Monday 17 June 2013

Health: Exercise, Kinesiology, and Trying to find my Groove

When I run across the expression "in the groove" or "finding your groove", I can't help thinking of the 1998 film "How Stella Got Her Groove Back" based on the book by Terry McMillian. I'm old enough to remember when "The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)" first came out by Simon & Garfunkel. (1966!) However, the connection between groove and health isn't for me just about a state of mind, it is about a body part, the bicipital groove.

One of the many self-infected injuries of last year involved yanking one of the tendons in my left arm out of place. It was out of place for months without me knowing about the injury but more importantly, my G.P. and another doctor in emergency, while correctly determining I had not torn my rotator cuff, failed to diagnose this little problem, the subluxation of the tendon. Subluxation is a medical term meaning out of place.

How did this happen? Surprise, surprise, this problem turns out to more common than I had imagined. Baseball players, weight lifters, tennis players, golfers, etc. all may be susceptible to this injury. When you lift something, the biceps are contracting to bend the arm. Lift something too heavy or stretch the arm too far and there is the risk the tendon is either pulled out of its proper position or the tendon could be damaged or detached. Ouch. My research has shown that with age, body parts like tendons may deteriorate and suddenly and unexpectedly problems crop up where once there were none. One day, you're on a trip and you reach up to the overhead storage to get your carry on bag and your tendon pops out or worse, you tear it. Ouch again.

The biceps muscle, as the name implies, consist of two heads. The lower part is joined to the forearm by a single tendon attached to the radius. (There are two bones in the forearm: the radius and the ulna.) The upper part splits into two parts with the long head and the short head connecting the muscle to the shoulder. The short head crosses in front of the shoulder joint while the long head sits in the bicipital groove of the upper end of the humerus, the single bone of the upper arm. You see what happens? You have a health issue and you learn all sorts of things about medical science that believe me, you really would have liked to skip.

The Magician
Before this past year, the quintessential life upset, I was gloriously blessed with good health. I was traipsing through life ignorant of most things medical. Have yourself an issue, like a really big honkin' issue and you start finding out about things you didn't even know existed.

Landon, the kinesiologist, had me put my arm out straight then bend it at the elbow pointing up. He pushed my elbow slightly inwards (abduction) so my forearm was at a bit of an angle, then pushed down on my arm close to the elbow. I couldn't resist his pushing and my arm easily fell. He dug his fingertips into the front of my shoulder and felt around. Telling me to take a deep breath, Landon pulled something. I didn't feel any pain.

Landon retested my arm. This time, I could resist him pushing down on my arm. In fact, he couldn't push my arm down. It felt like my strength had shot up a thousand percent. I was stunned.

It turns out that kinesiology is the study of the body movements, the mechanics of the body. Our bodies are, after all, machines. They are biological machines. We don't consist of gears and levers per se, but we do have component parts that mesh together to work as a cohesive whole. Landon works to get the various parts of the machine back in working order.

If I have learned one thing in going to see Landon, it's that we all may be suffering from mechanical problems but don't know it. My tendon being out of the bicipital groove? I had no idea. I carried on living my life but was completely unaware that something was wrong. Landon explained that our bodies will attempt to heal themselves and do a pretty good job at it. However, from time to time, it can't quite heal itself so it will then adapt to the condition. We may have tendons out of place or bones not quite seated properly and yet we continue to live our lives. We may suffer from odd pains. We may have a certain weakness in a limb. But overall, it isn't enough to completely stop us from going about our day. Of course, these problems over the course of years may eventually grow into something more substantial but for the moment, out of sheer ignorance, we may be unaware of the gravity of the situation. Then again, even if we think something is wrong, who to you go to who can knowledgeably assess and deal with the issue?

In the past year, I have visited a number of professionals (neurologist, sports medicine specialist, chiropractor, massage therapist, acupuncturist) and walked away with an incomplete diagnosis or gone through an ineffectual remedial treatment. If anything, my injury has shown me in a frightening manner that getting my body back into shape has for the most part been left up to my body to heal itself. If I thought I was going to walk into a doctor's office, undergo some treatment, then walk out a well man, I was dreaming in Technicolour. It's been over a year and I am still fighting to get back on my feet. I may have stopped taking pain medication on a daily basis last August, but regaining my mobility and my strength has turned into some sort of rest of my life health plan.

On top of it, I do not know how much of a factor my age is. Landon tells me to not worry about the aches and pains of exercising or doing stuff as it is all perfectly normal. Sounds good but Landon is 35 and I'm 60. Does he heal better and faster than me? But more importantly, I have worked out all my life. I'm not a health nut but I have always exercised, stretched, and jogged for over 45 years. I know the difference between your normal aches and pains and something which is an injury. Unfortunately, this time around injury has manifested itself as something very very substantial and very very persistent. As I said, I have suffered from good health all my life. What a surprise to have an injury which lasts longer than a week or two.

The longest I have ever been out of commission was when I was 18-years-old and broke a bone in my foot. I had to wear a cast for six weeks. My current condition started on April 7, 2012 and I am still dealing with the fallout. (I would trade this past year for six weeks in a cast any day of the week!) Then again, I've wondered if this is really the fallout of my original injury or if this is the accumulation of a lifetime of living. I've heard tell that everyone can look forward to health issues later in life and maybe, at the age of 60, this is my later in life.

Honestly though, I don't feel 60 and I don't feel old. (What the hell does old feel like anyway?) Once in a while, I have a feel good moment and I say that I'm firing on all cylinders. The other week I did my isometric exercises, did a resistance band routine, went to the gym and lifted weights then ran three kilometres. That was a euphoric moment when I said to myself that I felt great and everything was close to being back to normal. Now my right shoulder is mucked up and I've had to stop all weight training and my left knee is wrecked and I'm having trouble walking never mind jogging. Gee-sus H. K-rist. One step forward, two steps back.

I concluded a couple of weeks ago that I am not completely out of the woods. I booked therapy sessions once a week for the next two months in an effort to deal with these issues and ensure that my body remains in good condition. Health is everything and health has turned into my number one preoccupation or should I say obsession? Without health, you can't do jack squat. I'm willing to exercise. I'm not asking for a free ride. I am not expecting a miracle drug, a one-shot treatment, or somebody waving a magic wand. I am willing to work. But most importantly, I want hope. I would like the idea, however slim, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and it's not a train.

Psychology and Health
Is our mental well-being connected to our health? If you are suffering from issues, even illness, are you feeling good? I mean are you happy?

I think the answer to that question is pretty obvious. The answer is a resounding no. Ever since my own health issue cropped up, I can emphatically state that my quality of life dropped off considerably. Living wasn't fun; living was hell. Chronic pain meant that each day was an ordeal, not something to look forward to. Even though I'm much, much better, I am still having on-going issues which weigh heavily on me.

2013. Spring. The start of jogging season. As I have done for decades, I start slowly with the idea of building myself up to my usual summer routine of doing my route of 5.5 kilometres (3.42 miles). I get up to a couple of clicks (kilometres) and am feeling good about my progress when my left knee starts to act up and I have to stop.

I work out with resistance bands for four months and am feeling great. I'm making progress; I'm ready for the next step, so I join a gym to start doing weights. I don't know what I've done to my right shoulder but I have pulled the biceps tendon out of place three times in the past two months. I go back to only doing isometric exercises but I keep feeling bones clicking in my shoulder. My left shoulder, the one I hurt last year, is oddly in great shape and seems to be working one hundred percent correctly. Now it's my right shoulder which is misbehaving. Even though I've had the tendon put back in place, bones are still clicking. Is something else out of place?

One step forward and two steps back. I feel I'm making progress and move to the next step then end up with something else happening and I have to stop. It's depressing.

Last year, at the height of my troubles, I couldn't walk thirty feet without feeling pain. Going to the store or walking to work was a painful chore. I remember looking out the window and seeing people go jogging by. I couldn't do that. Hell, I couldn't even go for a stroll.

I get back out jogging and wham, my left knee goes out and I have to stop.

I get to the gym then my right shoulder goes out and I have to stop.

It's depressing. Sometimes I'm sitting in my apartment all by myself, all bummed out, and I could cry. On-going work problems, turning sixty and feeling old, going through a bad divorce, then having a health issue unlike anything I have ever experienced before which essentially socks me in the jaw and knocks me to the ground adds up to a pretty full plate.

My uncle Bradley is 98 years old. He has so many health issues, it's not funny. Heck, he's 98! Eight years ago, he was diagnosed with cancer and given six months to live but it has turned out the cancer is very very slow moving. His doctors say that it's a miracle he's still alive. But according to my cousin, his son, Bradley has said many times that he's tired and wants to go. He's had his time and now it's over.

I know from experience that when your health goes in the toilet, your sense of well-being takes a nose dive. You don't necessarily have the energy to carry on. Your will to survive is directly connected by your physical ability to survive. Get tired physically and you get tired mentally.

For me though, I always remember some wise words from my father: sleep on it. Get a good night's rest then look at things in the morning. Invariably you look at it with a renewed vigour. Surprising or maybe not so surprisingly not being tired does make it a little easier to carry on the good fight. But in carrying on the good fight do I have to start consider making changes?

Two years ago, I stretched, did sit-ups and push-ups, put on my running shoes and went out and jogged five kilometres (3 miles) without thinking about it. That was normal. I did all that without incident.

Now? I am so hyper-aware of my body and every single ache and pain, I wonder if I'm ever going to return to the way I was just two years ago. I have had moments when I was "firing on all cylinders" but then keep hitting these stumbling blocks.

Years ago, I heard tell that later in life people become preoccupied with health. I see why now. The joke was that sooner or later the wheels start falling off the wagon and I am now wondering, no I'm scared, that this is what's happening to me. Is there anything I can do about it? Hell, I thought I was in half decent shape. Most of the horror stories I've heard are based on people not taking care of themselves. Then again, is this all a sign of age? A couple of years ago I heard the story of a 72-year-old man who played squash on a regular basis and had never had any sign of heart problems. His doctor gives him his regular check-up then the next thing this guy knows, he's in having a triple by-pass. Go figure.

Final Word
I don't actually have a final word. I think it's more of an on-going word. I am willing to do the work. I will do the exercises. All I need is for the mechanics to work right. I need tendons to stay in their grooves and bones to remain properly seated. I will do the work; you body parts just stay in position.

Last year, for about eight months in a row, I slept on my right side curled up in a fetal position because that was the only position which was pain free or almost pain free. Sometime in December, I remember returning to sleeping as I had before my injury. I rolled over on my back. I rolled over on my left side. I laid on my stomach. I swished my legs and arms between the sheets all over my bed. I was mobile and I was pain-free. It was a glorious moment of enjoying clean sheets and stretching all of my limbs to the four corners on the bed. It was a simple pleasure but one which I now savour each and every time as a precious experience in life. Lose something and realise how important it is.

Health is everything. Wishing you good health.


Wikipedia: Kinesiology
Kinesiology, also known as human kinetics, is the scientific study of human movement. Kinesiology addresses physiological, mechanical, and psychological mechanisms. Applications of kinesiology to human health include: biomechanics and orthopedics; strength and conditioning; sport psychology; methods of rehabilitation, such as physical and occupational therapy; and sport and exercise.

Wikipedia: Applied Kinesiology
Applied kinesiology (AK) is a pseudoscientific technique in alternative medicine claimed to be able to diagnose illness or choose treatment by testing muscles for strength and weakness. Current evidence does not support the use of applied kinesiology for diagnosis of any illness.

my blog: Health: One Year Later, One Year Lost
April 7, 2012, this is the red letter day in my personal annals marking the worst physical injury of my entire life. At the one year anniversary, I am much much better, thank you very much, but I am still trying to climb out of the hole and still have a way to go.


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