If you read last week’s Jack’s Smack, you’ll know I had a skydiving accident a little over a week ago. A less than stellar landing by my tandem instructor caused me to slam to the ground directly on my tailbone.
What ensued immediately after that second of impact has been life-changing. How permanent or how severe a change remains to be seen, but I know that at least for now my life is on a different trajectory than I had planned two weeks ago.
WIth extra down-time — and what I mean by that is WAY TOO MUCH downtime — my mind wanders. I am one of those people who is always looking for my life’s lesson — at least when something bad has happened. (Note to self: I just realized that I must work on paying attention to the lessons embedded in life’s good moments, too.)
An Important Lesson To Share:
“the more physically fit we are, the higher likelihood of surviving and recovering from breaking”
If there is anything to be learned from this mishap it is that the more physically fit we are, the higher likelihood of surviving and recovering from breaking.
To many, I appear to be a woman with a high risk tolerance. Entrepreneur. Martial Artist. Skydiver. Et al. And we all know that risky behavior can lead to disability, death, or social problems. While that is true, breaking is something we’re all at risk for, at any time during the most mundane of life’s pursuits.
I broke my back in my most recent mishap. Three vertebral compression fractures in my mid-spine.
The initial prognosis was less than reassuring.
While at the closest to a 10 on the pain scale that I have ever been, I was informed by a renegade surgical resident about the two-sided back surgery I could potentially need. Mind you, blinded by pain, sleep-deprived, and scared out of my mind, this Grey’s Anatomy moment shook me to my core. Hearing words like rods, pins, backside incision, frontside incision, etc. left me numb and dizzy. How could this be my story?
As it turns out that resident was wrong — way wrong, thankfully. And yes there are up and coming Smacks about the “health” of our healthcare system and the fact that this was the singular worst experience of my healthcare consumption thus far in life. But I digress.
Yes, I was lucky. Lucky that the injury did not paralyze me. Lucky that no surgery was required and that hubristic, surgical gunslinger was sent back to the call room. They actually let me walk out without a back brace, utilizing my own body as support.
“Even risk-averse people can break.”
Before you dispel my premise, before you tell yourself, “Well, I don’t plan on jumping out of an airplane, so I don’t need to worry about breaking,” know this. We are more likely to injure ourselves lifting a somewhat heavy item at home, or slipping off the front stoop on our way out of the house to walk the family dog than in skydiving. Even risk-averse people can break. And the probability rises as we age.
The Real Culprit:
To no one’s surprise, the leading cause of spinal compression fractures is osteoporosis, NOT skydiving. Who is at the highest risk, according to WebMD?
- White and Asian women
- Women over 50 — and it increases as we age
- Thin women
- Women who experienced early (before 50) menopause
- Smokers (people who smoke lose bone thickness faster than nonsmokers)
I know that the reason I literally walked out of the ER after 20 hours, sans surgery and unsupported by any medical device, is because of the strength of my core. I am not talking about the vanity six-pack — although if I may brag for a moment, that is part of the package. What I am talking about are the muscles completely surrounding my trunk — abdominals, obliques, diaphragm, pelvic floor, trunk extensors, and hip flexors. If you’re thinking “Good grief, what isn’t my core?” the answer is, basically, our arms and legs.
Our Core, The MVP Of Life:
“Our core is responsible for everyday living.”
Our core is responsible for our stability and balance. Want to pick something up off the floor? Want to stand up from the chair after dinner? How about grabbing your handbag out of the backseat of your car? Guess what? You are using your core. Our core is responsible for everyday living. It is often considered the source, or root, of all movement.
If you are already on it and have a strong core, keep it. If you find yourself wondering if you have a strong core, there are movements that can test the level of strength you currently possess. However, if you are certain you don’t, then consider making a change. It’s never too late to begin and any improvement is, well, an improvement. Fitness is not a zero-sum game.
Weight-bearing exercises strengthen our muscles and bones, and balance exercises reduce our risk of falling. It’s not just about situps and crunches, it’s about the entire body. Planks, pushups, supine toe taps, glute bridges, and so many more. The best part is you can start where you are. Many of the core strengthening moves provide options that can take you from beginner to rock star.
Caveat Emptor: I am NOT a physician, licensed physical therapist, nor certified trainer. Please, please seek out a professional to help you help yourself. If you want to see some of the more simple options, here’s a decent primer from Healthline – just to get you started thinking.