Sunday, November 06, 2011

My last press-up

I used to like press-ups. You can do them anywhere and they exercise the chest, arms and shoulders in a way that compliments the lower-body work-out I get from cycling.

Anyhow, a couple of weeks ago I went down for the first of a set (30 I hoped), when instead of a nice tension across the pecs I got a crunching noise from the shoulder/neck area. I stopped and wondered what had gone wrong. Neck felt a bit tender, but no big deal.

Later, however, I developed a white-hot stabbing pain all along the arm to the tips of my fingers that even the leftover hospital-strength cocodamol from the bike accident didn't touch.

Hard to explain how little effect these powerful pills had - there was zero diminution of the pain and absolutely no rest from it. I was rolling around the floor and trying ice and heat, meditation and medication, but to no avail.

Eventually I did what I only do in the most dire of emergencies - I went to the doctors.

Fortunately I saw a sympathetic nurse who had experienced similar symptoms while doing yoga.Turns out I have in my spine something called "facet joints" which connect vertebrae and control the twisty motion in the same way that disks control the bendy motion. Somehow I've damaged one of these and in the aftermath my ulnar nerve was "pinched".

You've got to love the term "pinched nerve". Sounds like such a minor thing - like a Chinese burn.  Instead it's a total immersion pain that makes it impossible to think. Getting my foot crushed did hurt - but the pain could be numbed by drugs and ice.

Nerve pain is a completely different animal. There's no prospect of numbing the pain - instead you have to interfere with the way the brain works when it receives the pain signals. This brings you into the realm of drugs that were originally designed as anti-depressants.

I was put on a low dose of amitriptyline just before bedtime - starting with 10mg and going up to 20mg - compared with the antidepressant dose which is around ten times higher.

I can't actually say if this helped but I was able to sleep, which was something of a medical miracle. The downside was that sleep brought me hyper-real, disturbing "Philip K Dick" dreams where I would be walking along a city street and everything around me would start breaking down like a malfunctioning amusement park before melting like a Dali painting while the Universe shouted random error messages at me.

Heaven alone knows what ten times the dose does for your dreams, but I stopped taking them as soon as I felt that I could get to sleep naturally, which was three or four nights of surrealism later.

I'm still pretty sore - but its just "normal" pain which I'm coping with normally with paracetamol and ibuprofen. I'm also getting some physio and acupuncture. Pretty naffed off that it's taking so long to mend but I'm sure I'll be a menace to traffic on my bike before too long.

Think I may have done my last press-up though.

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