Pain is a nebulous concept; it differs from person to person, can last an hour or years, and it is so hard to quantify. In December, I wrote about my experience with pain directly following the crash. What I did not anticipate was the transformation from an acute pain to chronic pain.
My decision to race Galveston was questioned by many (including my very concerned mother who thinks I need a lobotomy). In my defense, I truly did not realize the extent of the lingering injuries. Yes, things hurt now and again. Yes, I was still in treatment. Yes, I had some failed workouts due to breathing difficulties related to the ribs. But, I also executed some brilliant workouts that reassured me everything was on target.
In the midst of all of this healing that was required after sustaining so many injuries in November, I think my already whacky pain sensors were reset to adapt to the chronic pain that my ribs induced. A “pain-free” day was still uncomfortable, it was just so much better than the painful days that those days felt normal. Do you see the conundrum? I allowed for mildly painful days to be a zero on the pain scale.
That is problematic because it gave me a very false sense of my recovery. And, of course, any niggles in training become a show stopper in a race. Hence, I underestimated the effect my ribs would have during the race because I convinced myself it was more of a bother than anything else.
There was a positive aspect of racing in Galveston and getting slapped in the face (ribs) by a new wave of pain. I hurried as fast as I could to the doctor. I saw a physiatrist, a specialist that emphasizes diagnosing and treating pain and restoring maximum function lost through injury, illness or disabling conditions without surgery. I was in pain and I had an injury, a perfect match!
He was very helpful and explained the problems I was still fighting. The strange protrusion on my left side is a rib that healed with a lump. The bulk of the pain and difficulty breathing is from persistent costochondritis , an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the breastbone (sternum), a consequence of the broken ribs. And, just to sweeten the pot, there are adhesions of my diaphragm to my rib cage.
Ouch. That’s a lot of stuff. We decided to take aggressive action in the form of cortisone injections. Have you ever had one? Very unpleasant. I had four. Two on my left side and two on the right. Freeze the area with some cold, wet spray. Find the most painful spot. Plunge the needle in. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Luckily he was very gentle and the ordeal was not too terrible and did not last too long.
Then there was the matter of the diaphragm adhesion. That required an ART session that I would rather forget; just think of pulling stubborn, old wallpaper off a crusty wall. It definitely helped, though, as my breathing is now much deeper and more normal.
Now, I just play the waiting game. I can train to tolerance (I always hate that advice, too broad for someone like me who tries to push the envelope). I must continue with PT and ART. I am to take lots of anti-inflammatory medicine. I am going to be more honest with myself about the pain. I hope.