Truth Time: Aches and Injuries

For the past couple of months, I’ve been battling a few niggles in my body. If you know me in real life, this isn’t a secret: you’ve seen the brace and heard about the accident. {And if you follow me on Snapchat, you’ve likely seen a couple visits at the doc –> CO_Gal.} But for those of you who only pop in to read my adventure stories, I figured it was time to ‘fess up as well.

For me, this is easier said than done. I’ve always been sturdy: no injuries, no broken bones. Hell, I’ve never even had stitches! I’ve always had a body that can take a beating, so when it started to break down in various ways, it was a tough pill to swallow.

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PC: Will Rochfort

The main problem I’m dealing with is carpal tunnel syndrome.  Sounds lame, right? Like some minor condition rampant in the world of desk jockeys and computer programmers? That’s what I originally thought. I first noticed signs of CTS when I was in my early 20s. I was working outside for our family business, using a lot of hand tools and wrist motions. Near the end of my final season, I noticed some pain in my wrist. I ignored it– as 20-somethings tend to do– and never thought of it again.

Until a few years ago.

Remember when Will and I went packrafting in Gates of the Arctic? And remember me mentioning some excruciating pain that awoke me in the middle of the night after days of rafting? Turns out, that was CTS. Again, I didn’t know it at the time but it all makes sense as I piece together the past couple of years.

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My CTS has cropped up randomly over the past 10 years, but since it was never a chronic and daily pain, it was always easy for me to brush it off and resume regularly scheduled programming. But recently, the pain has increased beyond what I can ignore. It hit peak level a few months ago when we went backcountry skiing to Uncle Bud’s Hut. We skinned in during a massive blizzard with thick, heavy snow. The next few days were filled with the same, mashed potatoes-type flakes, causing for lots of movement with my ski poles. Upon returning to Denver, I woke in the middle of the night to excruciating pain in my right wrist. My thumb and first two fingers were completely numb and shooting pains were stabbing up my forearm. No matter how I placed my hand, I couldn’t get the numb feeling to dissipate and the fiery pokers in my arm only increased with my effort. I eventually started crying in bed, unable to fix the pain in my hand. You can only imagine Will’s surprise when he woke up to me shedding tears and rocking myself back and forth while cradling my hand!

After calling my sister {she is a Physicians’ Assistant}, it was clear that I was suffering from CTS. The numbing in the first three fingers is a clear indicator of CTS because the median nerve only affects those fingers {and not the pinky.} Since then, I’ve been sleeping with a brace, as well as wearing it during many daily and outdoor activities.

The hand brace has helped a lot, but it’s not the cure-all to my problem, and I know that. I need to go see a doc and get my case evaluated. I have minor symptoms in my left hand too, so I may simply be predisposed to this syndrome. Per my sis, CTS is far more common in women than in men; it is also critical to start treatment early on to avoid permanent damage. For me, a lot of it comes down to fear. What if I need surgery?

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To top it all off, I’ve been struggling with my back and neck. I was in a minor car accident last month when I was rear ended as I merged into traffic. Fortunately, the other driver was not going fast, but my head was turned at a sharp angle due to the position of the merge. Because of that, my entire neck and back took a beating: whiplash, microtears, and a whole bunch of sprained tendons and joints. {Yes, you can sprain joints; who knew?!}

Fortunately, it could’ve been much worse. I’ve been seeing my doc twice a week for therapy so he can continue to ease down the swelling in my joints. Apparently my joints went into “save” mode for my spine and continue to do so. They are all so swollen that they are restricting the movement in my vertebrae, causing me lots of discomfort. It increases when I sit for long periods of time– like at work–but it is getting better.

My doc recently released me to all activities, as long as I promised “not to be an idiot and use common sense.” {It’s like he knows me or something!} I’ve been modifying workouts at CrossFit, avoiding anything with heavy weight or intense motions. Running seems to be okay now, with only minor pain afterwards. When we went on last weekend’s yurt trip, Will and Ryan skinned up to the ridgeline of a nearby mountain. I really wanted to go but that voice at the back of my head questioned that choice. What if you fall on your neck? Instead, I skinned up a baby hill with next-to-no consequences for failure. Nowhere near as cool, but a heck of a lot safer.

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To top it off, this lack of activity has led to something I’ve never dealt with before: weight gain. And while it’s nothing monumental–maybe 5-7 pounds–I noticed it when I pulled on a pair of shorts the other day. They fit….but barely. And y’all, I will own it: when I arrived at this realization, I had a major breakdown. I’ve been so frustrated with my back and so frustrated with my wrist and lack of activity, and now this?! How embarrassing. Give me a freaking break!

I always try to eat healthy but for the first time in my life, I’m on a diet. I’m actually tracking what I eat on MyFitnessPal and everything. It feels foreign to me, but until I can increase the intensity and quantity of my workouts {hopefully in the next week or two!}, I need to be aware of what I’m consuming. Apparently, my usual inhale-all-the-things and drink-all-the-wine doesn’t work when you’re going for two or three light workouts every week!

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I’ve also had a few of you ask about Tals; you noticed fewer photos of her on the site and less frequent mentions of her on our adventures. First of all, our adventures have been minimal lately: broken Heather does not equal a lot of fun. But secondly, Baby Girl is dealing with ailments too. Like mother, like daughter, I guess?

Bottom line: Tally is getting older. She turns 10 in a few weeks and while she is incredibly healthy and still oh-so-sassy, her hips are becoming an issue with some arthritis. At her vet checkup last year, the doc told me that Tally’s hips felt a little “crunchy.” She warned me that arthritis may be coming, so I was prepared.

But guys, knowing that it is coming is nothing like actually seeing it on your beloved companion.

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A few weeks back, my mom and I took a dog walk on Mother’s Day. She brought her puppy Cleo and I took Tals. It was a leisurely 2.5 mile walk, so nothing exciting. We sniffed all the things, peed on all the shrubs and generally enjoyed the beautiful weather. But ever since then, something hasn’t been quite right with Tally’s back hip.

I noticed her severely limping the next morning. It only happened when she first got up and she would quickly “walk it off” and act fine the rest of the day. But any time she snoozed on her pillow, she would wake up to a limp.

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I watched it for a week and saw the limp gradually going away. I chalked it up to a minor pulled muscle, likely from her sassily interacting with a neighbor dog. It had all but disappeared by the time we took her on last week’s yurt trip. Will and I knew that Tals couldn’t come ski touring with us, so we had already planned to leave her behind in the yurt.

Unfortunately, Tals got into some mischief before we even left for the day: we took her out at sunrise to go pee and have a quick walk. We were just heading back up the stairs to the yurt when a massive elk appeared next to us. Will saw it quickly and grabbed Tals by the collar. She had just stepped onto the stairs to head up to the yurt when she purposely FAKED US OUT! She dodged left and then ran to the right like a skilled-yet-nimble football player. And with that, she was after the elk, sprinting full speed ahead.

Within minutes, Tally AND the elk had cleared two barbed wire fences and were across the road, splashing through a swamp and out of our sight. I knew Tals didn’t stand a chance of catching the elk, but I was in tears knowing that this burst of speed was going to cause her major pain later. Will grabbed the car, drove down the road, and scooped her up within minutes {And man, did she know she was in major trouble!}

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Sure enough, she wrecked her back hips during her escapade. We went ski touring, leaving her on our bed on my sleeping bag to snooze it off, hoping the cushioned arrangement would help her hips recover. By the time we returned at lunch, girlfriend could barely walk. I had to lift her off the bed and her hips still buckled underneath her when she tried to stand. They were bothering her so much that she wouldn’t even climb down to drink water.

We all sat outside during the afternoon, enjoying the rain and the sunshine. Because Will loves Tals as much as I do, he sat up a camping cot for Tals to sleep on, rather than the hard ground. She dozed in the sunshine with her head in Will’s lap, enjoying her luxurious sleeping accommodations that the other dogs didn’t have. I also managed to give her a triple dose of glucosamine when she realized the other dogs didn’t get them; it was like a treat only for her!

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Since then, we’ve taken it very easy on her. She gets a 20-25 minute walk every other day, and that’s it. Per her vet’s orders, I’ve also got her on a new type of liquid glucosamine that is specialized for large breeds. On the upside, it seems to be working. Her limp is gone and she is moving around pain free. The downside: she still has to exert a bit of effort to get up from the ground.

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All of this is not to say that Tals is suffering. Rather, she and I are going through the same rough patch in life, full of minor aches and pains that really piss you off. For me, I’ll recover. My back is on the mend and once I suck it up and get over my crybaby tendencies, I’ll head to the doc to talk about my CTS options. For Tals, the prognosis is different. While she can still do mellow hikes and backpacking trips {on leash only}, her days of trail running and extreme 14ers are over. I hate leaving her behind on those extreme trips but both Will and I know it is best for her, and that is what matters the most.

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18 Comments

  • Reply Art May 31, 2016 at 6:51 am

    When you wrote about Tals faking you out to chase after the elk, I immediately thought of my dog Luna. She would do that, for sure. Sorry to hear about the wrist issues. Working in an office, I can tell you that the women in here DO get CTS more often than the men, but I still switch hands for using the mouse to even out the wear and tear. Thanks for the update! A little bit of life advice about taking it easy when the time calls for it is always appreciated.

  • Reply Patrice May 31, 2016 at 8:35 am

    This post is full of “oh nos!” Facing your own injuries/limitations is an incredibly difficult thing to do, especially for an adventure guru yourself. Weight gain and depression are just inevitable, but writing about it like you did is usually therapeutic. My heart breaks for Tals; animal suffering is equally hard on the animal and the caretakers! Hope things brighten up for all of you!

  • Reply Rachel @ Betty LIVIN May 31, 2016 at 9:14 am

    Aw man! I’m so sorry to hear about the injuries for you and Tals! It can;t be easy to see your adventure buddy in pain. Sending positive vibes your way!

  • Reply Anne May 31, 2016 at 9:21 am

    I hope you and Tally get some time to snuggle together and heal up! I’m following you on Snapchat but I never see anything – I remember you saying you were having a hard time learning it and I think I’m in that boat LOL. Do I just have to be looking at Snapchat to see it in time?

    • Reply heather May 31, 2016 at 6:55 pm

      Someone else told me the same thing so I looked and I totally messed up my settings 🙂 You should be able to see stuff now!

      • Reply Anne June 1, 2016 at 9:34 am

        I saw Tals and her stuffed toy! So precious! I also totally forgot to mention in my first comment that I have not been able to run since November (!!!) due to a health issue so I hear you on those few extra pounds. I’m not going on a diet but I have definitely been more mindful about portion sizes… and less cookies 🙁

  • Reply Sara in Sweden May 31, 2016 at 9:55 am

    I know what you’re feeling and you will get through it! However, I also know that when you’re injured or a little sick – the longing for a run or a hike or whatever has never been that strong! Do what will make you better – and do it well! Hugs to you from Sweden!!

    • Reply heather May 31, 2016 at 6:56 pm

      SO TRUE. When you can’t do anything, you want to do EVERYTHING!

  • Reply Heidi @BananaBuzzbomb May 31, 2016 at 10:53 am

    From our ailments to our dogs’ ailments, sounds like our lives are sadly matching up right now. Hang in there! We’ll all get through this!! =)

  • Reply JILL HOMER May 31, 2016 at 11:18 am

    CTS: I sympathize greatly. I’m having the surgery done on my right hand this coming Friday. I’ll report back on the experience, but I’ve heard only good things. Good luck!

    • Reply heather May 31, 2016 at 6:56 pm

      I’ve been reading along on your site too– good luck with the procedure!

  • Reply Kari Bowen May 31, 2016 at 11:22 am

    So sorry to hear of all your aches and pains. Take care of yourself and know that you will be back at it soon. I definately feel your pain when it comes to Tals. We went through the same thing with Riddy and it is hard to watch them in pain. I’m glad she is doing better. Lots of hugs!

  • Reply RFC May 31, 2016 at 11:28 am

    Ugh. Injuries SUCK. Capital letters SUCK. I’m so sorry both you and Tals are suffering! Resting and recovering is never any fun, but it makes the comeback that much sweeter. Hang in there my friend!

  • Reply Katie @k8tlevy May 31, 2016 at 11:54 am

    Ugh, I’m so sorry to hear about all of this! Seeing Tals age has to be SO hard, especially because we can’t really explain to them what’s going on and how to handle it, and what the repercussions of risk taking can be. I’m glad she’s starting to recover a bit from the elk chasing incident, though. I see some small changes in my cats too…they’re turning 9 shortly. Nothing too significant yet, but it’s tough to realize our pets are as mortal as we are.

    And also such a bummer to hear about your ailments too, it’s awful when they’re aggravated by something like a car accident. It’s so tough to have to scale back on the activities we love when our bodies won’t cooperate. So frustrating and so disheartening. But here’s hoping your body starts to cooperate, and the recovery is better, and the CTS gets better too! I’m learning I have to take a lot more recovery time in CrossFit and pay a lot more attention to sleep/food than I used to. I also had some serious knee pain coming down from our hikes in Vermont/New Hampshire this weekend, which was completely new, and depressing. Sucks getting older 🙁

  • Reply Rebecca May 31, 2016 at 11:56 am

    I was like you – little to no injuries at all. Then I turned 35 and my warranty expired. That was the year I had my first broken bone ever – in my foot, happened in a race. Once I recovered from that I picked up running too fast again and ended up with microtears in my calf and had to pull out of the next season’s races too. Right now I’m dealing with a shoulder I somehow jacked up (no idea how) and haven’t been able to climb in a month. I figure this is the new norm and I just have to make smarter choices and take care of myself a bit better. Seems like you’re in the same place.

    The most important thing, I think, it to never STOP DOING. Even if all I can do is a walk around the block with the dog, as long as I am doing SOMETHING I’m motivated to improve and keep doing it. My biggest fear is turning into the 300 lb couch potato lifestyle that seems to be common in my extended family.

    • Reply heather May 31, 2016 at 6:57 pm

      Haha, that’s what I told Will: strong and sturdy and then I turned 34 in March. WHAM! 🙂

  • Reply Kristen @ Muddle + Joy June 1, 2016 at 11:34 am

    Injuries are the worst 🙁 Not being able to be active is so frustrating, and I always find it hard to get started again after a long recovery break. And poor Tals! Getting old is the worst… I’ve been looking for a new fluffy hiking companion and it’s hard to know that hip problems are such a common problem for the larger breeds. Good thing Tals has such a great mom to take care of her!

  • Reply Keeping Tals Healthy: An Update - Just a Colorado GalJust a Colorado Gal July 6, 2016 at 5:23 pm

    […] mentioned last month that Tals has been struggling with some health and weight issues. We finally headed to the vet for an updated diagnosis and sure […]

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