Pain is a powerful teacher

I have spinal stenosis.  Which resulted in a sciatica like pain down my left leg.  It got bad enough that I could no longer walk appreciable distances without significant pain meds, and rest. I'd even ordered, and used on occasion, a cane to help me walk.

I scheduled surgery (after a 5 year battle with doctors, chiropractors, PT, etc.) for late June this year.  The preceding battle was to exhaust non-surgical options first.  No combination of meds, exercises ... anything ... could relieve the pain.  It would show up after some time standing or walking.  I found some (now EOLed) massage heating pads that provided a modicum of relief.

Before all of this, the doctors I spoke to suggested strengthening my core.  So I resumed fairly intensive powerlifting from 2009 through, I don't know, call it 2022.  I did well at this, setting various personal best records.  Never mind that I was in my mid 40s at the time I started this.  I'm a kid, still am.  

More on that later.

I strengthened my core.  I pushed harder on the lifting.  I rejoined the 1000 lb club (at around age 44 or so), after an absence post grad school.  I got used to muscle pain.  I tore muscles and tendons.  I had a doc I visited for a bicep problem accuse me of steriod usage, as no one, in his professional opinion, got that big without steroids.  He was wrong, and I volunteered any test he would like to perform, there, then, on the spot.

There is a problem with all this, not the false accusation, but the fact of the matter is ... I was not then, and am not now, a kid.

When you are young, you can generally push yourself harder, your body will adapt.  Within reason.  If you push too hard, you can and will injure yourself.  Remember this.  These injuries can be subtle.  Such as weakening joints.  Or beginning to compress your spine.  Like if you deadlift too much weight, and your core, while strong, isn't quite up to the support task it needs to handle these weights.

The 1000lb (thousand pound) club is when you lift, within a set time limit, your 1RM (1 rep max) of bench press, squat, and deadlift.  

During the training for this, you get used to pain.  To pushing through it.  To testing yourself against it.  You learn to "ignore" some pain.

No, that's not right.  You tell yourself that this recurring pain in your back is fine.  Its really not a problem.  You figure that the muscles are tight.  And your stretching didn't cover everything.

You adapt.  Add in things like a (now EOL) heating/massage pad.  Take NSAIDs.  

But, you keep lifting.

Eventually, the damage, which is cumulative, partially due to genetics, partially due to lifting, takes its toll.  While walking your dogs, you get sudden sharp pains, sciatica.  You get it while driving,  while lifting.  Sitting still.  Standing up.

I didn't listen to my pain.  My teacher.  I thought I understood what my body was telling me.  I was wrong.

Fast forward to today.  8 days post spinal surgery, indirect spinal decompression.  The pain I experience when walking, standing, etc. is gone.  The pain in my back from lifting my leg is gone.

But pain has more to teach me.  And I'm listening.

While recuperating, I have to avoid lifting, twisting, or bending.  When I fail to do this correctly, pain reminds me quite quickly.

Listening to this pain is part of what you need to do.  To not make assumptions about its origins.  

My spinal surgeon talked to me about my powerlifting.  It is now, permanently, in the past for me.  I may lift weights again, at some point, after my healing has completed.  But I will no longer attempt or do more than 2-3x my body weight in deadlifts, squats, etc.  My joints still ache from when I did bench presses of what amounts to nearly 2x my body weight at the time.  This is with 4 x 45 plates per side, with a 40 lb apparatus.

I did my 1RM with 5 plates on each side.  Each plate is a 45 lb.  Apparatus was 40lbs itself.  That's 490lbs.  And I did it.  Once.   In 2018 or so.  

I could feel tearing in my right shoulder then.  But I pushed through.

My point is, listen to your pain.  It will teach you what you can and cannot do.  And guide you.  Don't assume.  

I still feel that shoulder pain.  I didn't learn at the time.  Now, I am a more humble student.

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