Welcome back folks. For today’s sports installment I wanted to share with you a cycling story, which ended up in complete disaster, resulting in a serious back injury (which was never really diagnosed or treated correctly) that I still struggle with to this day. It also involves being temporarily paralysed in a tiny Laotian village with no real access to doctors or medicine, and come to think of it, very little access (via the internet) to the outside world. I also wanted to share with you the miracle that is the electronic TENS machine.
Back in 2008 I was travelling all through South East Asia, from country to country, overland. I fell in love with Laos the moment I arrived and it remains to this day my favourite country in the region, from the vast sprawl of mountainous beauty and stunning landscapes to the ultra laid-back passive nature of locals and of course the food, particularly the jeow (hand pounded herbs and spices mixed with live forest pepper). It was one beautiful day up in the far north, in a small town by the name of Luang Namtha: famous for it’s cycling opportunities.
There was a little shop offering day rates on some very standard looking mountain bikes, which appealed instantly as they had gears (at least) and didn’t have the obligatory steel basket attached to the front. And off I went.
I got miles out, and ended up almost at the foot of an impressive waterfall, at which point the heavens opened it is started teeming with rain. This affected the level of the river in minutes and I ended up losing a flip-flop as I tried to negotiate my way to the other side. This normally wouldn’t be the end of the world, but if you’ve ever experienced riding a bike without footwear on one of those sharp spiky steel pedals you’ll understand how painful it can be - worse than stepping on Lego.
And so it went: powering forward all the way back to town on one leg, which was a hellish experience. And that was it. That’s all it took. Within 24 hours, I was completely immobile, stuck in a single room in a featureless guesthouse in the middle of nowhere, spending most of my time against the wall. For eleven days. Somehow I had dislodged part of my vertebrae somewhere, trapping a nerve.
While things generally improved slightly over the coming weeks, it was sometime after that the problem reappeared and had me check myself into a very good hospital in Thailand. They checked everything. I had X-rays, ultrasounds, CT scans, and the dreaded MRI scan. The doctors and nurses just couldn’t understand why I was so nervous and anxious. The truth was, and what made me angry that they didn’t understand that was any unexpected contact, or touch, from anyone or anything would pinch that move and send me into screaming writhing pain. It was a hopeless horrible situation. The icing on the cake came in the form of the doctors overall conclusive report, who simply said there was nothing wrong. Understandably I was furious. To have exhausted every possibility of getting a diagnosis and to then be told I’m as well as the next guy was simply unacceptable. I lost a lot of faith in modern medicine after that and have since looked to explore alternative therapy as a general rule.
The (non) Diagnosis
The months following that were spent resting and allowing things to heal in a natural way. Shortly after that my very worried parents came to visit.
My father, who is no stranger to sports injuries brought a TENS machine with him. This is basically a small electric device that uses batteries and deploys pulses of electricity through four rubber distribution pads that you fit to the delicate area. It basically stimulates the muscles and ligaments in the same way they would be if they were being worked. It took a few months, but the improvement was immense and has since changed my life in a very positive way.
Oddly enough, a couple of months back something similar happened. I sustained another sports injury, this time from lifting weights. It’s severely affected my shoulder and I haven’t seen any improvement whatsoever, it’s actually got worse. About a month ago I visited the local physiotherapist, who is well known and well respected for his ‘healing hands’, but still, no improvement. Naturally, after finding myself at such a loss, I decided to give the TENS machine another go, as I’ve always made a point of keeping it in my backpack the whole time. Much to my dismay, the batteries inside had corroded and rendered the device useless. So I decided to get online and get myself a new one. I looked at used products for sale sites and immediately came up with this: http://www.for-sale.ie/lloyds-tens-machine
I’m expecting it any day now and of course, I’m really looking forward to using it again and feeling the results. Anyway, thanks for reading folks, until next time..