Initial concerns: Heart and bone

I mentioned previously that I was going to be transparent about my concerns as I prepared for this trek. My major obstacle is an anxiety disorder, but I’ll address that in another post. Today, an update on the two other issues I mentioned: low back injury and cardiac PVCs.

I hurt my back decades ago, resulting in a slipped-forward displacement of a lumbar vertebra, and some small fractures. The condition is called spondylolisthesis, and it exists in about 7% of the US population, commonly caused by an injury in adolescence which doesn’t cause symptoms until adulthood.

I’m right at the cusp where the vertebra has slipped m0re than 50% but less than 75%, which means it doesn’t require surgery but it does cause pain. The disc between the slip is gone, causing bone-on-bone rubbing, and simple things like vacuuming can leave me squirming on the heating pad for relief. I used to run for exercise and competition, but doctors have warned me to stop lest the repetitive pounding causes continued slippage and permanent nerve damage to my legs.

In recent years I’ve consulted with physical therapists, generals docs, and spinal surgeons who have led me to a low-impact fitness routine that helps me battle mid-life bulge but doesn’t keep me in the fitness condition I’d like. A few months ago I learned about a medical specialty called Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (PM&R) which addresses nerve, muscle, bone, and brain conditions resulting in impairment. I’ve tried to schedule with a PM&R doc to see if they could offer any help, but docs in Las Vegas are terribly overbooked, and I can’t get scheduled until 2016.

I’m going to move forward with my current back routine of core exercises, cat-stretches, good posture, and Advil/ice as needed.

The cardiac issue is less concerning; nonetheless it seems like a good idea to check -in with the doc before going higher than I ever have. The upshot is I have PVCs – extra beats that get thrown in and make my heart thump like a frog in my chest. At times they are numerous (15-20) per minute, which has both baffled doctors and disqualified me from donating blood.

Most people have PVCs are and completely unaware of them. They’re totally benign unless they start coming in triplicate, which can cause an uneven arrhythmia. I’ve never experienced that, but don’t want to do something that creates a problem. Thus the talk with the doc.

I’ve had previous cardiac workups which have shown my heart to be in tip-top shape, except for this benign anomaly. On this visit, my local doc said my EKG signal looked perfect and he didn’t have any concerns about high-altitude or strenuous work. He referred me to a cardiac consult just because it’s been a few years since I’ve had one, but I won’t be able to get that done until after I return.

Onward and upward! All is well.

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