A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

As most of you will know, just from reading this blog or through actually knowing me, I have had ongoing issues with my low back, hip, and shoulder. I’ve incurred most of these injuries if not all of them over the years through falls from riding. None of them overly bad falls, mind you, just because of the repetitive strain and growing weakness in different parts of my body I’ve ended up with constant, on going, problems. It really doesn’t help that up until November of this year (this goes about 5 years back), that I haven’t given my body a break to actually recover or get stronger. I’m sure I’ve annoyed many a physio/AT doing this. Sorry.

This summer was definitely the worst. I made next to no progress with therapy and exercises, but I also wasn’t willing to take a break from riding. Things got a little better after my last show, where I was finally able to take a few weeks and prepare for my trip to NZ and not worry about riding. Although things got better, I could tell the issue was still there. Nevertheless, I was determined to carry on with my plan to work at LC. No matter the cost to my body. After all, how much worse could it get? I’m so smart sometimes. The first while at LC, my back help up okay- it was more the shoulder that gave me problems. As I started riding more at the farm, however, the back issues kicked in again. By this point I had already decided that I hated it there and I wanted to leave. I still stuck it out another month, in which my back and hip got a whole lot worse. After I left the farm I was sure things would start improving again. And they did, for about 2 weeks. Then everything just went downhill again. The past 2-3 weeks, nothing I’ve done has deterred my back and hip from being constantly annoying. I was really hoping to avoid having to call in the pros while over here. Unfortunately though, I ended up going to a physio/osteotherapist today to get it checked out.. for the 5th time this year.

I’ve been told a couple different things over this year as to what’s going on with my body. I started out going to a Chiro in Carman, who basically told me nothing and fixed the problem for time periods of about 2 weeks. Useful. From there I say a physio in Carman, who told me I had a sprained hip. Sort of useful, but he also didn’t really tell me how to fix it, and stopped trying once he realized that I wasn’t going to quit riding in the meantime. This was around Xmas of 2010. After this, I started going to athletic therapy at the U of W. This is where I’ve had the most success. Here was the first time my SI joint was even brought up, and focused on. And I did start improving. I continued with this therapy all summer- as I refused to quit riding I never really progressed past the point of fixing the problem, but never actually fully recovering, and three weeks later ending back in the basement of the Duckworth being massaged and stretched. Because of this, I never really got a chance to purely strength train, without the added strain of riding consistently- which is what was needed. In August things started getting worse, really worse, and my AT sent me to Legacy Sports Clinic to get a second opinion. This was probably the most useless of them all. He basically told me that there was nothing wrong with me, and that I’m still at an age where I should be indestructible and all I need to do is up my strength training. He was probably right about the strength training, but when you’ve been in severe pain for a long time- you don’t really want somebody to tell you you’re fine. It makes you think you’re completely insane. So, for the rest of the summer I continued seeing my AT and making baby steps towards recovery.

This time around I was told something completely different, and useful. Instead of being told I have weakness in my core, and I need to strengthen that more to solve all my issues- it was my upper back and shoulders that were focused on. The weakness there is causing the issues in my left side SI and hip. Makes sense when you actually think about it. Especially when you look at riding form. The osteotherapist I saw explained to me that when one is riding, if they’re weak in there lat muscles it cause your shoulders to roll forward and the muscles in your seat are put through a lot more strain because of the position you’re in due to the poor posture. Weakness in your lat muscles can be cause from many different things, one of those being injuries in your rotator cuff (shoulder) muscles. He did some sort of cool muscle release, alignment, decompression stuff with me. The best way to describe it I guess would be something in between, or a love child of, traditional chiro and massage work. But it’s different from anything else I’ve had before. If you want more info on what Osteotherapy is, google provides quite a lot of info! I noticed immediate results. The day after seeing him was the first pain free day I’ve had in a very long time. Probably since I left home actually. It probably helps that I didn’t run off to ride or compete the day after (or the same day) as being treated.

Recovery is a choice. And it’s really starting to sink in that if I want to seriously pursue riding in the future, now is the time to get my shit together and make sure I have the body to do so. It just so happens that I’m 10,000 miles away from any temptation to ride my horse. How lucky! For years I’ve always had the view that the only way to advance in the sport was to do nothing but ride, and then ride some more. I wasn’t able to do that over the years because of other commitments, all of which improved me as an all-around athlete and person. It caused me a lot of stress to know that I was always going to be one, two, or three steps behind other riders who could commit all their time to the sport. And then when I was finally able to commit more to the sport, it caused me physical pain to do so. I really, really hope that I can use this time away from home to get stronger so that when I get home I can continue improving. Even though I’m not riding for the next 6 months, I’m training my body in different ways that will help in the long way. I have a great horse and great coaches waiting for me. It’s up to me now to make my goals happen.

5 days until I fly to Christchurch… 10 days until the big surprise! Ah! 

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