In this post, I’ll dive into a question that’s been popping up: “I heard you had an injury, but what’s the full story? What happened, and how are you doing now?” Let’s delve into the specifics.
Firstly, I am 100% available for wrestling sessions in the way I normally would, except for lift and carry activities with clients who weigh above 100 kilograms. I am however still recovering from damage to my neck and back. There have been a few periods where I had to take a break from wrestling, because symptoms got worse. If you are interested, read along. I will explain.
I am suffering from lower backache and sciatica and muscle disfunction, pain and weakness in my left shoulder and arm. The pictures show what that looks like. When I try to pull myself up, some muscles on the left side are not cooperating. My left arm is weak compared to my right. There is a muscle imbalance. I compensate by overusing other muscles when I wrestle, but often have shoulder and nerve pain.
Some time ago I had a car accident on the highway. I dozed off behind the wheel and collided with a car that entered the highway in front of me. My car flipped multiple times and landed upside down. The impact on my neck was massive. The orthopedic surgeon explained I could easily have ended up dead or paralyzed from the neck down. I am incredibly grateful that I did not break my neck! Instead, I ruptured a bunch of soft tissue. Multiple intervertebral discs in my neck and the rest of the spine got damaged.
A MRI showed 9 damaged spinal discs. Of which two in my neck and four in my lower back. The broken discs explain my lower backache and sciatica. Bone spurs (a reaction of the body to instability and inflammation from the damaged discs) narrow nerve canals and compress nerves to my arm and shoulder area.
A spinal disc is a soft structure between the bones (vertebrae) in the spine. It acts as a shock absorber and provides flexibility to the spine. A disc prolapse, occurs when the inner core of the disc pushes through the outer layer. This can press on nearby spinal nerves, causing pain and other symptoms like muscle weakness and numbness.
This MRI picture shows the lower part of my spine from the side. From this angle you can see three of the damaged discs. The blue arrow points at a healthy looking disc. The red arrows point at damaged ones.
How am I doing
My current status: The advice for my lower back was surgery, because of the hugeness of the disc prolapses. I decided to give my body more time to heal on its own first. I have less instability now, less episodes of crippling pain and currently no sciatica. I can lift again and safely wrestle.
The nerve damage and weakness will likely not fully recover. However, some improvement should be possible. The pain is bearable at this moment. I should however not overuse my left arm or put too much stress on my neck. Unfortunately this means no grappling/BJJ training, which makes me sad. I also have to avoid certain risks regarding my lower back and currently I am still unable to travel long distances. I cannot sit in an airplane seat, because it puts too much stress on my discs and certain nerves because of bone spurs. Being realistic, I hope to be able to travel again within a year.