We need to have a convo about the disc herniation saga that occurred very recently. Grab a drink, will ya? Not that drink! 🤣
[Full disclosure, I wrote this last year and never posted it. Then I actually had another episode this year. As in, the last 2 months. That update will come at the end. Kapisch? Good.]
Can I be all the way real for a minute? I threw my back out. And I hate it. My back has been so good for so long that this brace-wearing, and needing to take this much care not to aggravate it is so unfamiliar to me.
It makes me feel like I failed. I got spoiled by feeling really good for quite a while. Because it hadn’t happened in a while, I’d almost forgotten how excruciating it can be. To be exact, my last episode was in 2018, while on vacation in Trinidad & Tobago. It. Was. Not. Good. I digress.
I. I have degenerative disc disease in my low back.
2. I’ve had 2 back surgeries in the same month in the past. 2014 to be precise.
3. That level of trauma does not completely return to 100%.
4. The underlying factor for me has always been deep spasticity from multiple sclerosis, and never an injury.
So why am I beating myself up for having a flare of the disc issues in my low back? A problem that isn’t new?
I honestly started to blame myself. Maybe it’s because I went from 3lb weights to 5lb weights. I had been very careful to go from 1lb to 2lb to 3lb. Then I skipped over 4lb to 5lb. And this took years, people. Years of gentle and progressive strength training, building up my core, my back, my hips, my arms, and my legs.
My other thought was it was because I added new equipment. Or I increased my aerobics and started to do some things I hadn’t done in a decade. Or wait, maybe it was a little of all of those things, or doing too many things at once and not giving myself a chance to see how my body adjusted to each change.
While it is true that I got a little excited about how good I was doing and may have overdone things, of what use is it to scrutinize my every action and beat myself up?
It could be none of those things. Or it may be some other event or action I can’t even remember.
What’s The Plan?
The important thing is for me to chart a plan of recovery.
I don’t need to go and see my pain doctor, who I just saw, now that I only see her every 6 months. Neither do I need pain medication or an epidural. I have been healed from chronic pain and haven’t even taken Motrin for this. I’ve only used some topical anti-inflammatories. And, I will also not be taking steroids, IV, IM, or oral.
I know my body enough to know that a disc has been aggravated, without an expensive MRI (with contrast!). Likely my L5S1 unstable disc. This disc is what we call para-central which means it is bulging on both sides, but more on the left. As usual. I need my back brace to get through the day, especially as the day goes by. And I need to avoid certain exercises for now. Then I need to exercise less but focus on strengthening exercises for my low back, core, and glutes like the bird dog, superman (cue meme below! 🤣), and such. I need to let the dumbbells be for now and use body weight for exercises, except when my back is supported. Also important is avoiding back flexion and doing back extension exercises that look like mini up-dogs throughout the day.
This I Know For Sure
I don’t need PT. Having done these exercises for years, I can be my own PT. The print-outs and instructions from 2014 are right here for guidance. My PT folder is labeled PT Exercises. It contains exercises for the back, Piriformis syndrome, hip bursitis, and Iliotibial Band syndrome. That took me back to just how sick I was at that point in time. Those weren’t separate occurrences. Dang! I don’t even know how I got through those days.
I vaguely remember holding myself together with a lot of KT Tape, and silver-infused shorts under any outfit.
My energy needs to be focused on healing. Period. And looking ahead rather than what I can’t change.
The Universe Has My Back
And the universe sent me messages to make sure I got it. Within 24 hours, I heard different people on social media come through with the same message: Give yourself grace. When you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up. Learn the lesson, chart a plan, and move forward.
So what? Move on. Do better.
Tiffany The Budgenista said it.
Mel Robbins said it.
I believe I heard it in one other place and then finally I was like, “God, I hear you! And I receive this message!”
So I’ll focus on healing over the next few weeks, making sure it heals with the disc pushed back in and not while sticking out, so I don’t develop a new element of chronic pain that I’ll need to nurse if it starts to impinge on a nerve.
I’m the one person that doesn’t miss our Zoom workout classes usually, but this last Saturday, I skipped class to get more sleep and just heal. Then I skipped Wednesday as well. And for at least 6 weeks, my exercises will be modified.
And it’s OK to not know everything, to not be perfect, to not always get it right.
And I’ve evolved enough to be vulnerable and share this with you, so we can grow together.
This blog post feels cathartic. So, without knowing it, having you in my world is already making things better. I am grateful for the gift of YOU.
After going through that whirlwind of emotions, self-talk, and redirecting, it suddenly dawned on me. I’d fallen prey to the Western medicine model of disc issues being a mechanical problem. But in multiple sclerosis especially, it is all about inflammation.
Duh, This happened a week and a half before my next Ocrevus infusion. I’d been looking out for signs of inflammation, but in my knees, because that’s what usually swells up. This time, it was deep spasticity in my low back and some in my neck. I’d been noticing some neck pain and thought I did something to it.
Also, I had stopped my Evening Primrose Oil EPO for a while because I started to take another Omega-6, not realizing that my body really needed the GLA (gamma-linoleic acid) in EPO. Not only did it throw me into full-blown hot-flash peri-menopause hell, it likely affected my immunity too, which would explain why I had a disc re-herniation. The other Omega-6 which contained linoleic and linolenic acid did not take the place of the GLA in EPO after all. Lesson learned.
As soon as I reframed my thoughts, I knew what to do. In any case, if I wasn’t going to do steroids, then I needed something natural to calm it down.
So I took a bunch of Vit D, Magnesium Chelate, and my favorite antioxidant. It’s the one I dubbed the most potent antioxidant. It’s magical. If you have my antioxidant resource, then you know what it is. If you don’t have it, what are you waiting for? Grab my Top 10 Antioxidants for MS here.
For a slightly more colorful take on this and some extra tips, check out this IG post by clicking on the photo above labeled Herniated Disc. The captions are loaded. 👌🏾
I made sure to hydrate as the disc tending to be dehydrated is part of the problem. And I’d recently had trouble retaining the water that I drank because I was low on some electrolytes. I have since started replenishing those, which has greatly improved my hydration. The water that I drink is staying in me now rather than going right through me.
Energy Is Everything
Another thing I did was that I focused on positivity, joy, and an unwavering belief that it was just a temporary hiccup and I’d be fine shortly. The energy around me started to shift in line with this belief system. Voila!
I focused on the little bird’s nest in our backyard (by that I mean inside the grill!!!) and the chick that had hatched. I took videos and photos daily and shared them on IG. New life always brings an energy of rebirth with it. That canceled out the tendency to focus on the things I couldn’t do as I lay on ice and slowed everything down to heal.
YOU can create YOUR good outcome with your mind, along with the right actions. They go together.
I hope you try it out.
Trinidad & Tobago
I did promise to tell you about this, right? So, back to 2019, where I did not get to enjoy our trip to the Caribbean because I spent a lot of time laying on my back and in excruciating pain. Flying from one island to the other in small planes did not help. Nor did trying to tour the city of Trinidad and see the sights in a taxi we hired.
That has got to be the most pain I’d ever experienced in my life, outside of when I had my first back surgery and was sent home the same night. Now, that should be against the law. But ever since the insurance companies stopped paying for overnight stays for pain control and such “trivialities” in their eyes… I digress.
I spent the greater part of this vacation laying horizontal in bed. The most memorable parts of my trip were the breakfast buffets (which I made it to daily regardless of pain level!), and the amount of papaya goodness I had on that trip. It seems to have canceled out the negative memories of laying in bed, and excruciating pain sitting at an airport gate while waiting to board a plane. Even with oral steroids on board, it felt like hell. Hell in paradise.
And though I always have my supplements, my general level of inflammation back then was excessive, and my expertise at biohacking was still somewhat limited compared to now.
It didn’t help my psyche that I couldn’t eat a lot of their famous foods because they’re heavy on gluten. The double was a kind of sandwich that reminded me of individual-size bread loaves from Nigeria. It was a lot of baked goods. I simply stuck to the fruits and vegetables so I wouldn’t end up in the hospital.
By the second day after I loaded up on supplements, the inflammation was way calmer. As I kept doing my back extension exercises to push the disc back in, the pain in my hip and leg started to improve. When the pain moves up from your legs into your back, you know you’re getting better. Then eventually, even the back pain subsides.
This disc herniation saga is about to be in the rearview mirror…
Most chronic illnesses are about chronic inflammation. Sometimes you have acute inflammation compounding the chronic in the form of flares or worsening symptoms.
Food, nutraceuticals, supplements, and biohacking are all very powerful. Rest. Stay hydrated. Get in the sun every day. Do your grounding, Meditate. Don’t hold on to any toxic emotions. Focus on joy.
Now, get on my Waitlist for MS Mastery where you can learn exactly how I do these things with the next cohort.
As stated at the beginning, this blog post was written a year ago. And I just got over a similar episode of disc herniation and increased inflammation in my back and hips, especially the left.
This took the better part of the last 2 months. Similar situation because I was just about due for my Ocrevus infusion as well.
But there’s something very huge that was different.
I found another cause for increased inflammation that trumped everything else as the primary culprit this time.
It happened in a way that is different from anything I’ve ever experienced as a result of stress or worry or thoughts that did not serve me.
And it didn’t matter what I did to heal physically, this time I didn’t get better till I completely reframed my thoughts.
It always hits differently when the source of your worry is your child and not yourself…
Negative thought patterns have been found to impact the immune system and ramp up inflammatory cytokines. A 2019 article in Medical News Today stated,
“Now, a study conducted by specialists from Pennsylvania State University in State College has found that negative moods may change the way in which the immune response functions, and they are associated with an increased risk of exacerbated inflammation.”
For my A++ students, the actual published paper can be found here.
These days, I no longer use the word hate to describe anything to do with my body or illness. When you know better, you do better.
So, in conclusion, are you minding your thoughts, warrior?
This daily affirmation tool helps me:
My thinking is peaceful, calm, and centered. I’m willing to change all patterns of criticism. I love and approve of myself.
-From Heal Your Body, by Louise Hay.
Lastly, check with your doctor before implementing anything new. I am NOT your doctor, though I am a doctor.
This is purely educational, not giving you medical advice, and it is certainly not tailored specifically to you because I don’t have enough information on you to do that.