Saturday, January 21, 2012

Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes

This year I turned 50.  No matter how you figure it, half a century, 4 bits, it’s over the hill.  Adding to general sense of age, over the last year I’ve had a series of health issues.  True, if you live long enough things start to fall apart, but having it happen the year you turn 50 just adds insult to injury.

Head – From April through August I was without one of my molars.  A root canal had to be done twice (not unusual – my teeth are quirky).  The dental office was closed for a while due to plumbing problems.  The first crown didn’t fit.  And so on and so forth.    After four months without a back tooth, the crown felt enormous and it took a few weeks to get used to.

Shoulders – Three years ago one of my shoulders stiffened up.  After about eight weeks or so of physical therapy everything was fine.  Fast forward to last winter when the other shoulder started to stiffen.  I could lift and carry but anything requiring rotation was tricky, and painful.  There are a large number of standard everyday things you can’t do if you can’t extend or rotate a shoulder, including reach into the back pocket of your pants on that side, touch your mid or upper back (and yes, ladies, there are wardrobe implications to that), take off a tailored coat or jacket without help, put that hand behind your head (to brush hair, etc), reach into the back of the dryer or washer, sleep comfortably unless that shoulder is propped up with a pillow, catch things (including yourself if you fall), throw things, and many others.  All that involuntary stretching people do first thing in the morning was painful, being jostled on the train was painful, griping the handles on the elliptical machines in the gym was painful, as was doing most weight training exercises.  I kept that arm tucked up and close to my body, a habit I am still trying to break.  Physical therapy went on and on for months, including two steroid shots, which helped quite a bit.  Eventually I started making progress and was able to stop the pt visits.  I still do some exercises at home and have regained most of the standard flexing ability in that arm.   It was the first time I have ever had a lengthy physical disability and it was not fun.  This gave me a small glimpse of what life is like for people who have a permanent disability or an illness that affects mobility. 

Knees – My knees have never been my finest feature; I’ve had rice crispie knees since my teen years.  Extra weight doesn’t help and when my shoulder problems developed it was painful working out at the gym; the weight I had lost came back.  These days I don’t bound up the stairs with quite as much energy as I did last year and much of that is due to my knees.

Toes – On a trip to a water park this summer I landed wrong coming out of a waterslide and stubbed two toes.  They were swollen and sore for a couple of months.  Fortunately it was summer when I could wear sandals most of the time. 

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