Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Wes and I left at 6 a.m. yesterday for Chicago.  We got home close to 11:00.  We were tired, to say the least.

But wait...why were we in Chicago?

I think I may have mentioned this several weeks ago, but I found a female physiatrist up in Chicago (at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago) who specializes in dealing with female athletes in pain.  I'm still in pain.  For those of you who may be new to this blog, I've dealt with some very mysterious (and, at times, excruciating) abdominal pain since the birth of my son, Rowan.  The pain is much worse with running, though I feel it all the time.  Now, it's a whole lot better than it was back this past spring.  But I'm still not normal.

I've been on this quest for normal for almost a year.  Distance running is punctuated by pain and, to some degree, suffering.  Hence the word endure.  I have that kind of pain when I run, too.  But I don't mind it.  I like pushing myself and there's no better feeling that taking that last step of a long run...even though your body may have been revolting for the last 8 miles.

That's normal.  Stabbing pain in your abdomen that radiates up to your not.  It stole the joy of running for me for a long time.  I can't say it does that anymore, as I can run and enjoy it now.  But I'm still not normal.

There is one primary reason I went to see Dr. Casey in Chicago.  She is a well-acclaimed physician and researcher.  That last little tidbit is oh so important.  I'm a researcher, too.  I just don't research what she does.  But if you ever have a problem that you, or they, can't figure out?  Find yourself a researcher.  Researchers tend to know ALL the current evidence.  They also tend to get really interested in your problem.  And they have connections to help figure it out.

She didn't figure it out yesterday.  I was kind of hoping (fantasizing?) that I'd go in and she'd proclaim what it is.  But I really didn't expect that.

I met with one of her fellows (a physician training under her) first.  I felt the familiarity of a research institution when, upon entering, I was asked if I would participate in a research study.  She went through all the forms (which I go through with my participants).  And I said yes.  I always do.  Research karma.

Anyway, the fellow did a very extensive physical exam, as well as a thorough history.  I had her stumped, so she went to get Dr. Casey.

She was gone for over 20 minutes.  I was just dozing off (and I think Wes was, too) when Dr. Casey came in.  She had an entourage.  All her fellows had come in to see this.

She is a very tiny woman--a former NCAA gymnast.  She looks EXACTLY like Julianne Moore.  Wes and I came to this conclusion independently.  Anyway, I really liked her.  But I've liked a lot of them.  Results are what I need.

She put me through the same kind of exam the fellow had.  She told me that my abdominal muscles are functioning normally, and so it would be very unlikely to be muscular (which I knew anyway).  She agrees that it is some kind of nerve pain--but from where?

Well, according to her, my spine.  To be MID spine.  The thoracic region.  Your spinal cord has a bunch of nerve roots that feed your entire body.  Those from the thoracic area feed the abdomen.  The funny thing is--I have very little back pain.  The abdominal pain WAY overshadows any back pain.  Usually, if someone had a problem with the thoracic spine, the back would hurt...and it might radiate to the abdomen.

She did find a couple of spots on my back that, when pushed, really hurt. And she turned me in such a way that pressing on my back a certain spot actually made my abdomen hurt.  She finished her exam and sat down to tell me what she thought.

She's not sure what it is.  But she thinks we can go no further without an MRI of the thoracic spine.  While it would be strange for me to have this abdominal pain without back pain if the case were that the thoracic spine was causing it, she talked me through how a disc herniation in that area could indeed cause my symptoms.  Especially if the disc herniated in the middle, and not to one side (thereby pinching the nerve on each side).  So I'm going to have an MRI.

I'm really hoping, as always, that it's glaringly abnormal.  But I'm expecting it to be, as always, perfectly normal.  It's just how this whole thing has gone.  If it's abnormal, she'll treat whatever disc herniation/nerve impingement is there (via injections).  If it is normal, she's still going to treat my spine because the pain sounds so "spine like."  How?  With a physical therapy program directed at fixing my spinal alignment.

She also said that, if we can't pinpoint this, we can try some different diagnostic injections--injecting different nerve roots to see what makes it better.

So that's where we are.  It's a chronic problem with which I'm dealing.  But I'm dealing.  I'm running (though slowly) and not too concerned about hitting certain paces.  I just can't push myself extremely hard right now.  I run however feels good.

Not that I'm not running much.  I'm approaching about 70 miles per week.  Lots of miles, none of them that fast.  Not too bad considering I'm training for a marathon.

Wes and I ran 12 miles on the lake front path while in Chicago.  We were struck by how RUDE the people are there.  It must be a big city thing...but when we asked a security guard on the Navy Pier for directions and where a bathroom was, he nearly took our heads off.  I am so glad to be from a small town.

The run was not that remarkable.  We both had tired legs.  But it surely our last run together before Wes departs from Mississippi.  So, for that reason, it was special.


  1. I had good luck with a physiatrist last summer. I saw her to get to her PT, really. They are predisposed to look for back issues fwiw. I didn't have any, which made me kind of boring.

    +1 on Big City help. Chicago has never been a problem for me, but in CA, no one wanted to help me find a bathroom either!

  2. Yeah...I kind of figured out that they're about the back. My back is the only thing that HASN'T been looked at, so hopefully this will lead somewhere.

    As for the rude people...we even asked employees (like police men and security guards) about bathrooms, and you would have thought we were asking for their first born!