’s no secret I have carried a back injury all summer, what people won’t know is that this injury has plagued me for nearly 12 years after falling through a false floor during the Iraq War. Over the years each episode of back pain and sciatica has typically lasted over a week, each time I remedied the pain with lots of pain killers, stretching and resting. This year’s dose came around in March shortly after climbing Smiths Route with Dave and Hannah. Now I look back on it; the three of us stood waiting for nearly two hours to get on the route, we then caught the team up infront and stood again waiting on a really awkward stance in the cave. Poor posture has more often than not brought the sciatica on and I can only think that it didn’t help my back on that particular winter’s day. Fast forward to April and things were looking better, the sciatica had dulled somewhat and I was rewarded with my first two new routes of the season down at Lochailort – The Young Pretender and Jacobite Rising. This was to be my final good day on rock as a little later that month I went to Skye and for no particular reason awoke unable to walk or stand for longer than 2 minutes – this was definitely the worst it had been. Since that point I have managed to control the pain and been able to work brief periods over the summer albeit with a numb left foot and the never ending sciatic ‘shock’ making itself known whenever I planted my left leg.
Almost eight weeks ago I was meant to be working on Skye when another turn for the worse sent me to A&E. Being prescribed morphine; I knew it was bad news. With the help of my Osteopath, Physio, Doctor and finally several trips back and forth to specialists in Glasgow I finally had a diagnosis; a prolapsed L5/S1 disk that was putting pressure on my spinal cord and squashing my sciatic nerve. At this point I couldn’t stand for longer than 2 minutes and had walked no further than 30 meters, something I was completely unaccustomed to – it was driving me mad!
Today seven weeks on and eight days post microdiscectomy, I can safely say I am feeling much better. I don’t feel like I am quite out of the woods yet as I have some lasting symptoms, which apparently can be expected at this stage. The last few weeks have been a valuable insight into the anatomy of my bodily core mechanics and how we as climbers need to be very aware of the importance of stretching after days on the hill rather than prioritising with social media or the ‘post hill pint’ – activities I have certainly been guilty of.
The specialist that operated on me was confident I would be back in the game within eight weeks as I had (thankfully) worked on my core previously which would potentially mean a swifter rehabilitation. I have however, given myself until December to ensure a structured and steady program, one which I hope to enjoy and relish bearing in mind the last thing I need is a relapse of this hideous injury.
For someone who has been insatiably active for as long as I can remember this period has not only been financially difficult (approx £7000 out of pocket) but also an incredibly dark experience for me, thankfully Jane was there to pick me up when I needed it most, as was our ever playful Husky who seemed to enjoy my company rolling round the floor with him all day.
Now I have three months of rehab and training to look forward to – and I really am looking forward to it. Strange how these things revitalise your ambition and motivation not only for climbing but for life in general. I can only hope the next few weeks are productive and any lasting niggles die away as we wind up for what I hope is going to be a productive and pain free winter climbing season!