Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My Arm

Yeah, why not. I'm just going to report at length on each aspect of my Greek-god-like physique. If that god is Dionysus. And yes, I realize that there are depictions of Dionysus that look like this:

But I'm more in mind of the version from Disney's Fantasia:

Anyway, it occurred to me in correspondence with a friend over the weekend that while I'd mentioned a couple weeks ago that I'd injured my arm, I never really explained what happened. It's mildly interesting, if only because it's so inexplicable.

Two weeks ago today, I took the kids to Open Swim after lunch and we were there for a couple of hours. Sometime shortly thereafter, I noticed a stiffness in my upper right arm. As I mowed the lawn that afternoon, the stiffness became more pronounced and began to ache. I found I was having difficulty lifting my arm very high, either out in front or to the side. I tried things like grabbing onto the top of my fence and stretching it, but it didn't seem to help and was very painful, so I stopped. I have no idea whether that made it worse or not, but it certainly didn't get any better. Throughout the evening, it stiffened and turned from an ache to pain. And then to intense pain. Agonizing pain. I tried IcyHot - it did nothing. I tried icepacks, which helped a little, but it was like taking a bucketful of water from a full bathtub. Maybe just a cupful. Oh God, it hurt so much.

I know, you're wondering why the heck I didn't go to the emergency room, right? Yeah, me too. All I can say is that it was 8 or 9 PM by the time it started to really, really hurt, and I was averse to dragging my whole family to the ER at that time of the night if it wasn't critically necessary. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to die or suffer irreperable damage to my arm, so it was just a matter of managing the pain. If it had kept getting worse or if it hadn't been any better by morning, I would have gone. I will say that trying to get to sleep that night was incredibly frustrating - there was simply no position I could sit or lie in that was remotely comfortable enough to sleep. Eventually, I got by with Tylenol and a series of ice packs. It wasn't the most restful night ever, but I survived it.

Over the following week - almost exactly to the hour - my arm got incrementally better. In fact, it was remarkable the way it seemed to improve by about 15% per day, both in terms of decreased pain and in how high I could raise my arm. By last Tuesday, it was completely healed, enough that I was even able to go to karate and complete the workout. I still get stiff twinges now and then, but it's close enough.

So what caused it, you might wonder. So do I, because I'm honestly not sure. I've narrowed it down to the following possibilities:

a) Sometime Tuesday morning, my daughter got the mouthpiece stuck in her trumpet. It's happened before, and the official solution is to take it to the music store where we lease it, and they remove it with a special tool. But it really, really looks like you ought to be able to just yank it out, if only you pull hard enough. So I huffed and I puffed and, well, you get the idea. I was using both hands, plus my legs and back and that sucker still wouldn't come out. We ended up having to take it in anyway. So it's possible I pulled or tore something at that time, but I consider it the least likely cause.

b) I mentioned above that the kids and I went to Open Swim for a couple of hours. It was my first time in the pool in a year or so, and while I'm a capable swimmer, it's easy to imagine that going from "zero to full breast stroke" all at once might have ripped something. I wasn't swimming competitively or anything, but I was using muscles that hadn't seen that sort of action in a while. I consider this the second least (or most) likely cause.

c) At one point in the pool, I picked up my youngest son and tossed him. It was an awkward angle and he's getting heavy for a little kid, so I might have pulled something doing that. I suppose I consider this the most likely cause, though I didn't actually feel any discomfort at the time. However, since I felt no snapping, crackling or popping sensations at any point during the day, I have to go with which activity would seem to have had the highest chance of really messing up my arm, and this one seems like the best candidate.

d) Something else - it may be that something I didn't even think about or notice at the time was the true culprit. I'll never know for sure. I include this possibility if only because none of the ones above are sure-things. I truly don't know what caused my arm to inflame with white-hot searing iron pokers of pure agony.

So that's the story of how my arm went from fine to "It hurts, it hurts, somebody please shoot me!!" to fine once again. All I can say is that it sure was lucky all my karate dojos were closed that week, as there's no way I could have exercised rigorously in that condition. I'm glad it's over.

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