The road to recovery can sometimes be a long one. If you are an athlete, or have been strength training, you are no stranger to injuries. Most likely, you or someone you know has been injured. The best remedy is usually a short layoff from physical activities, with attention given to strengthening imbalances and improving mobility. In other words, don’t go to the gym or play ball into you feel better and the pain is gone. And when you do come back, avoid going heavy on exercises and movements that might cause any pain or discomfort. Make sure to warm up, cool down, stretch, and work on figuring out why you got hurt in the first place.
But what if it’s more than a minor tweak? What if it’s more serious than that?
My neck was straight. Your neck is not supposed to be straight. At that moment i knew the road to recovery would be a long one.
HOW BAD IS YOUR NECK PAIN?
I’m not sure if it was the lack of sleep from constant pain over the past two and a half months, or that the Doctor just calmly said I needed Tri-Level Neck Fusion, but I suddenly found it very difficult to concentrate. 30% loss in neck movement, pressure on my spinal cord, severe never damage, 75% success rate, etc. And now I had to decide if I wanted the next available surgery opening, almost two and a half weeks away (I had one of the top Neuro/ Spine surgeons in the country, at a teaching hospital). When it sank in that my pain wasn’t going away on its own, I said yes to the surgery opening, and went home with a list of pre-op instructions.
When I finally regained consciousness, I was lying in a portable hospital bed, with a brace around my neck. Funniest thing, I remember two people talking about adjusting my brace, and knowing that a man put it around my neck, however I don’t have any visual memory of the experience. Very strange. But most importantly, my pain was gone! The tingling in my fingers wasn’t there anymore. The burning/ tingling in my shoulder and upper arm was also gone. So was the general tightness, and muscle pain in my upper neck, back, and behind my left shoulder blade.
Anyways, I walked out of the hospital, on my own, the next day. On the way home, we stopped by Jimmy Johns, and I had one of the best subs of my life. Unfortunately, I was unaware that eating was going to be much slower than usual for the next several weeks. Swallowing was going to be difficult for a while.
Oh, and I was required to wear a Miami J neck brace 24/7 for the next six weeks. The Miami J prevented my head from moving. In any direction. I only took it off for five minutes a day, after my shower, to change the pads and let the brace dry. A nurse told me to get an extra set of pads, and to wear the Miami J while I showered. The soap from the shower cleaned the brace and pads, and I didn’t have to deal with wearing the uncomfortable, shower neck brace they also gave me.
After about 10 days of doing nothing but catching up on movies I hadn’t seen over the past couple of years, and destroying everything chocolate in the house, I got that itch. The pain was so unbearable that I hadn’t had the desire to exercise since early November. It was the beginning of February. It had been long enough. Strength training was not an option since I could not lift more than 10 pounds. Instead, I began using an exercise bike (Peloton). I started doing three H.I.I.T. rides a week.
My six-week follow up appointment had to be changed. My doctor had to go to a conference out of town (again, she is one of the top Neuro/ Spine surgeons in the country, at a teaching hospital). I rescheduled for a week earlier and was free of the Miami J at 5 weeks. 6 weeks later, and after a second set of X-Rays, the only thing standing between me, and complete freedom was a PT evaluation. I outscored my PT Therapist. So, I went home, played some basketball, missed a couple of close dunks, ate a nice dinner, and went to bed.
TIME TO HIT THE WEIGHTS.
The next day, I went upstairs and realized that I wasn’t happy with the way I was training. Weights bored me and I had no passion for them. Instead, I decided to go back to the basic compound lifts, squats, deadlifts, bench, etc., and add a metabolic H.I.T. finisher to every workout. Joe Rogan, for example, says H.I.T. training is the best way to get in shape and ripped. Well guess what, he was right.
ONE DAY AT A TIME.
Six months feels like a long time. You can’t even see the scar on my neck. Unless I point it out. I feel great. My weight and body fat percentage are the same as before I started experiencing pain and weakness in my left arm. I can now do five strict pull-ups. I couldn’t do any before my surgery. My endurance still isn't what it used to be. I'm running around with 212lbs on a 5'11" frame. Take it one step at a time. Don't think six months or a year down the line. Just do what you need to do today to improve in some way. The road to recovery seems much longer with a negative outlook. One thing a day adds up to 365 things in a year.
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