On Saturday, August 15, I sustained my first hiking injury of the season. Actually, it was the first hiking injury I've had in a long time - and the worst.
Here's what happened: I was hiking in the Sandia mountains with my hiking buddies (taking the Cedar Crest trail to the Tree Springs trail - if anyone cares) and was in the last leg of the hike, approaching the end - maybe 15 or 20 minutes from the parking lot. I was walking down the trail when suddenly my right foot hit a rock or tree root. Normally, when my feet trip on something, I just stumble and recover quickly. Not this time. I was caught completely off guard and fell forward, suddenly - apparently the tree root trapped my right foot and I couldn't disentangle it in time to recover. I only had enough time to put my arms forward and grunt "oh crap!". My belly - just below the sternum - and my chest took the brunt of the fall. I stood up right away but I had a very hard time breathing. When the lady in front of me asked what happened, I could barely speak; there wasn't enough strength in my lungs to speak in my normal voice. I sounded like a ninety year old man.
Before long I had to sit down because I was getting dizzy (shock was setting in). The hikers behind me caught up and a couple of the ladies offered first aid. I had a scrapped knee and a couple cuts on the palm of my left hand. Anti-bacterial spray and band-aids were quickly applied. The main problem was my chest. It started hurting pretty bad. Especially when I tried to take deep breaths. We quickly determined that I suffered some bruised ribs since broken ribs would have been an order of magnitude more painful.
I spent maybe a total of 15 minutes sitting down and I was ready to continue the last leg of the hike, which took another 15 minutes or so. I even had lunch with some of my fellow hikers after the hike. I more or less felt fine, just a constant low-end pain in my abdomen.
The following Sunday was spent at home convalescing. It hurt a lot to move around. Getting out of bed sucked as it required my abdomen muscles which rubbed against the bruised area.
This is not the first time I bruised a rib and I doubt it will be the last. Back in the late nineties, I bruised a rib when I was crewing for a hot air balloon. I went to the doctor and he said "you got a bruised rib". Treatment was plenty of Ibuprofin and rest.
The next time I bruised my rib was back in 2006. I even blogged about it in this blog entry.
I didn't go to the doctor that time and I saved myself about $10 in a co-pay fee and about an hour in the waiting room.
It took only two weeks to recover last time. I'm hoping it won't take much longer this time around. However, it's been nine days since the incident and I'm still in pain. The good news is that the pain is lower than before and I am able to do more things (like bend more freely with less pain and lift heavier objects). Increased activity helps too but there is a price to pay. Saturday I went hiking. I felt pretty bad early in the morning but during the hike I felt good and felt good the rest of the day. Yesterday I went bike riding and I felt much better. This morning, however, I felt like crap: the pain around the bruise site was much worse. That also might be because I was in bed longer Sunday night, where I slept for 7 or 8 hours. Saturday, I only slept for four or five hours. Less time in bed = less time putting pressure on my ribcage.
This morning, like I said earlier, the pain was worse. Ibuprofin only ameliorates it. I have heard that chronic pain can cause depression in patients. I can attest to that from firsthand knowledge. Sitting at my desk with that constant feeling in my chest does not do my spirits any good. Fortunately, simply getting out of the office to walk around or take a lunch does wonders for me.
If I'm lucky, only one more week of this pain thing to go. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.