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Doubles. Clean Doubles.

Yes. Yes. I know. I’ve been a little vacant lately. I’m a busy, little lady. Kids. Work. Husband. Parents. In-laws. Illnesses. It’s enough to drive a sane woman cray-cray. Or just crazy. Depending on your mood.

I was inspired to post because this evening’s class was very eventful. In many different ways.

The bad news – I started feeling an aching pain in my left calf. Did I injure my calf? No. My lower back injury had been officially aggravated. Oh yes. I know the difference. My back is “junk” (as my good friend describes a chronic injury) and that, is that. I was feeling pretty shitty about it in the beginning of class. Just a little (constant) reminder that my body isn’t what my desire wants anymore. I don’t recover from injuries overnight. Sprains are not fleeting. I have to wait for my body to decide to do what is wants to do. And it’s depressing.

But then the “good” happened.

I landed (consistently, mind you) clean double pirouettes during class tonight. For all of you real ballet enthusiasts, you know what a “clean double” means and for those who don’t, it means staying in passé en releve until the movement has been completed. It sounds easy, but it isn’t. When you cannot do a single cleanly, you fall out of the passé too soon. Same with the double. Or even a triple! (Dream on LB). Regardless, when you do a clean single or double? You know it. It feels different. Yes. It feels….exquisite. Perfect. Beautiful. It just feels right.

So guess what? I did a lot of clean doubles tonight. Albeit they were mainly on my left, but they were clean. So clean that my normally rigid instructor said that the class had a good turn night. And when I was performing my left doubles, everyone was watching. I knew it. And I didn’t falter. Booooooom. If made me so happy. Regardless of my aching lower back, I felt accomplished.

It was a good day.

And that is the end of my post. 😘

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Waaaahhhhhhh. Injury.

So guess who didn’t injure their hamstring???? This girl!!

I’m sure you are asking yourself, “Why LB, isn’t that a good thing not to have injured yourself?” Well, that’s if I didn’t injure myself. I found out yesterday that what I thought was a chronic injured hamstring is actually….wait for it…..an injured back. That’s right. BACK. Specifically a herniated disc at approximately the L4-5 level, possibly the L3-4 as well. How did I find this out? Let me entertain you. Or educate. Whatever. Someone is going to find this post useful. I just know it.

So, during one of my marathon stretching exercises I thought to myself, “Why in the hell am I so tight in my right hamstring still?! You know what, screw this. I’m going to a masseuse to get this bugger kneaded out…. Yo.” So I made some phone calls. My last phone call was to a good friend, who happens to be a physical therapist and who also happens to work at a chiropractic/physical therapy/orthopedic facility. Nice. Anywho, after hearing my symptoms (I.e. Sharp pain where my hamstring muscle meets my pelvis during a straight leg raising on either side; extremely tight right hamstring; pain in hips when sleeping; pain when sitting or driving) and (more importantly) the duration of my symptoms he came to one conclusion – I injured my low back. Well, naturally, I didn’t want to believe him. I was like, “That’s impossible! I was just stretching when I got the pain! I have no pain in my back whatsoever. It’s all coming from my hamstring. Sorry. You are wrong.” (Said the non-believer. Shun the non-believer. Shunnnnnn.).

I made an appointment and I dared him to prove me wrong….guess who was wrong: The arrogant attorney vs. the experienced physical therapist. Yeah. I was the Loser-Mc-Losertron in that epic battle of wits. How did he know? Well, he did some orthopedic tests. First he pushed on my hamstring ligament. No pain. He said if I injured my hamstring ligament, I would not be able to bear his fingers pressing on it. Secondly, I have no loss of strength in my hamstring. He pushed down on it two different ways and said that, if I was injured, I would not be able to push back. Let alone without pain. In fact, he said I am really strong for a woman my size. [Insert hand to pat the back here.] Then, of course, it was my reaction to when he touched my lower back in a certain area. Yeah. I jumped. There you have it ladies and gents – I have herniated a disc. For those who are unfamiliar, check this link from the Mayo Clinic and read up. Mine is more like a “bulge” then a “herniation”, which means that the contents of the disc are (most likely) not ruptured and are impinging on the spinal nerves. This is a good thing. A herniation that bad is extremely more painful and could lead to surgery. Boo. Surgery.

And for the record – this makes total sense. The General has been on my ass, well about my ass, for as long as this injury has lingered. According to my friend, the reason why my ass is pooching out during class is because the muscles in my lower back are protecting my spine. In fact, the reason why my hamstrings and turn out are not progressing, despite my constant stretching, is because all of the muscles in my lower back and hips are guarding the nerves that are being aggravated!!! Do you know what this means?!?! As soon as I get my spine in check, I should regain and even improve my flexibility even more!!! I am so excited that it’s not my lack of effort that is preventing my progress right now! I can’t help it – my body is just being a total boo-hole! I never thought I would be this excited to discover that I am handi-quacked.

So now what? The good news is that now I know the pain and tightness is not caused by a severe sprain in my hamstring, I can actually start treating the problem. Also, my friend says that my injury isn’t critical and after some treatment I should be right as rain in no time! Too bad I have been so stubborn; I could have been fixed up long ago. What can I say? I’m an “injury” beginner as well as a ballet beginner. I apparently have a high pain tolerance. That’s right. Don’t mess with me. I can take a punch. And a jab. Or maybe even a kick. Well, as long as it is not to my back. That could be bad considering I am a disabled person now. Ha!

As for the treatment, I am currently engaging in DRX (aka spinal stretching. Yup, ga-woss. This is what it looks like), electrical stimulation and massage therapy. According to my bro-seph, I just need to relieve the pressure off my spine and the tightness and pain should go away! Eventually, that is. I plan on going for treatment twice a week for the next three weeks. I am really hoping this will work. I am so tired of being I pain and I’m tired of being behind in class. This just has to be the solution. It just has to!!

What does this teach us? When you are “older” and an injury is taking longer then a couple weeks to heal, you should think about going to see a orthopedic facility for an evaluation. Hell, even a chiropractor will do (disclaimer: a reputable chiropractic facility is what I suggest that actually has a medical doctor that visits the facility to consult patients every week). The point is, even though we may be delusional at times, we are no spring chickens. After the age of 30, yes 30, our body starts doing crazy things. Take care of yourself and listen to what your body tells you. You will be glad you did. I know I am…. Finally. 😊😊😊😊😊😊

Ironic Ballet Purchase

Last Thursday during ballet class the arch of my foot got strained a little. It bothered me for the rest of the class and by the end of pointe class my foot was toast. The next day Ms. Disney was all excited about these new ballet shoes she found on Discount Dance Supply. On a side note – Discount Dance is the best website to find ballet gear at great prices. Once you know your size in a shoe you like (ballet or pointe), you would be crazy not to buy them from this site. Pointe shoes are so much cheaper if you buy online. So if you are in the market – GO THERE! Anywho, Ms. Disney was all, “I found these new ballet shoes! They are canvas and have this awesome arch support inserts! I think I am going to get them.” I’m all, “AWWWW! I want new shoes too!” There was a video and everything. Fancy! Well, I was sold. I figured I needed a little support since my arches occasionally hurt during class. Maybe these shoes will help. It’s worth a shot.

Ms. Disney and I, along with a couple of the Company dancers, had an extra pointe class on Saturday. We were reviewing the choreography, because let’s face it, I do not absorb choreography quickly. Well, before we all got started Ms. Disney told the General about the shoes she found and that we both bought them. The General then looked at me and said, “I was meaning to tell you. I know you love those ballet shoes you have, but I think you should get rid of them. They are no good for your feet. They are not supportive enough and at your age you could injure yourself.” HA! Apparently, we were both thinking the same thing. I wasn’t sure if my shoes were causing my arch pain, but I suppose they were. How ironic is that I purchased a pair of ballet shoes, which I thought I didn’t need and the General wanted me to search for a new pair?! It’s like ballet serendipity, if you will.

The following are the shoes I ordered. I will let you know how they work out.

MDM Elemental ballet shoe

The “Intrinsic” is a canvas split sole ballet slipper designed to strengthen the muscles of the lower leg and provide a heightened level of support for the foot and ankle. Prior to the release of the “Intrinsic”, canvas split sole shoes have been frowned upon by dance teachers for their lack of support and remedial characteristics. This issue has been addressed by building a support and strengthening substructure into the shoe. The patent applied structure is designed to impose a level of controlled resistance to the muscles of the lower leg each time the foot points and flexes, building strength and stability over time. The structure is shaped to envelop the heel and arch which offers the dancer an unrivalled level of protection. It supports the foot and arch and allows the intrinsic muscles to recover when at rest. All this is achieved while maintaining the optimum aesthetics for a longer leg and a clean line. [Information taken from Discount Dance website.]

Taekwondo and the Splits

Soooooo my Ginormoca informed me on Monday she was joining her friend to take a Taekwondo class in Thursday. Since class is cancelled for the week (spring break) I figured “Hell, I’ll just give it a shot.”

The answer to your question is “no”, I’m not replacing ballet. I am simply trying it out. Mainly because the studio allows kids and adults to do the intro class together and I thought maybe I could take one with my kids!! How fun is that?! Me, the bear and sissy – kicking ass. As a family. Ill let you know how it goes. I’m hoping it will be a good supplement to my workout schedule. Besides, I have a lot of pent up aggression I need to (healthily) release. “I like to KICK and STRETCH! I’m 50! 50 years old ladies and gentlemen!” Anyone? Anyone? Please tell me I’m not the only one who still finds that SNL skit totally hilarious. That’s totally going to be me in 29 years. Camel toe and all.

As for the “splits,” I have an update. Remember how I blogged how I injured my left hamstring a year ago and have been unable to do a left split because of it? Well, last night while I was stretching I totally did a left split! I have done it! I am no longer handi-quacked on my left side. Well, at least when it comes to stretching. I am healed! Praise The Lord!!!!!!!!

That’s the scuttle butt if the day. Let us now pray I don’t get a black eye tomorrow as a result of a 6 year old’s nimble foot being strategically placed on my eyeball.

More on Sciatica

Kate writes:

Hi, I’m a ballet dancer too and having huge trouble at the moment with bad sciatica pain. I’ve searched google for some advice but any exercises are for non-dancers or for people who do dance for fun. However ballet is my life and taking it easy is just not an option, which I’m sure you understand! It was reassuring to read that you have a similar problem to me and I wondered if you have any advice or exercises that could help? The pain gets worse with arabesques and back bends and working on turnout, but these are things that I have to keep working on! The pain gets better only when I take time off, but as you know these days we’re expected to be like contortionists so I really can’t give stretching a rest. However the pain is terrible and leaving me very miserable. I’d really, really appreciate any advice you have for relieving pain and also how to prevent it! I do pilates and I always warm up gently and slowly, but this doesn’t seem enough…

Hope to hear from you soon!

Thanks in advance,

Kate

My response:

Oh Kate – I know what you are going through.  The pain associated with this type of injury can be unbearable at times.  I thought the pain would never go away, but it has significantly subsided over the last couple of months.  I still have it, but it does not get as inflamed as it used to.  Thank you, Jesus.

The sciatic nerve is a big, nasty ropy nerve that runs down your butt and into your legs.  Activity like working your turn out and stretching your hamstring muscles can cause inflammation in the surrounding ligaments and thereby irritate the sciatic nerve.  Hence, why you have pain when you practice or stretch and have none when you rest.  The only cure for sciatica when you are a dancer is not to dance.  Not an option, so the question is what can you do to help alleviate the pain while continuing to pursue your passion?  Here is what I did:

The pain got so bad I went and saw my doctor. I was terrified that he was going to tell me to stop dancing.  Quite the contrary.  He actually said, “Well, it hasn’t stopped you yet. Why would my advice change your activity now?”  So right.  My doctor wanted to do an MRI of my lumbar spine.  I say (politely), “Hell-to-the-No”.  Why?  As an injury lawyer I know a lot about the costs of certain medical procedures and what happens after the MRI is administered.  I’m sorry, but for $1,000 I just didn’t think it was going to tell me anything I didn’t already know.  Then my doctor suggested physical therapy.  I gave him another “no”.  Why? Once again, cost and the fact that two of my husband’s best friends are physical therapists.  I see one in particular all of the time and he already said he would give me exercises to do (which I will get to later).  I asked him whether he could give me some cortisone to help with the inflammation (who is the doctor here?).  I got one of those 7 day packs and I have to say it helped a lot.  I think the inflammation was so bad that Advil was just not cutting it.  So, I suggest that you contact your doctor and see if this is an option for you.

As for physical therapy, my husband’s friend stated that I may be having so much pain because my hamstring muscles and the muscles around my hip flexors are not as strong as they should be.  He said the stronger your muscles are, the more control you have in your movement and the more protected your surrounding ligaments are and may prevent inflammation.  Makes sense to me.  He gave me a couple of exercises to do at home and, once again, I have definitely seen improvement.   The exercises are as follows:

Tie the theraband to the bottom of a sturdy post.   I usually use the bottom of my bed or the couch.  Lie on your stomach in front of the post, wrap the theraband around your calf muscle and pull your leg towards you.  Do you feel your hamstring working (not to mention your butt)?!  You should! Here is a picture to illustrate this (I drew it myself!)

The next exercise is similar.  Turn over onto your back and put the theraband on your knee.  If the band is too high, it is going to roll down and that hurts!  Now pull the knee to your chest.  You should feel this in your hips and abs muscles.  Then, try the same exercise but pull your knee to second position.  Think Grand Battement, but with only your knee.  DO YOU FEEL THAT NOW?! Holy crow.  THEN try the same two movements together! Front to side, side to front (and so forth). Good stuff.  Here is another picture!

If you are having pain when doing arabesques and back bends, you may need to work on your back muscles as well.  The exercise I do to strengthen my back is lie on my stomach and while keeping my legs and hips to the floor, pull my chest up as far as I can.  You can use your arms to push your back further.  Hold the position for 60 seconds and then do it again.  Make sure you are forcing your back muscles to hold the position (as opposed to your arms).  I also grab my ankles and rock back and forth on my stomach.  I can’t draw this one, but I think you understand what I am talking about.

Well, there you have it.  Beyond sitting/sleeping on ice packs and taking Advil (which I also suggest your do) this is what I did to finally address my ass pain, I mean, sciatica.  I really hope this helps, Kate.

Remember, I am not a doctor. These are just of the things I did to help my pain. If your pain does not resolve within a month or two, go see a doctor.  OK?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Dance Funk

I am going on vacation in three days.  Where, you may ask?  Well, to the happiest place on earth?! Disney Land.  I am so excited to go. I am so excited to take my kids there.  I haven’t been on vacation in two years.  I want to spend quality time with my family.  I am super pumped.

Given this, I also wanted my last class before leaving for vacation to be a solid one.  Much to my dismay, the opposite had happened.  I had such a crap-filled class it makes me want to puke.  But this was no average class.  Nope, the General wanted us to do EVERY movement, exercise and combination away from the bar.  That was a true first for me and holy cow did it suck.  The warm up was a total mess.  I was so focused on balancing that it felt like I couldn’t complete anything strong.  Ug.  I almost fell over on a couple moves.  Double Ug.  Once that misery was over, we did grand battements (with lunges, thank God) but it felt ridiculous.  TRIPLE Ug. Then, we did center combinations.  Fine.  I can do that.  Combinations usually do not require a bar anyway, right?  Well, the General is really pushing for the fouettes.  Luckily, I am not the only one in class who is still in the learning stage of fouette turns.  However, even the 9-year-old in the class can land a pretty one.  I am sorry, but that made me feel like such crap.  On top of all that – I practiced pointe the night before and I was sore.  At first I was proud of myself for working that hard by myself.  In the end it may have back fired, because tonight I felt like a failure.

There I was, sitting in the back of the class, practicing these movements over and over and feeling like a total loser all-the-while.  All I could do was think negatively.  “Why are you doing this?  These girls have true potential.  You are 33 (about to be 34 in a couple of weeks, gulp) and you will never, ever, be any good.  I stretch every day, but I still struggle to get into a split.  I have a chronic injury to my left hamstring that prevents me from doing anything strenuous on my left side, even though it is my stronger leg.  I will never be as good, I will never be as flexible, I will never be natural at ballet…..At least, that is how I feel sometimes.

When will I stop feeling like a poser?  When will I feel like I truly belong (anywhere)?  Why can’t I just “do”?  I still have a hard time telling anyone that I take ballet and it is my passion.  I don’t feel like I have earned the title yet.  I am still just a “poser”.

All I wanted was to have a good class before I take a break from dance for one week and all I got was a dance funk (and a lousy tee-shirt).

Big, super-duper, frowney face.

Sciatica – Oh, How I Long for Relief!

I have a wicked case of sciatica.  For those who are not familiar, sciatica is the condition caused by the irritation of the sciatic nerve (which is a “big, ropey nerve” as described by my sis-in-law) that is located in the lower back that travels down into the left hip.  Irritation is caused by the inflammation of the surrounding muscles and/or tendons.  In my case, it is caused by both the hamstring I injured in late spring coupled with the turn out muscles I have been stretching over the last several weeks.   Last night I woke up at 5 am and was thinking about the pain that is ever-present in my left butt-cheek.  I know I have blogged about it before, but it has really, really, really been bothering me.  Normally, it does not bother me during practice, or when I lay down, or even when I stand, but it interferes with my work.  YES, my work. I am one of those lucky few who has a cushy office job.  Probably the best office job there is.  The problem is that sitting is exactly what causes the pain to start.  Even worse is that the pain started traveling into my left calve muscle.

I am extremely knowledgable about these types of injuries.  My line of work lends itself to the sick or infirm.  Especially individuals who suffer from orthopedic injuries.  Now I am like one of my clients – complaining of chronic pain that is interfering with my concentration and overall comfort.  I swear I spend 60% of my day wiggling around from one butt-cheek to the other trying to relief the ever-present, stabbing, sharp pain.  I thought I could handle it.  I thought, “What’s the big deal?  Every dancer or athlete has an injury.  You just have to man-up and power through it.”  Well, I am no longer able to.  I made an appointment with my (awesome) doctor.  I am hoping he is not going to tell me what I think he is going to say, “Stop the ballet.  You are never going to get better unless you stop.” And I would retort, “Oh, I’m sorry.   That is simply not an option.  Now shut up and give me some Flexeril.”  Flexeril is an anti-inflammatory medication.  Pain medication is not an option and Advil is no longer cutting the mustard either.

I hate that I have this blasted injury.  I would take a lost toe nail to this incessant pain any damn day.  I suppose that having an injury like this is somewhat normal for an over-30 ballet beginner, like myself.  I mean, shit happens right?!  “Life is tough.  Get a helmet” kind of stuff, right?!   I am hoping (praying) that my beloved doc will tell me that all will be well and I just need to ice, rest, ice some more and take a Flexeril (or two).  Cause guess what?!  I am NOT stopping now.  I have come too far.