Body Reliability Can Be Underappreciated

"If I were tall enough, I could hang from that frame and stretch my shoulder...." And then my friends grabbed me a chair. Because I *am* that short. (Nevermind the 2 friends who could reach the frame without even trying.) -- (photo by Becky S)
“If I were tall enough, I could hang from that frame and stretch my shoulder….” And then my friends grabbed me a chair. Because I *am* that short. (Nevermind the 2 friends who could reach the frame without even trying.) — (photo by Becky S)

It can be easy to take ones mobility for granted… Unless you are already living with something that curtails your access to reliable activity from your body parts. Some of my friends have varying levels of pain, chronic pain, mobility unpredictability, autoimmune deficiencies, and so on. Some has allergies so life-threatening this affects their mobility.

Until recently, I was not a member of this club.

When I started bellydance in June 2010, it wasn’t long before an hour per week wasn’t enough. Then twice a week, next three times, soon back-to-back classes, my first three hour-long classes in a row, plus rehearsals and performances… All at age of 42-45.

By April 2013 my weekly routine included 11 hours class or rehearsal per week, regular workshops or retreats, and on the high end sometimes a six hours in one day course load at a festival or specialty workshop. I had started running in March 2013, and then in June had to rebuild my schedule from scratch as a teacher. By February 2014, my week included 3-4 nights of classes, teaching 6-7 hours and studying in 1 class. And recently I went to a ten-hours in two-days, five course weekend workshop.

It came crashing to a halt, or more accurately, started sputtering four weeks ago then nearly crashed this morning after a deceptive two day coast.

I had no single incident I can mark as a traumatic event that caused the problem. Probably the fact the I am not getting younger (contrary to any rumors) contributed. Likely my car driver’s seat tweaked some of my posture. I probably should have been weight training or resistance band training my arms and core muscles to maintain my dance schedule. And I likely exasperated things with my sleeping postures.

But all told, something started to tense up in my neck, collarbone region, and right shoulder blade, radiating pain to my right forearm. I sought massage therapy and instruction. I took ibuprofen. I did stretches and pressure point relaxation. I stood in hot showers and soaked in hot tubs. I took it easy and even canceled some classes. I had two nearly pain free days at the end of the week after all the car trouble.

Then at 4 AM this morning, I awoke with excruciating pain in my shoulder. Nothing relieved the pain: standing; lying flat on belly or sides or back; sitting with my feet up, sitting up on the edge of my seat; pacing; stretching. Everything hurt to the point of tears and gasping for breath. There was minor relief with my arm bent over my head, but at 4 AM, I was really too tired to find that comfortable.

By 5:30, quick phone call to my Sisto. I have always joked that she got the “medical words brain” which is pretty cool that her eldest is completing her nursing program in college. She reassured me about how to deal with muscles that have seized up or gone into spasm. By 5:45, it was time for Sweetie to get up for a day of performance gigs. And by 7 AM, I was texting friends who might be able to help.

One friend is a massage therapist and she even put me to rights twice this past month. She also managed to calm me down on the phone and gave me excellent advice.

Then I got ahold of Kim & Kevin. Not only were they available to help, they were planning to be in my neighborhood at 2 PM today. So my morning started with a hot shower, 1000 mg ibuprofen, a banana and coffee, some light pressure point massage from Kim, a dip in the hot tub, and clean clothes and a trip to urgent care. Because by 11 AM, I was now at 7 hours of pain ranging (on a scale of 1 = gee I wish I had coffee to 10 = a bear is actively mauling my face) from constant 7s with spikes to 9 & 10 every 5 minutes.

Kim and I sat in the urgent care waiting room for 80 minutes before I was taken to an exam room. It felt like the same two sets of 5-minute pain waves just kept repeating themselves. I was gasping for breath, occasionally pacing, and regularly in tears. The doctor opted to give me a shot for the pain, which took things down to about a 5 with spikes to 7, enough for an x-ray session.

Nothing obvious showed on the x-rays (I do, in fact, seem to have bones and stuff) so she concluded I am having muscle spasms and prescribed pain killers and muscle relaxers. K&K took me to the pharmacy, I grabbed a quick lunch (hot tea, miso soup, spicy tuna cut roll, and my favorite sushi), then they delivered me home again.

I can breathe normally now since the spikes are never earth shattering. I can actually lie flat again, something I really couldn’t do this morning. I’m probably at about 2 or 3 in pain most of time now, with spikes to 5 or the rare 6. And I plan to pass out with the muscle relaxers soon.

But this entire adventure has put a lot of fear and circumspect into my brain. What if I never fully recover? What if my recovery takes months? Can I build my muscles into reliable tools again? Even figuring out how to write this post, slowly on my phone without moving my shoulder, was a challenge.

It’s not just dance. I do hand sewing. I make hair flowers. I weave. I spin yarn on a drop spindle. I draw. I paint. I work on a computer. I travel. I miss running and training. I miss driving my stick shift and being independent.

Will my body ever be predictable or reliable?

(P.S. Can I just blame this on the IDES OF MARCH…? *grin* Silly sense of humor, I gots it.)