Thursday, July 16, 2015

Calamity Jane

Something I haven't talked about here on the blog is my battle with chronic pain. And I feel I should because so many people deal with it and seem to be resigned to living with it. That this is way our bodies are and there is nothing to be done. Mine mostly lives in my low back on the right, in my glutes, hip flexors, IT band, shin, calf, ankle...the whole lower right quadrant pretty much constantly burns like the fires of Mount Doom (you are welcome for that nerdy Lord of the Rings reference). Watching me attempt to get or sit up or roll over are great entertainment. It's akin to a turtle on its back. 

I first injured my back playing volleyball about 15 years ago. One too many hard landings after hitting the ball. The pain was severe, and I 100 percent should have gone to a doctor to get it sorted. I didn't. I just rested until I felt better, then kept doing what I was doing. "Walk it off!" and what have you. This was a terrible mistake. I need to make that extensively clear: If you debilitate yourself to the point of barely being to walk, please go to the doctor. Don't wait. 

So, for 15 years, I have been suffering substantial chronic pain that has been getting consistently worse since having children. Any time I've been injured, I just power through it with the same formula of resting until it stops continously hurting.

Then I hyper-extended my right elbow about a year ago, and more recently, my right shoulder just died on me. "No more pushing, pulling, reaching or lifting," it said. "I'm out."

Injured again. Always an obstacle. How do we not throw in the towel and say, I quit! I frickin' quit, because no matter how hard I try, it doesn't seem to be meant for me.

Now, I have been going to physical therapy since the beginning of the year for my elbow, but things weren't getting better. With the advent of this new shoulder development, my physician recommended I see the head of the practice for acupuncture in addition to continuing the physical therapy, but if we don't see improvements, the orthopedist is the next stop (Read: Surgery). I finally had my first acupuncture appointment last week, and within ten minutes of listening to and looking at me as I lie on the table, the doctor narrowed down the cause of my ails: A misaligned pelvis (caused from the aforementioned bad landing) has forced an entire side of my body to compensate. So for more than a decade, I have been damaging and overdeveloping half my body. He could see how this seemingly simple misalignment could, over time, be the root of all my injuries and pain. Imbalance is the cause and - this is the key here - we can change the effect. (Look for a future post on imbalance soon...)

"In three-to-four weeks, I fully expect you to be feeling much better and closer to pain free."

Pain free. 
Jumping for joy at the prospect
of a pain-free existence.
(Probably shouldn't be jumping, though.)

That elusive phrase, the one I didn't think I had a chance in hell of ever grasping, is now within my reach. There is much I have to do it get there - massage, physical therapy, yoga, acupuncture, pilates - and I had to let go of some goals and stop running, at least for now. And most of the success depends wholly on me. I have to do my stretches and home exercises. I have to show up to appointments. I have to care about myself. 

Since my mother's passing, it has been hard for me to care about much. Grief is tricky that way; you want to wallow and numb your pain. There can be a layer of guilt thrown in for enjoying something, so you figure it's best not to enjoy anything at all. But a life free of pain? A life in which I no longer feel those physical limitations that so quickly translate into mental roadblocks? It's worth caring about. 

I recently noticed that the root of health is heal. (And yes, that is SUPER embarrassing for a self-described etymologist to admit.) As my heart slowly heals from grief and loss, my body is now beginning to heal from 15 years of damage. It is a heart-lightening prospect. It excites me. It is nice to feel excited again.

Cheers to health - may we all continue to work toward our own version of it every day.
Inspire. Motivate. Move.

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