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Staff Blog: Coping With Injury

Cielestia Calbay writes about surrounding yourself with the right people to cope with sitting on the sidelines.

I always knew sports injuries were a setback, but I am just learning to understand how devastating they can be when it sidelines you from something you love to do on a regular basis.

Up until now, I’ve been fairly healthy and the only injuries I’ve sustained were shin splints and IT band issues that went away with self-treatment. So when I recently suffered a painful back injury that prolonged for months, it was time see an expert.

In my recent experiences, I’ve learned that while the uncertainty of not knowing when you’ll be up and running again is discouraging, going from one doctor to another without a clear diagnosis, and trying every trick in the book to no avail, is even more of a letdown. I couldn’t help but think, “How hard could it be?”

The first two doctors spent less than 10 minutes with me, prescribed muscle relaxers and painkillers, and told me to “YouTube stretches”— red flag. Then, a friend recommended I see a sports chiropractor, Tim Brown. He worked on the knots and sent me home with some posture correcting apparel, which he had designed, to help support my back and sustain the pain if I wanted to maintain my training routine. While it provided some temporary relief, dealing with the physical pain wasn’t as difficult as coping with the frustration of having to put races and running plans on hold, and jumping through hoops to understand what was wrong with me.

At this point, I hadn’t run in months, had bailed on races and became very disheartened at the thought of not being able to get back into training.

I count on running and training to keep me focused and balanced amidst the daily stresses of life, so withdrawing from it threw me off-balance and really took a toll on my motivation.

It wasn’t until I started seeing the doctors at the DISC Sport & Spine Center that I began to regain some hope. After a series of ongoing tests, they found two fractures and a ruptured disc, and discussed the possibility of surgery further down the line. I was overwhelmed and couldn’t wrap my head around it, but was relieved to at least know what the problem is. Since I’m more of a recreational athlete and don’t train as strenuously as others, injuries and doctor visits at this level were absolutely foreign to me, less the idea of going under the knife.

To say that the DISC doctors helped quiet the anxieties I have of being off my feet and potentially having surgery is an understatement. By no means am I a medical expert, but from day one, they were asking the right kind of questions and running an extensive amount of tests to make you feel like you’re moving forward. I hated feeling like I was running around in circles. Dr. Robert Bray, who has been my physician and happens to be the founder of the DISC Center, has done an incredible job to help steer me in the right direction. Furthermore, it was assuring to take note of his involvement with the Center and the efforts he makes to develop relationships with his patients.

As a journalist, I tend to ask an obscene amount of questions, so it was refreshing to finally be getting the answers I’ve been wanting to hear and not the obscure, “Well-lets-see-how-the-painkillers-work-and-we’ll-go-from-there” fluff. To make things even more promising, they assured me there is a long path of treatments I can pursue before I’d ever have to resort to surgery. I recently had to have a bilateral pars injection and given the recent press on steroid injections, it didn’t exactly settle well with me. I had no idea what to expect, but Dr. Michael Port, who is the medical director and oversees pain management for the DISC Center, took the time to really break down the suppliers they source from, the procedure—whatever it took to make me feel comfortable.

I wouldn’t say it takes an injury or something traumatic to realize how significant an impact a strong support system can have, but my recent successes in finding a reliable doctor has really made me appreciate the value of it. I highly recommend the DISC Sport & Spine Center for those in the Southern California area. The past several months of being off my feet have been incredibly stressful, to say the least. I took up swimming and some other activities to try to stay active, but it just doesn’t fill the void of how running makes me feel.

I’m starting to understand that coping with an injury is almost like grieving—there’s a sense of loss and you feel forced to distract yourself with something to alleviate the angst.  Things may heal with time, but having that support system and finding the right people to make you feel like you’re in good hands, as I’ve found with the DISC Center, definitely helps to lift that “woe-is me” attitude.

Bray provided 3 red flag signs it’s time to see a specialist for back pain:

1. The pain has lasted more than 6 weeks and doesn’t respond to rest, ice and anti-inflammatory medication

2. The pain is radiating down an arm and leg that comes and stays for hours throughout the day

3. You feel weakness as certain muscles don’t work when you’re not able to properly raise or use them, resulting in a focal motor deficit