My name is Grant Thomas, I live in Utah working in the semi conductor industry as a mask designer. I have worked in the hi-tech industry for 37 plus years, most of the time has been spent behind a computer or desk; needless to say this doesn’t give me much exercise. Because I have a sedentary career I try to stay physically active as much as possible.
I have been active most of my life, I wrestled and played football in high school, I skied, competed in bodybuilding, played basketball, softball and most recently lifted weights. However, as I got older my bones started hurting, my shoulders would hurt all the time and the range of motion in my shoulders was decreasing; so I backed off weight lifting and started doing cardio, boring! I started looking for something different, I was looking at taking a martial art. Then I saw a banner for Krav Maga outside a building I drove by frequently, after checking it out I decided to give it a try.
Since starting Krav Maga I am in the bests shape I have been in a long time. I dropped over 30 lbs in the first 8 months of training. But most of all I am better able to defend myself in a fight. Krav Maga combines fitness and self defense together for what I think is the ultimate work out. I thought about taking a formal martial art but I didn’t want all the extra stuff that goes along with learning a martial art. From my first lesson with Krav Mega I learned how to defend myself, It didn’t require learning any katas, meditation, etc. Krav Mega seemed to be what I needed;
- It gave me an excellent workout which was not boring.
- Forced me to reach more and stretch my shoulders than I was doing with lifting weights.
- Taught me how to defend myself.
Going in All the Way with Krav Maga
After testing into level two I decided that Krav Maga was what I wanted to do, I am going to continue to do Krav as long as possible. I always planned on being a personal trainer when I left my current occupation so when I saw there was a class for training level one instructors, I decided I would take it and work on becoming a self defense instructor in Krav Maga.
In Krav Mega you can choose to become an instructor and teach one level down from your current level. So I attended the level one instructor class which was three days of intense training.
Those Pesky Shoulders
After completing Krav Instructor Training I started increasing my training intensity. level testing would be coming up in about two months and I was going to test into level three. Then try to test into level 4 at the following level test, level testing occurs about every six months. It was an ambitious goal but I was going after it anyway. After awhile I begin having pain in my left shoulder and all the way down my left arm. I thought I pulled a shoulder or back muscle since I have been problems with the range of motion in my shoulders. I continued to train thinking the pain would eventually go away but it didn’t. I made an appointment with a shoulder doctor who took x-rays of my shoulders. He told me I had osteoarthritis and said I had the shoulders of an 80 year old and I should stop participating in Krav Maga. He sent me to therapy for my shoulders and my shoulders started to feel better: the therapist would stretch my shoulders and make me do some exercises. The therapy seemed to work, the pain decreased and I had some increased mobility in my shoulders. However I still had some shoulder and arm pain along with numbness and weakness in my left arm and hand; the pain was minor while I was up but I could only lay down for about 10 minutes before I had extreme pain, I had to sleep sitting up in a chair for most of the night. I continued to go to therapy hoping the other pain and numbness would go away but it didn’t.
The Real Cause
The Physical Therapists checked out my spine and noticed where the pain was greatest, he said it appeared to be located around my C7 vertebra and recommended a I visit Ryan D. Church, DNP at St. Marks Comprehensive Spine Center. I visited the doctor and he checked me out and determined I should have an MRI, he suspected the cause of the symptoms was Cervical Radiculopathy
which is the clinical description of pain and neurological symptoms resulting from any type of condition that irritates a nerve in the cervical spine (neck).
The results of the MRI revealed the following:
- Retrolisthes (backward slippage of one vertebra onto the vertebra immediately below) at C4 and C5. This was from an older injury as the bones had already started to fuse.
- Bulging disk at C5 and C6.
- Herniated disk at C6 and C7.
- In addition there was stenosis which is the growth of osteophytes commonly referred to as bone spurs; although they are flat and don’t have sharp points as the common term implied.
All of the above were pinching the nerves and causing the pain and numbness. Dr. Church indicated this was one of the worst cases he has seen and recommended a neurosurgeon. The neurosurgeon recommended an
Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF) which would fused my c4-c7 vertebrae. He said I had some older injuries in addition to the latest which was the herniated C6,C7 disk and I had stenosis. He said I had a 56 year old spine. With the wear and tear from: car wrecks, I have been rear ended twice, and years of wrestling, football, basketball, softball and skiing; it was basically 56 years of living and playing. He said he would fix it all, and he did! Not only did the surgery relieve my current pain and numbness, but I noticed the minor pains I had lived with for years, also disappeared. I feel better then I have felt in a long time. For me the surgery was worth it. And the neurosurgeon was great and I would recommend him to anyone needing spinal surgery; his name is Dr. James C. Pingree at Wasatch Neurosurgery and and Spine Associates. I went home the day after the surgery. The doctor said I should be able to assume most normal activity after three months. But there were things I could do during the three months, mostly walking and I could lift things under 10 lbs. After the three months I slowly began to start doing Krav Maga again and after six months I started sparring in the eight month I was fully engaged in Krav Maga training again; however I wasn’t doing much in Jiu-Jitsu because of the limited range of motions in my shoulders. After doing Jiu-Jitsu my shoulders would ache and because the class was at night the pain kept me from getting a good nights sleep.
Back to My Shoulders
Now that my neck was taken care of I turned my attention back to my shoulders and the doctor’s diagnosis about me having osteoarthritis. After reading up on osteoarthritis it seemed to explain the pain I had noticed with my shoulders mentioned above. It made sense to me because over the previous fifteen years I had noticed a reduced range of motion with my shoulders. It hurt to do overhead work and it was difficult to reach over my head or behind my back. The doctor suggested I stop doing my current activity, he said that my the range of motion I have is about all I could get and the only thing I could do is to have a shoulder surgery or replacement. I didn’t like the doctor’s attitude so I got the name of another doctor from my physical therapist. I was planning to visit the doctor after my recovery from my ACDF surgery. However I did not want to go through another surgery if I didn’t need to, and since the therapy seemed to increase the range of motion in my shoulders, I would try to solve the shoulder problem in a non surgical method. Physical therapy seemed to work but I didn’t have the time or money to go to therapy two to three times a week. There had to be something else to try, and there was, and it was Yoga. I started doing Yoga and it has made an improvement not only in my shoulders but in my whole body. I have more overall mobility now than I have had in a long time. This will be a topic of future posts.
Hopefully, you can get the just of what this blog will be about and that is why I shared the above story about my experience: because for me it was a major revelation, it made me rethink what I have been doing and what I planned to do in the future. And hopefully it may help others in similar situations. This was the first time I faced the limitations of my age and physical abilities. For the first time I was not able to do something that I should have been able to do and wanted to do.
I think everyone has a time like this, or will have a time such as this. When you realize you are not as young as you use to be, and it isn’t so much that it happens at the time of realization, it had been occurring for a while, rather it was at this time when it finally hits you straight in the face and you can no longer ignore it. It is at this time that you must decide what you are going to do.
- Are you going to accept it and give up?
- Are you going to fight and rage against it?
- Are you going to use the experience to change what you are doing, change your preconceived notions of what you should be doing and what you can do and find a path to accomplish your goals?
At this point I refuse to use my age or my physical limitations as an excuse not to accomplish my goals. Rather, I view my physical limitations as obstacles which are to be overcome on the path to that which I want to accomplish. I do not view my age as a limitation at all, for my age has given me wisdom and knowledge which I didn’t have when I was younger. For me my age is something to be valued and it makes me valuable.-I think our modern society is too quick to discard the wisdom associated with age. Just because someone doesn’t know LOL or OMG doesn’t mean they don’t have something to offer.-The problem with rage is too many times it involves action without any thought; and just doing something to do something isn’t the best solution. I am choosing the third option and that is what will be the subject of the bulk of my postings.