When Kristin Mann first started CrossFit nearly five years ago, she did so at CrossFit Roux in New Orleans. The advantages of CrossFit were massive. Being diabetic, Kristin was able to keep her health in check by working out consistently and it wasn’t long before the exercise regimen became one of her favorite hobbies and a huge part of her life. “I found something that I was pretty good at. I was enjoying it and also seeing growth,” she described. Over the next few years, Kristin began going to CrossFit about 4-5 times per week. “I love the atmosphere and the people. It’s a very supportive environment.”
Cut to May, 2017: One Saturday morning, Kristin woke up in a lot of pain. Her arm was completely numb and she had lost full range of motion in her head and neck. “At first I thought I was having a heart attack,” she explains. “My arm wasn’t moving and my head was sort of stuck. If I moved it out of a certain position, it hurt a lot. It was weird to think that I didn’t have control over a part of my body. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t move my arm.” After a few unnerving minutes, Kristin’s fiance asked if she needed to go to the emergency room. “I don’t know, let me text Jonathan,” she replied.
Kristin was referring to Jonathan Burke, physical therapist and Clinic Director at Therapydia NOLA. Kristin had seen Jonathan a couple of times over the years for little things here and there and she knew him well as a trainer at CrossFit Roux. Despite it being a holiday weekend and although he was away attending a seminar, Jonathan quickly replied, asking Kristin to send him a few videos demonstrating her mobility. Thankfully, he was able to give her enough advice and instruction to get her through the weekend.
“I sent Jonathan a video, he sent me one back. He gave me some basic movements so I could stretch my arm out a little bit. He ended up coming in to work at 5AM the following Monday morning so he could help me.”
It turned out that Kristin had a herniated disc in her cervical spine. One of the scarier elements of the injury was that it wasn’t as if she had been mid-workout and felt something tweak, leading to the numbness and pain. The day prior to waking up with pain, she had gone about her business as usual: she did her workout, went out to dinner, saw friends and then went to bed. Nothing out of the ordinary.
The beginning of her recovery was tough. Kristin spent the first month basically confined to her couch. Once the pain began to subside, she was able to start moving again and with Jonathan’s help, she worked her way up from slow movements to walking to eventually coming back to the gym. Her physical therapy treatment consisted of a lot of exercises, trigger point dry needling and manual therapy. “Eventually I was able to go back to CrossFit but I was modifying everything a whole lot.” As a CrossFit trainer, Jonathan was able to help her out to make sure she didn’t aggravate any of the progress that she had been making during her recovery.
“Jonathan was very persistent that I needed patience and that it would take time and that I would recover.” Kristin was able to put a lot of faith in his word and believed that through doing her exercises, she would get there. “But there were also times that I struggled with it and thought: how long could this take?”
Kristin was incredibly surprised just how difficult it was to come back. With CrossFit being such a huge part of her life, she found that she wasn’t able to lift or perform the exercises that she was used to do doing for so long. That wasn’t going to work for her. With Jonathan’s help and her own resolve, Kristin powered through her recovery even when it was really difficult. For her health and her own personal well-being, Kristin admitted that there were things that she wouldn’t be able to do but she was determined to figure out the things that she could.
Progress Report: Where is she now?
Almost a year later, Kristin has mostly recovered. Not only has she gotten back the full movement of her arm but she’s also been able to gain a little perspective on life and CrossFit:
“Prior to my injury, I wasn’t competing with myself, I was competing with other people. The injury allowed me to take a step back and say, okay, why am I doing this? I’m doing it because I want fitness. It helped me re-prioritize why I was doing CrossFit.”
Kristin is back in action doing CrossFit and finally lifting heavier weights. She just recently started lifting over her head again and still sees Jonathan about once a month to monitor her recovery and to check-in. “I’m so psyched that I’m better.” Kristin is currently planning a week-long bike ride this summer from Germany to Austria. “I told Jonathan: you need to get me in tiptop shape.”
As she continues to progress in her recovery, Kristin maintains an extremely healthy outlook: “At the end of the day, I know that there are things that are way worse that could happen and the fact that I have been able to recover so much, I’m just so grateful for that.”
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