Marsh column: Listen to your body

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 7, 2008

By Ester Marsh
for the Salisbury Post
Can you believe that it has almost been one whole year since my neck fusion?!
July 10, 2007 was the day I got my life back. I remember Dr. Adamson saying that Kevin would probably have to “strap me down” after surgery because I was going to feel so much better.
Well, he was right! For our new readers out there, I have been battling a “neck issue” for at least 7 years. Contributing to my bad neck were my high level of Judo competition, which required hard training; horseback riding and jumping (and falling off); and doing high-intensity, high-impact aerobics for 26 years.
My neck is now too straight, with the natural curve gone (actually reversed). I have developed degenerative disc disease from C2 to T1. C6-7 was so severely herniated that surgery was the only option left due to the pain I was experiencing. After surgery on the disc between C6-7, which was fused with a cadaver bone, a plate and four screws, I can only say, thank God, and thank God for Dr. Adamson.
I feel that I can do anything!
Of course that is not true. I still have a neck issue from C2 through C5 and C7-T1. But do I feel I have my life back? Absolutely! I just have to accept some limitations.
I know what some of you are thinking. Limitations? Every time I see her I can’t see a thing wrong with her! Well, when you see me do Zumba, I can go as hard as I want. It focuses on the midsection and legs and leaves my shoulders and neck alone. In this past year I have learned that I cannot lift weights above my shoulders. I cannot do push-ups. I need to stay away from cardio kick-boxing or anything related to punching. I have to watch how much weight I lift.
Now the difficult part is that I can do them at that moment ó it’s afterwards that I pay for doing them. When I perform those exercises I feel fine. By that evening or the next day, I would start aching and thinking, I should not have done that.
Sometimes it would take two weeks for the pain, aching, tingling and numbness to go away. So I started to adjust my workouts. I can Zumba all I want as hard as I want. I can lift weight but I need to stay below my shoulder level. I can challenge my body with heavier weights but not the weights I used to lift with. I can NOT do two or three classes in a row ó which I used to do like it was nothing. Anything repetitive for a long period of time is challenging.
But you know what? My “competition” body served me so well for so long: through grueling hours of judo practice (so many injuries to recover from); constant pushing-it-to-and-beyond-the limits; many championships and lots of wonderful experiences. I am still doing more than most people can do in one day!
Exercise modification and moderation is not a bad thing (that took a long time to sink in) and by exercising the way I do now I feel GREAT!
Actually, I am finally listening to my body ó most of the time. Top competition, over-exercising, over-using your body is not healthy. Granted, inactivity, not exercising, not challenging your body isn’t healthy for you either. If you can find a place in between that works for you, you have got it made. I wouldn’t want you to have to go through a neck fusion before you start listening to your body.
Contact Ester Marsh at 704-636-0111 or