First off, something I omitted from Monday’s ER visit: the doctor, looking at my MRI records, said my neck could be part of the problem. I didn’t mention this because in March, while there was talk about it (one young ortho was convinced it was the whole issue) the orthopedic surgeon and neurologists didn’t think it was the cause, so it was forgotten. However, with this doc bringing it up again, and now with pinched nerve thoughts, I began reading up.
My neck situation includes degeneration in my cervical spine, both mild and moderate, plus a small bulge, but the more important issue is that I have cervical stenosis from C4-C7.
Stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column which means less room for nerves, and wouldn’t you know…brings the potential for leg weakness and “intermittent gait and balance disturbances”. It’s all over the place in my reading with this article being almost eerily descriptive.
While the March doctors dismissed the stenosis angle, one thing is sure: I’m a runner, my symptoms only appear when I’m running and since no one’s been able to predict, gauge or even confidently guess the impact of running, it behooves me to improve my situation any way I can, even if an idea was previously dismissed. Plus, I’ve been walking around with a stiff neck for…I can’t even remember how long, which is just dumb. “Use it or lose it” as they say.
So I’m on a mission to improve my neck alignment and mobility, the better to give those nerves a more comfortable, spacious home in which to live. Even if it has no effect on this situation, it’s stupid to live with deterioration if I can help delay or even repair the decline.
To this end, I’ve been doing neck stretches and exercises, pulled out a yoga DVD, and yesterday had yet another great massage – this time with a lot of attention on the neck. He found the Knot Of Death and also gave me some great tips for massaging my neck myself, which makes visiting him so much more valuable than the time spent on his table. If any of you locals are in need of a massage, please check Philamassages out, Brian’s one of the owners and I trust him implicitly.
He also gave me a link to an AIS site (Active Isolated Stretching) for a good neck sequence, which is pretty cool. I like the pace of AIS, so this’ll probably be my go-to method of self-therapy for my entire body, not just the neck since, by the end of my yoga DVD I was all “Please, not another Downward Dog.”
B12 – Still A Possibility
You’ll notice I haven’t said “Damn, I guess it wasn’t B12 after all” because it still might be! Seems to be pretty common that you can feel better and then feel worse for a while. Aside from first-hand accounts, there are several docs and sites that say as much: “It sometimes happens that a symptom becomes worse at some point after treatment begins, sometimes dramatically so. This is temporary, but may last a while.” “Another phenomenon is what has been called the “honeymoon”. This is when there a great improvement in the first few days or weeks that really offers hope to people. Then as the body really starts to heal, they experience great fatigue and increased symptoms, leading to a fear that the supplementation isn’t working.”
As mentioned before, B12 is crucial for nerve health, without it the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects nerves breaks down. So by taking B12 for a deficiency, the sheath is able to rebuild. That is, assuming the damage isn’t too far gone but since my symptoms only appear during running, I have to believe mine are on the fresh side.
One thing’s for sure, I felt dramatically better when I started taking it, as evidenced by the quality of my runs those first 2 weeks, and some of the “bonuses” have continued without a break. Most notable, my sleep patterns have improved a ton, I’m now able to sleep over 8 hours some nights when for years, 7 has been my usual, plus I get some fab dreams out of it as well.
The main thing I want to make clear is that whether it’s a pinching thing in my hip, neck or B12 repair, we’re still talking about one thing: nerves. So while it may look like I’m going “this, no it’s this, no it’s this!” it’s all one big nervy thing.
My Return To The Road
Friday was my first run back. Weird, as expected, but I was able to go 4mi, stopping 10 times. (twice for stoplights, so let’s say 8 voluntarily) It was a downer at first but after a couple stops when I realized it wasn’t getting worse, I started feeling more positive; running in any capacity is better than not being out there at all.
Saturday I ended up running farther than expected, 6.25mi with only 6 stops and Sunday was even better with 8 miles! Again, I stopped 6 times but it only amounted to 4 minutes total, so I was very pleased. Stopping, btw, is purely on an “as needed” basis, when my leg goes wonky (stiffens up, for lack of a better description) I basically have no choice but to stop and let it “reset”. But it’s super cool that it does reset.
Yesterday was a rest day and today was pretty good – I went 6mi and only had to stop 3 times for 2min total. Progress!
One major thing is that I feel infinitely more stable on trail and grass. Nothing hurts, btw, but my balance is better and my stride opens up on the softer, uneven terrain. Funny, because when I did my first run back on Friday, I was thinking trail was going to be scarier, due to all the embedded rocks and holes but I’m surprisingly adept compared to how I feel on asphalt. Thus, I now go out of my way to find grassy spots next to the path and hope the leaves covering it don’t hide an ankle-twisting hole or imaginary bear trap.
And that, my dears, is it for probably a couple weeks. No sense in posting “ok run, sucky run, great run, ok run” which is what the immediate future promises to be. It’s cool though, I’ve got some things to work on and it’s all very helpful for when I see the neurologist in January. I’m pretty happy for the most part, having lowered my expectations a bit. Every run is a gift, whether it’s a goofy one or not. It’ll be fantastic if this is, indeed, just a B12 setback and that better times are on the way. We’ll see. In the meantime, be good y’all. I’ll be back soon.