Apr 18, 2012

Marathon Swimmers - Deciphering between cervical neck impingement and cardiac disease

The true test of ones resilience. Listen to your body and get a full stress test.

I recently took a breather from my 2011 English Channel attempt and training to let my cervical neck impingement calm down to some 'normal state' as a test to see if swimming itself, and the resulting wear and tear on my body was the cause of my symptoms - warm tingling sensations between my shoulder blades, across the outside of my shoulders and neck. 

After these symptoms calmed down, and I began to really listen to my body, something else was amiss. These sensations when I exercised even a little bit were now also in my left front chest pectoral region and sometimes dropped down to my inside left and right elbow or even to the inside palm of my hand. A burning sensation at the back of my throat from time to time seemed linked with the amount of food I ate and led me to discuss this with my doctor, who is very good and put me on a standard OTC prescription for GERD. He already had known about the neck issues and we all thought this was it. 

During my EC training I had taken heavy loads of NSAID's and then switched to Celebrex for the cervical neck impingement pain and assumed this and the intense nutritional food loading, supplements, highly concentrated carbo diet we marathon swimmers consume probably led to tearing up my stomach lining. So we went merrily along and as my annual physical came along plus turning 50 years old we decided to get a full stress test. 

WOW a big surprise was waiting for me. 

After 13 minutes on the tread mill, my aerobic capacity and conditioning would not allow my heart rate to max out (I only got up to 148 out of the prescribed 170 I recall) at the prescribed maximum so they kept going and effectively ran me into the floor. Finally giving in (thinking that Nurse Hatchet & Attila the Hun were running the machine I am a swimmer, not a runner) I stopped. 

A testament to my training, my resting heart rate after one minute was back to 72. But in those 13 plus minutes they detected a flutter and moments later saw the telltale evidence on the X ray scope that I had some cardiac event.

 Referencing my earlier blog posts on cervical neck impingement issues, I want to share my near miss and trio of symptomatic cross-references between my newly diagnosed cardiac 'walking angina' which I will undergo an angiogram procedure this Friday for complete evaluation and the earlier reported cervical neck problems (c 4-7).

What is relevant to the marathon swimming community is the overlap of symptoms between cardiac situations, GERD and cervical neck impingement's and ignoring these in favor of assuming its the training and bio-mechanical stress on your body, DON'T!.

All result in discomfort, tingling, a fuzzy warm sensations across the same area as noted above I have learned. For me personally, I would not describe this as 'pain' but then again as a marathon swimmer pain in these areas from training, age and competition masks goes with the territory.

So Friday with my health care professionals leading the way, I embark on a journey that will take me to the 'heart of the matter' no doubt testing my resilience along the way then to cervical neck repairs perhaps with an eye on returning to the English Channel and open water swimming.

The Daily News of Open Water Swimming: The Paradox Of Exercise: Don MacDonald pointed out statistics to English Channel swimmers that indicate endurance athletes who exercise for 3 hours or more have an ...