Down, But Not Out
If you follow In the Night Farm on Facebook, you’ve heard the grisly tale:
Last Sunday, I decided to take a short ride on my endurance horse, who has been enjoying 2 months of almost complete rest, thanks to icy footing and generally nasty weather conditions in my corner of Idaho.
The ride was short, all right. Almost as soon as I mounted, my mare took off bucking and leaping. This uncharacteristic behavior took me quite by surprise, and I went flying.
You know how the world slows down during moments of crisis? I remember coming off at the top of a buck (adding a few feet to my fall), watching to make sure my left foot came free of the stirrup, and noting miserably that the ground I was about to hit was frozen solid.
Very, very solid.
I landed on my left lower back and hip. In the resultant explosion of pain, I coiled up and rolled onto my right side thinking something along the lines of, “Oh shit, this is a bad one.” (Any equestrian knows that if you ride enough, you’re going to fall occasionally. Most falls are relatively harmless. Some are serious. A few are fatal. It’s part of the game.)
I pulled my cell phone out of my vest pocket. Who to call? Ironman was several hours’ drive away. All my other friends were at least 30 minutes’ drive from here. Besides, I’d landed on my spine. And it hurt. A lot. Decision made: beep-boop-boop.
I didn’t move, except to make sure I could wiggle my toes, in the 15 minutes it took the ambulance to arrive. The hard backboard against my screaming lumbar region made the ride to the hospital an, ahem, adventure, but it was bearable so I declined pain medication. Repeatedly.
Sidebar: I wonder why the (very nice) EMTs were so eager to administer drugs. Wouldn’t it be best for me to be able to assess, with unblunted accuracy, the region and level of my pain?
X-rays indicated that I was free of dislocations and breaks. Blood and urine tests confirmed that, bruised kidney notwithstanding, my organs were happily intact. But when I tried to walk (4 hours post-injury, still sans painkillers), I nearly vomited and passed out.
Due to this unexpectedly high pain reaction given my “stoicism” thus far, the doc ordered a CAT scan to check for hairline pelvic fractures. None. Just massive soft tissue damage that was officially labeled “pelvic contusion” but definitely extends to my left hip.
At that point, I finally agreed to some IV and oral painkillers, because there was simply no way I’d get out of bed — let alone out of the hospital — without them. I also accepted a prescription for Vicodan, which I took for 12 hours and then ditched in favor of ibuprofen.
The first couple days were sheer misery. I was almost completely immobile, unable to roll over in bed, stand up, get dressed, or do pretty much anything without help. Don’t even ask about my mental state. NOT. HAPPY. Since then, however, I’ve improved dramatically. I can walk, albeit stiffly and without twisting, and even feed the livestock twice daily.
Sadly, I’m still a long way from being able to resume workouts. I’m guessing it’ll be weeks — 6 or more? — before I can deadlift, backsquat, or sprint. If my shoulder (which has recently featured a cranky rotator cuff) cooperates, I may be able to return to pullups and pushups somewhat sooner.
So, what’s a girl to do? My main goals right now are:
- Heal as quickly and thorougly as possible.
- Maintain leanness (approx 18% bodyfat) despite inactivity.
- Preserve as much muscle mass and strength as possible despite inactivity.
Get extra sleep. Sleep is difficult when painless positions are hard to come by, but I’m doing my best to get 10 hours nightly. Extra magnesium supplementation helps.
Take it easy. This is the hardest one for me. Inactivity drives me insane. I hate losing ground on strength gains, and I get terribly bored when unable to simply move. But, I’m being good and doing everything I safely can, but not more. (Staying off the painkillers — even Advil — helps with this. I need the pain as as “cast” to tell me where my limits are.)
Eat real food. Low-carb paleo. Paleo for optimum nutrition and low-carb for leanness. Basically, I’m eating meat, veggies, and natural fats while avoiding inflammatory foods like grain and sugar, as usual. However, I’ve adjusted my macronutrient ratios as follows:
- Maintain high protein consumption (1g/lb of total bodyweight daily),
- Reduce fat consumption from high to moderate (to decrease energy intake due to lowered activity level, while still getting plenty of essential fats), and
- Reduce carb intake from low to very low (down from 80g to 50g or less daily).
So far, so good. I’m at least as lean as I was a week ago.
Supplement. I’ve made the following modifications to enhance tissue repair:
- Increase fish oil (Carlson’s lemon flavor) to combat inflammation.
- Increase magnesium to aid sleep and calm mental agitation.
- Add MSM to increase blood flow and reduce inflammation.
- Increase whole food multis (Juice Plus+ Orchard Blend and Innate Response Formulas Maximum Food) for additional antioxident and micronutrient intake, including Vitamin C, which enhances collagen repair.
- Maintain Vitamin D, E, and B complex intake.
- I’d use homeopathic arnica both internally and extrenally, if I had any, but I don’t. Arnica is believed to speed healing of damaged soft tissue.
- I’m looking into a recent recommendation for some Chinese formulas, Dit Dat Jow and Yunnan Biao (brand name) to aid soft tissue healing.
Ice and Heat. Ice only for 72+ hours, alternating heat and ice thereafter. This is a nuisance, but I’m spending 4+ hours daily on it. It’s worth the trouble.
Sidebar: Why on earth didn’t the ER nurses get me an ice pack or three? It’s well known that icing is one of the best ways to minimize inflammation and promote healing, and that the sooner ice is applied, the better. Ice is cheap and easy. So why did I spend my first 8 hours post-injury without it?
Exercise. Very gentle exercise. Right now, that means walking and a bit of stretching, plus some “weightless weight lifting” (i.e. bicep curls and delt raises in which I use my own, opposing muscles to add resistance to the movement).
Staying busy. Have I mentioned that I hate hate HATE sitting around? I’m trying to keep myself busy reading and researching, and I’ll also be dedicating some time to dramatic expansion of the Nightlife Library. Keep on eye on it, and feel free to suggest your favorite resource links in the comments.