This week’s post is going to be a little shorter than usual, mostly because it hurts to type. A little. Okay, a little more than that. I hurt my hand shoveling ice this weekend, but to understand that story I have to go back a little further.

When I was twenty one I decided to learn to drive trucks. Not pick-up trucks, but commercial trucks. I started out with a company that shall remain nameless and they taught me everything I needed to know and sent me out. It was local work, home every night, and the pay was excellent. The whole experience taught me that you really shouldn’t pay most twenty one year old men that well, but that is a story for another time. I got a few promotions at the job and started working with industrial clients picking up some heavy loads in a box truck. I had to load the box truck by hand with a dolly or a pallet jack. I was picking up cubic yards of stone like this when I hurt my back for the first time. Partially because I was twenty two and partially because I didn’t make money sitting home sick I hid the injury for as long as possible.

After the third time I hurt my back at the same job they caught on and sent me to a doctor. The doctor was paid for by the company and he decided all I needed was a few days of rest. It wouldn’t be until much later in life that I found out I actually did significant damage to a couple of lower lumbar discs. My back has bothered me now for over 25 years and I have become used to a low level of discomfort but it is only a real problem when the muscle spasms flare up. That happened last week after the third major winter storm of the month.

I treated myself to a snow blower years ago, mostly due to my back issues. I thought that the best thing would be to buy a power tool that would spare me from shoveling my two driveways, the city sidewalk, and my next door neighbor’s driveway. She is a little old divorced lady that works second shift at the post office. I just can’t leave her to shovel her own driveway. The snow blower works great for all of this work and it does save my back from shoveling, but as anyone with a snow blower will tell you, walking backwards pulling a heavy object on a slippery surface is a recipe for disaster. Sooner or later you will fall down or at least lose your balance and feel foolish as you flail around attempting to regain it. The other drawback is that if you leave any snow on the first pass or if you drive over snow and compact it, the snow blower will ride over the top of it and fail to pick it up.

After a couple of falls on the last nor’easter, I managed to hurt my hand. I kept slipping and using the same hand to catch myself. Every time. Then I managed to completely misjudge how much snow I left in the driveway, leaving a good inch of hard packed snow. Unfortunately I also misjudged how cold it would get and how many more storms we would have. The driveway slowly began to get higher and higher because I could never get to the bottom after each new storm.

Finally the weather broke this weekend. We have had back to back 50 degree days, and the flood of snowmelt that comes with it. My driveway became icy with the melt and refreeze until something happened that made me take care of the problem. I drove home on Saturday to find my big blue pick-up truck was no longer where I left it. It had slid down the driveway and almost made it into the street. My wife and I were speechless. My son thought it was the most amazing thing ever. He told everyone how Blue (his name for the truck) had tried to go for a ride without us!

I have spent the last two days chipping the ice off the driveway with a shovel and then shoveling up the pieces with a snow shovel. My son and wife tried to help me but they ended up getting in each other’s way too much and gave up after a while. Did I mention that I managed to hurt my back when I was snow blowing the driveways before? I ended up compensating for the back pain by using my hands and arms too much, further injuring my hand. A trip to the doctor later and I have anti-inflammatory to help, but it is still hard to type!

All of this has cost me gym and cycling time. I have gained two pounds and I went to the gym to run when I probably should have skipped it. I don’t know if it was the medicine or the pain but Sunday’s run was slow and awkward. I felt like I was jogging underwater.

The injuries have also got me thinking about how people cope with injuries, how we hide them and pretend they don’t exist so we can keep running or cycling. I know that I have been injured in almost every sport I have ever played and always played hurt. I don’t think I have ever had a concussion, but I know I have had sprains and strains to joints and muscles but always tried to play through the pain. I just confessed to going to the gym to run when I shouldn’t have tried to run yet. What do you do when you get injured? Do you ignore it until you don’t have a choice? Do you play or train hurt? How do you cope with the down time? Let me know in the comments and I will share in a future blog.

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5 Responses to Injuries

  1. julia says:

    You’re such a good guy, shoveling for the neighbor lady! If only everyone in this world were like you, Joe. As I read about Blue, I was at least half as stunned as you and Katie probably were. A ride without you, indeed! As for injuries, off and on for the last year, give or take, I have been having an issue with my left wrist, which is my dominant side. With all the housework, all the writing of the blog, just being alive and having to live, I couldn’t not use my left hand and wrist. So, I ignored it for weeks before it just got to be too much, and finally went to my primary doctor. Apparently, the way my wrists are constructed (one of the narrowest parts on me — my wrists are probably more narrow that most other people’s writst), I was bound to have wrist pain. Having had a child, crossing over 30 a few years ago, and just repetitive lifting of any sort, wore things down. She prescribed a wrist brace. Every once in a while, my wrist still flairs up. Out comes the brace. To answer you a little more directly, I coped by refusing to let my wrist stop me from what needed to be done. Maybe not the best approach, but probably something others have done.

  2. julia says:

    Ah! Gross typo! “Writst” was supposed to be “wrists,” but this laptop has a mind of its own!

  3. yceblu says:

    While I had the concussion I could not read so I got books on tape and learned to type one handed. I also took the doctor’s directions so literally that I did my exercises every on the hour including getting up during the night to do them! The nurses told the doctor that he had to tell me he was just joking and that I did not need to get up at night to do the exercises. I did not cope very well. I think between reading, exercising and walking (once I could get back on my feet) I managed to pass the time; but, I probably drove everyone crazy.

  4. tripeakprod says:

    I have a few minor recurring issues in my lower back, hip, wrists and feet. I rotate around between shoes and that helps a lot. In general I have to be really hurt in order to skip weight training, so if I can’t run I just do a few weeks of extra heavy weights and I feel a lot better for it, mentally at least. Since I decided to skip road running it’s been a great improvement as well, so I only do a few key important trail races and it’s a lot more relaxing.

    • Joe Johnson says:

      Funny you should mention shoes, that’s this week’s post! I have been trying your tip about using weight training. I have just been working around whatever part or piece of me that is sore when I lift and that generally warms up the body to still be able to jog or ride. Thanks for sharing!

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