My log on yesterday’s post made mention of a nerve pain in my shoulder that I think I suffered while working construction for a handful of months, but I’m starting to reassess exactly where this pain is originating from.
I’m not a mystic. I don’t believe in the power of prayer. I’m reluctant to reference “spirituality” or anything that isn’t grounded in the physical world, but I will admit that running has really brought home the power of the mind in relation to the physical body. Most runners can tell you about the ability of the mind to influence a body that was once entirely unwilling to submit. I’m still entirely dumbfounded at the struggles I encounter during training to run at specific times, then the ease at which I not only run those times in a race context, but also surpass them by leaps and bounds. It just doesn’t seem possible, until the mind gets set to take over in the right setting.
Right now I have a pain in my shoulder that very much feels like someone is stabbing a sharp needle into one point or another. It feels like a severely pinched nerve. This “injury” has shown its ugly face a few times in the past, of varying degrees of pain – sometimes debilitating, sometimes not – and ultimately went away after a handful of days. Sometimes though, the pain was so difficult that sleeping or sitting was nearly impossible. It’s THAT bad. When it flares up to this degree, running is certainly out of the picture. When it pops up like this, simply breathing deep, yawning, coughing, sneezing, going to the bathroom, laughing, etc. becomes very painful, forcing me to speak in broken sentences and subdue my excitement. The worst part is I actually don’t know what is causing this.
As I alluded to in my last post, I assumed it was caused by the stresses and strains suffered while working construction, wherein I was doing a lot of heavy lifting, pulling, etc. from day one, without any sort of easing into the process. I just assumed all that upper body work had damaged a nerve/cartilage/bone or two in my shoulders and I was left to simply deal with these flare ups, or else get some sort of surgery, which is entirely out of the question due to my complete lack of finances. These pains, however, are not going to be compatible with my marathon training. Granted, I can get by with missing a few days of running (though I absolutely hate it) while the pains subside and not feel like I’ve ruined my fitness to any noticeable degree…but I’d rather not.
My girlfriend has a much better comprehension of my pain than I do. Not really understanding what was going on, I just blamed the pains on a past strenuous experience. As much as I didn’t want to blame them on running, I couldn’t help but have that in the back of my head. Now, I don’t think running is causing these pains, but it’s probably aggravating them. Michelle on the other hand, has noticed a pattern with these pains. Thinking about the times my flare-ups have shown themselves, she started to realize that they occurred every time I was having difficulty communicating with my son’s mother….a very stressful situation for me. In her assessment, she thinks my pains are caused by stress. Specifically, the stress manifesting itself in the muscles around my upper back and neck, which in turn cause these sharp pains in my shoulder. Following that pattern, I’m currently in a frustrating situation with my son’s mother as I am planning a visit to see him in just about a week..and then these pains.
Like I said, I’m not really a believer in magical thinking. I think most everything has a physical explanation, but this theory of hers makes sense. Although potentially aggravated by my running, these pains may very well be the accumulation of stress, my muscles acting out either as a warning sign to my emotional state, or absorbing the frustrations of my emotional state – the equivalent of grinding ones teeth. Instead of grinding my teeth, maybe I tense up my shoulders, or tense up my back. More new-agey types believe we store stress in our backs, and although I don’t believe there is some sort of mystical negative energy force swirling around my shoulders, I do accept that my mind and emotions are affecting my physical body, either trying to release the discontent or absorbing them in a less destructive way.
Whatever the reason, it hurts. And I want it to stop. And I want to get back to running.
I missed running yesterday. I missed running today. And there is a good chance I’ll miss the long run tomorrow, unless I somehow shake this tension. Today I payed attention to the area around the pains in my shoulder and I was quite stunned how incredibly tight my shoulder and back muscles are, specifically on the right side where all this hurt is accumulating. It was both frightening and encouraging to know that maybe this isn’t permanent. Maybe this is simply an act of overcoming my mental state.
I hope I’m not reaching too far in the mystical realm of desperation, but at the least, I’m currently seeking massage therapy to see if there is anything to this theory. We’ll see how professional touch alleviates potential emotional and physical stress.
We humans often speak of the mind and body as separate entities, but I’m a firm believer that there is either a fundamental cooperation between the two or even simply one physical entity that has deluded us into seeing it as two. It is important to keep in mind our emotional health with the same attention that we give to our physical health…lest one starts to deteriorate the other.
The distance running body has limits to the physical stress it can endure before breaking down, and the distance running mind adheres to the same sort of parameters. It is good advice to keep both in check.
Breakfast – Oatmeal (w/ peanut butter, almonds, brown sugar), coffee
Lunch – Peanut butter and jelly, banana, cous cous w/ tofu and veggies, water
Dinner – TOO MUCH. 4th of july party w/ veggie burgers, fruit, quinoa and corn, chips and salsa, etc.
Snacks – Pasta w/ nutritional yeast and sauce, coffee