The muscles around the inside of my left elbow ached.
They ached with a steady pain that felt like a prizefighter had laid into me until his glove wielded to the fiber and tissue under my skin. It was a constant, weighty pressure, but I could move my arm without issue. Up, down, around, grab, push, pull, stretch.
I shook it off. Must have slept on it the wrong way, I thought.
That was in June.
In the weeks that followed, some days brought an ache mild and barely noticeable. Other days, my arm felt like a knotted beach towel being used in a tug of war.
After a few weeks, my index finger periodically started to tingle on the verge of sleep. Some days, there seemed to be some unseen swelling that put pressure behind the nail. Other times, it felt fine.
Doc Bollywood II (yes, a sequel -- the first Doc Bollywood moved elsewhere without even a word to her favorite part-time panic attack victim) initially diagnosed carpel tunnel related strain causing a pinched nerve. I assumed as much, having had a similar issue with my right arm a few years ago. That one lacked the pain but heaped on the numbness and tingling in my index finger. It took a few months to resolve itself, mostly with rest.
So I rested.
I popped Motrin and all its generic variations like vintage House on a Vicodin binge. On occasion, I’d dip into the special stash of codeine-enhanced ibuprofen My Love had brought home from a London pharmacy. Bless those wacky Brits and their socialized medicine! But even those happy pills didn’t seem to make much of a difference.
The pain remained, and started migrating like a drunken Canada goose. One day, my shoulder. The next, my neck. Then my forearm. The intensity and location changed daily.
I iced, I heated, I immobilized, I bandaged, I supported. I used enough self-adhesive heat patches that I would sometimes find rectangle patches of shirt lint on various places that I had failed to scrub hard enough in the showers.
I got massaged and chiropractored by professionals. I received electric muscle and nerve stimulation from amateurs (they are morticians by trade, so I hoped they may know something about treating the dead). This helped for days here and there, but the ache and tingling and numbness never completely left.
It felt worse when I sat. At the kitchen table, in the car and especially at my computer – something not being helped by habits of Web surfing, writing and rewriting, and, finally, tackling a feisty online program meant to help me do the entire layout of the Things school yearbook.
Still most days, I could ignore it enough that I could go about my business. Until I couldn’t any longer.
That’s when I started spending 30 minutes a night trying to adjust my pillows to minimize the pain and tingling, which had started periodically spasming from the back of my lower left shoulder blade down to my fingertips. Then I’d wake up at 3 or 4 in the morning and spend another 30 minutes trying to remember how I got into that first relatively pain-free position.
So last month, I shut down as much as possible. Limited extracurricular activities online – Facebooking, tweeting and, as you’ve noticed, blogging.
I finally realized I was past the point of helping myself when every time I Googled “arm pain,” the only thing that kept coming up was “you’re having a heart attack – seek medical advice, IDIOT!” and even I knew that wasn’t right.
So, I went back to Doc Bollywood II. I asked her to stick me in a MRI chamber so we could find the problem and get it the hell out of my body.
But insurance companies won’t let you do that without first seeing a physical therapist, she said.
Obamacare, I’m so disappointed.
Sixty-five tortuous minutes, my therapist P.T. Babem figured out every possible subtle and not-so-subtle way to aggravate my arm. Then she pulled out the rubbery yellow and red model of a spine.
“I think you have a slighted herniated disk near the top, right about here,” she said. “I think you’re not too bad off.”
So now for an hour twice a week and 20 minutes the other days, I’m stretching rubber bands, leaning through door frames, laying on rolled up dish towels and generally yanking my arms and necks in opposing directions.
And things seem to be finally getting better. P.T. Babem has put an end-of-March deadline on me being pain free. (“You have to be, because I’m leaving for a new job them,” she said.)
There you have it. I’m back.