It’s interesting in life how many things God lets us go through and how many He saves us from. I know that God has taken me out of situations many a time to protect me from one thing or another and I’ve been able to look back and see how He was in control and everything worked for good. Then there are other times where I know He’s letting me go through things to see how He can work for good in the moment. And this is where I am right now. After hurting my shoulder (although, according to my physiotherapist, I had hurt it a long time ago – the extra pull caused by carrying heavy grocery four blocks just topped it) last Thursday I was reminded of the verses in 1 Corinthians 12 that speak about body parts and how they all work together. Yes, I know Paul is talking here about the church of Christ, but I see how it makes sense to use the body and how it all has to work together. 1 Corinthians 12:26 is the one that stands out the most for me these days. And it’s so true. “If one part suffers, all the parts suffer with it, and if one part is honoured, the other parts are glad.”
I can totally see how that makes sense. Since I hurt my shoulder, my neck is mad at me (if body carts could have emotions…just bear with me here, okay?) and since my shoulder hurts and my neck screams bloody murder every time I turn it too fast, I also have a headache almost all the time. Now, when a person has a headache all the time, and wakes up in the night due to pain, the brain slows down due to exhaustion. Your center of balance is off when you lack sleep, so you can put pressure on one leg more than the other until you correct. Then there’s the tightness in my neck which can (hasn’t yet) become so bad in some instances that it could actually affect vision. Pain can actually cause blackouts and vision can be blurry as a result of the brain trying to compensate for whatever the heck is wrong with your body.
Another cool thing I learned after one session of physio (and probably would have occurred to me earlier if I hadn’t been so sleep deprived this past week) is that when a muscle is torn or badly damaged, the body will flood the area with fluid. This fluid is what causes the swelling, but here’s something super cool. It’s a cushion. It actually protects the muscle against further damage that could happen on the outside of the body. Your body is going, “Hey! Something’s wrong here! We’ve got a wounded member! Hurry and protect it before any more damage can occur!” Now, that may seem kind of pointless considering the damage was done internally, but then I thought of it from a medical professional’s standpoint. If you see swelling, you know exactly, the precise place, where the damage is. So, the body is trying to protect itself while letting a professional know where the damage is, so the professional can target the area and start the healing process. It boggles my mind. I won’t go all crazy on evolution versus creation here (because anyone who knows me already knows my view on the subject) except to say that a body that can communicate that effectively among its parts never evolved. That, my friends, is incredible intelligent design from a God who loves His creation.
Okay, so back to my journey. When I was first diagnosed, a few days ago and much later than I should have been because I was being stubborn and thought my body would heal itself, much like it does when I get a bruise or cut, the doctor called it a repeated stress injury. I’m calling it RSI for short. The first thing I thought about wasn’t physical stress, though that’s what she meant when I described the symptoms to her. No. The first thing I thought about was emotional stress. I think I was in pain emotionally long before I became in pain physically. See, my husband’s job ended under less than pleasant circumstances, and rather suddenly. What caused the pain wasn’t the fact that he no longer works as a youth pastor in a position he loved and where we both saw God moving in the lives of at risk youth in our neighbourhood. It was sad to think of no longer working in the position but what really caused pain was the fact that we now have to say goodbye to a congregation of people who have brought healing and strength to us emotionally, socially and spiritually for the past five years and nine months. It would have been six years in January.
My husband and I have gone through a grieving process as we struggle to come to terms with decisions made that will alter our futures significantly. Our hearts break as we think of friendships formed and bonds built that we will probably begin to lose over time, simply because we won’t be in that church anymore and people have busy lives. Then there’s the teens we used to see on a weekly basis. It’s hard, but we’re trying our best to trust God will take care of them in our absence. After the official announcement was made to the congregation that my husband’s partnership through Youth Unlimited was being dissolved, people called and we talked. And after every conversation I hung up and burst into tears. So, I know quite a bit about emotional pain. And the stress of an unknown future is definitely a repeated stress injury. This isn’t the first time we’ve looked at each other and gone, “Okay, God. Now what?” It’s been a little about seven years since the last moment, but the feelings are still fresh.
This brings me back to the physical RSI. Over almost two years of working as a receptionist and putting unnecessary strain on my neck due to hunching over a cordless and making appointments, I pushed my body to the breaking point by carrying groceries four blocks that probably shouldn’t have been carried even one. It was one of the moments where I probably should have waited until a later date when my husband could drive me and we could get the groceries transported in a smarter manner. Even as the muscles in my arms were screaming and (apparently) the trapeze muscle (learned that in physio today!) in my left shoulder was being pushed to the breaking point, I was telling myself how dumb this was. And then thinking how wonderful it would be to have one of those carts on wheels to carry groceries in and wondering if I could ask for such a thing for my birthday in November. When I got home, I felt achy but not much worse than I usually do after carrying heavy groceries.
Then, Friday I woke up achy. By Friday afternoon I was actually on the phone with my doctor, checking to see if I could make an appointment because the pain was building. By Saturday morning I had begun taking meds I found lying around (I know. Not smart, but when you’re desperate…) called Back Aid or ALVA which apparently are great for back pain. One major side affect though, is they make you a bit loopy. So, I started to feel kind of outside my body for a good portion of the day. But even they weren’t helping and I knew by this point that I needed a muscle relaxant. The fact that I couldn’t turn my head as far as it would normally go anymore without blinding pain (literally seeing spots) from my shoulder up over top of my head, and my ear was burning, was a pretty good indication that this was muscular and a relaxant was my best bet. That, and a friend who’s house I visited for their housewarming party that afternoon, suggested it.
So, I get some muscle relaxants/painkillers and take two before my third event of the day. Oh. Did I forget to mention that I went to a party with some friends from 10am-12pm, had a housewarming party from 3pm-5pm at a friend’s house and then a birthday party at another friend’s house from 6:30 to almost 9? Yeah. It was one of those days. And on top of everything, the pain was messing with my temperature so that I was running a low grade fever by the time we got to the last party. Now I have muscle relaxants that are making me feel loopy, back meds that are making me feel nauseous and I feel a lot like my neck is broken. That feeling like your neck won’t hold up your neck because you’ve probably cracked something? Yeah. That was me from Saturday through to Tuesday night when I finally got to a doctor who diagnosed me. She got me on Robaxacet (I adore the man or woman who invented that), gave me a few neck exercises and recommended a headset.
Then she recommended the one thing I think may finally work: physiotherapy. Oh man. Physiotherapy. What an incredible, wonderful profession. No. I’m not saying that after just one session I’m healed, but I am saying I can already see that this is what will work. Just being able to lie still and have all my muscles begin to really relax for the first time in a week was such a gift. We started off with a couple small stretches and then she asked me to turn around. This is when I discovered I was really swollen. I guess I never saw it because I didn’t know what to look for, but it was obvious to a professional. First thing I found out was that heating pads were a definite no-no. This only added to the inflammation. So, cold packs are the way to go. Got it.
Then my physiotherapist (her name is Daisy. A nice, relaxing sounding name) told me to lie down on my front and she pushed on a few pressure points. The ones that made me almost come up off the table seemed to confirm her suspicions that I’d really done a number on myself. Later she would push on those same points again but all the stuff she did up to that point made it much easier to take. So, she asked me to lie on my side, went over how to sleep at night to reduce strain on my neck (one pillow under my head, shoulder right on the bed with no hollow between pillow and neck, one pillow under my left arm so I could lie on my right side since that’s the undamaged side, and keep the weight of my arm up so it doesn’t pull on my neck) and then put cool gel all over the area. The gel warmed up and soothed me so much I almost fell asleep. Then she put the electrodes on. I’m not going to lie. Just the thought of what she was about to do made my muscles tighten up all over again.
I guess I figured I was in for electric shock therapy. Good thing Daisy has such a good bedside manner because she put me at ease right away. I asked her all kinds of questions and she alleviated my fears when she said there would be an electric current running into my muscles to stimulate them but not electric shock. She got the machine running and then told me to tell her when I felt I couldn’t handle anymore current. I asked her how I would tell and she said, “Oh, you’ll know.” And she was right. It felt like spiders with metal feet were running up and down my neck at first. Then, when we got the setting just right, it was kind of indescribable. I’ll try though. Picture a cat with metal nails. This cat is kneading your muscles over and over again in a pattern but it never breaks the skin. And just when you’ve settled into the rhythm and think you might be able to actually get a nap in (except your muscles are still hurting so you can’t actually fall asleep) your physiotherapist comes back in and says, “Okay. Let’s try a higher setting.” And then you have to get used to that. And this one comes with jumping muscles.
Seriously. Weirdest feeling ever. The electricity is shooting into your muscles at a higher voltage or amperage or whatever and now your muscles are acting like you’re working out. Instead of laying there taking it, they’re now starting to rebel a bit. And the whole time you’re thinking, I might start screaming because should hurt but at the same time you’re wondering how long these muscles will jump for. And before you know it, they’ve stopped jumping and you didn’t end up screaming or giggling because of the weird sensation. And the voltage or amperage or whatever is still at the same level but it seems your body has adjusted.
Then comes the fun part. My physiotherapist takes the electrodes off and wipes all the lovely goopy gel off my neck and tells me to move to my back, which I do carefully, because there’s only a towel between her and my bra, because apparently when you’re getting neck physio, they need to make contact with your skin. Who knew? So I get onto my back and she begins to jiggle my neck back and forth and then…oh my goodness! It’s like she’s trying to pull my head right off my body! I lay there as ‘relaxed’ as possible, trying not to resist, but it goes against human nature to just let a person practically rip your head off, figuratively or physically.
And then…huge sigh. We’re done. I sit up and feel a bit woozy because I basically had a workout laying down and all the blood has rushed out of my head, causing a light headedness that goes away shortly thereafter. She shows me a couple exercises and tells me to do them every two hours plus make sure I get an ice pack on my neck for 15 to 20 minutes every day. Then, we’re done. I make two more appointments and my physiotherapist says she wants to see me for four more weeks, twice a week. Whew! What a journey!
My journey through pain isn’t remotely done, but I’m learning a lot and have to say, it’s a journey I don’t mind taking. I know I’m going to be stronger and more knowledgeable about how to avoid such injuries in the future. As for the emotional pain, that’s a journey I could live without, but I know if I trust God, He’ll show me sometime down the line exactly why my husband and I had to go through what we’re going through right now.
Well, that’s it from me for now. Off to do some exercises and figure out this new pillow thing. I’ll check back in soon. Thanks for reading!