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(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

(c) 2011 Sherman Lambert

Had a facelift yesterday. OK—not really, but somehow I look younger for having my cranium, of all things, worked on in order to help reduce my hip pain.

I’m at the point in my pursuit of healing where I’m chasing down subtle treatments—well, subtle in that it’s not always obvious how something such as the head’s placement might affect the hip. Not so subtle in the treatment—which was fairly intense and involved working on the connections around bones in my head with names that mostly escape me. But, trust me, the painful work on my mandible (the lower jawbone) had me realizing just how much I had to trust my neuromuscular massage therapist to let her do this.

How did I know that getting my jaw worked on would help my hip? I didn’t—but I had to trust the process based on past experiences with the practioner and the healing she’s brought me so far. I absolutely believe one of the bigger problems with seeing a physical therapist or an orthopedic doctor (which I haven’t done but my daughter has) is that those professionals see the body more in pieces. For those of us who didn’t get injured from an event, perhaps knowing how to fix the ache won’t be enough to prevent it again, if nothing else changes.

Am I a case in point? Possibly. My trigger-point-dry-needling and exercises from the PT—along with time—definitely healed me from my bulging disc. I felt good after I healed, but I didn’t want to do therapy exercises just to feel good—I wanted to do those exercises so I could get back to doing other activities I enjoy. And that isn’t the craziest thought since I do not have any major musculoskeletal damage.

But what about my biomechanics no longer allows me to do my activities as I’d choose, even with a fairly regular maintenance exercise routine? This, my friends, leads me to an even grayer area than that of how to treat initial lower back/hip pain. If you think all the different types of professional experts have opposing opinions about how to treat such pain in an acute situation, just try to get treatment for that pain in a chronic situation. You can find all sorts of valid scientific research to point you in a treatment direction, but so little is absolute in how such treatments will best bring about healing in your particular lower back/hip.

No, I’ve done yoga long enough to realize that all those pieces of our bodies are connected. My slight understanding of physics tells me that change one part of the body and another part will respond or act in a different way. By now I’m aware that a holistic approach as to why a certain section of my body isn’t working well very likely will include some other section of my body, but I have to admit I never really thought my head might be that section damaging my hip. (And for today, not even going to go into depth on the mind-body connection which adds a whole ‘nuther layer to the holistic approach.)

Just so you know, the practioner didn’t just start yanking around on my head. She measured quite a few sections of my body, looking for quantification of discrepancies. Who knew that a pair of levels could be used to analyze how various bones in my body compared side-by-side? Turns out I’m not as crooked as she expected and the crookedness I demonstrate is focused in a few crucial areas.

Sometime during the post-measurement massage session I realized my hip was not screaming quite as loudly as it had been—and not just because other body parts were receiving more focused attention. When I finally stood from the table, I really did feel the shift.

And last night? I slept better than I had in ages and woke more with the stiffness of a good workout than from the stiffness of chronic pain.

I know enough to understand that my body can shift back again. I still have to train it to learn these new alignments, just as I have done with other changes made over my lifetime from wearing orthotics or doing drills at a track practice or practicing yoga or being treated with dry needling. Muscle memory is both what holds me back and what may save me with intention and practice as I attempt to teach my body new memories.

Once again we’re back to the head—and the mind-body connection. All I know is for today I’ve got a good head (straight) on my shoulders—which may yet bring the crooked (back and hip) in line.

(See Neurosomatic Therapy.)

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(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

(c) 2009 Christiana Lambert

Boy, have I been blocked this month. I’ve started a few posts I have yet to finish and tried other times without getting any words down. My main technique for getting unblocked—getting moving by doing something purely physical such as exercising or performing chores—has not worked. Maybe it’s time to look for a writing prompt.

But today I finally have something to say—and I wonder if the loosening of the block is related to what is happening to my longtime physical block. After the last really tough physical therapy treatment didn’t yield nearly enough relief as I had hoped, I thought I ought to try something else before the next PT appointment.

At my age it’s pretty easy for me to know other people who have been dealing with injuries and/or pain—and some of them have even found relief. Those are the people whose advice I seek out for better possibilities. Thanks to a referral, on Saturday I got the hardest (deepest?) deep tissue massage I have ever had—which was just as planned. I went in seeking short-term pain that might be able to relieve the less intense but long-term pain I have been experiencing.

A big part of me is into traditional western medicine but another part of me acknowledges that sometimes the difficulties can lie more in the realm of the unexplained. That’s when seeking a whole body approach to why something hurts in a specific location might work better. Just what about those old emotions and/or experiences might be keeping logical solutions from working?

Though my lower back and hips have been crying out for attention, I was not unaware of the possibility that maybe something on the front side might be torquing that back side into those painful knots. Suffice it to say, I believe now. After the massage therapist reviewed my surgeries and accidents, she chose to focus on areas in my abdomen and groin rather than where the most recent pains have occurred. I don’t think I cried during the session, but to get through the worst moments, I definitely used that yogic breathing I’ve been practicing for years. The crazy thing is that when I stood up from the session, I knew I was better. My shoulders were more relaxed and I didn’t favor the achy side anymore.

Yes, those relaxed feelings were just the calm before the storm of aches I knew I faced. You don’t work tissue that deeply without moving toxins throughout your body. I went home to a hot Epsom salts bath, then drank and drank as much water as I could as well as rubbed (lightly!) Arnica on the most abused areas. Sunday was incredibly painful—more water and Arnica followed.

But today? Today I woke up feeling much less one-sided than I have felt in almost a year. Plus, I didn’t need to wait a few hours for my body to loosen this morning. And in yoga? So much of the resistance was gone. I could work hard and not really feel so obsessed with the areas that have been so prominent for so long. The cries for attention were almost inaudible to me—and that’s even though I am still very sore from the massage.

I’m sure it’s too soon to know if my massage has really chipped away as much of this block as I think it has, but I know something in me has shifted. Stop the world—I want to get back on again.

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

(c) 2014 Trina Lambert

I’ve been here before—well, not here in the literal sense, but here watching someone go through a medical treatment and healing. It’s hard—kudos to everyone who works in the healing business because I find observing someone else’s pain to be really difficult, especially when I can’t take it away from him or her.

Our daughter finally had her gallbladder removed about 10 days ago. All the unexplained pain and tests eventually led to surgery—during the semester, unfortunately. However, her condition was already affecting her ability to do her work and sit through classes in a functional way. Spring Break seemed way too far away.

Thus surgery last month. Routine procedures aren’t so routine to those undergoing them, even when all goes as planned. There are consequences for removing an organ, even if today’s surgeries often involve really teeny, tiny incisions. Plus, turns out she didn’t react well to the prescribed painkiller, meaning she got that help for less than 48 hours. She passed most of a week lounging on the couch with our two dogs, moving between deep sleep, “old lady” movements around the house and the block, watching movies and other shows, and taking naps. And she still wasn’t that well when it was time to return to college.

Nonetheless, she drove off on her own and tried to get back to her regular schedule, even if that meant paying for parking instead of walking and taking the bus. But I don’t think anyone—she or her professors—really thought about how hard it is to sit so much with just barely healing incisions. Turns out art majors use their abs for leaning forward and drawing or for snapping photographs and processing film. Those classes are scheduled long on purpose to promote progress on projects.

Let’s just say the university’s “no excused absences” policy does not make for a relaxed recovery. So here I am, staying with her off campus. Today, I drove her to classes and back to the photo lab after her nap—or at least the nap she tried to have with the foster kitten who is into cuddling on the couch as much as the dogs were back home. (Shh—don’t tell them just how she is cheating on them.)

I understand that the college wants to make sure that completed courses have meaning and I also bet many people have probably tried to take advantage of the system, but, really, who has major surgery during the semester unless it needs to be done sooner than later? That’s why we had the surgeon send a note, even if the “no excused absence” policy includes medical reasons. Yes, it’s inconvenient for the professors, but it’s really inconvenient for the person who had the surgery.

When I was in college, I missed a whole week (during mid-terms and in a 10-week quarter) due to having mono and strep so badly that I stayed in the student health center that whole week. My own home was 1,000 miles away and not even possible to visit. The professors worked with me, plus I had the university’s make-up policy giving structure to when my delayed work was due. Trust me, it’s bad enough to be the student inside watching everyone else have a nice healthy life without having to worry about whether or not the professors really believe you’re physically unable to keep up with all the assignments when it’s all you can do to get through each day. Believe it or not, most students—and especially most seniors—know how important it is to finish each course and its attendant work.

These are high stakes times for those of us “consuming” both health care and higher education and my daughter knows that. She feels guilty about having high medical costs and worried about whether or not her health is going to delay her education while increasing the cost of it. The thing is, she shouldn’t have to feel guilty about wanting to feel reasonably healthy. Sometimes health problems crop up in highly inconvenient times, but let’s face it, when does anyone want to have a health problem at all, whether or not the problem falls at a convenient time?

I’m tired of seeing people whom I love in pain and really wish other people would show a little more empathy for how hard it is to be that person in pain. And, as I said before, it’s not that easy being the person helping people in pain either.

With any luck, my daughter’s on her way to not being that person in pain and I’m on my way to not having to help with her pain. But first, she’s really got to have a chance to focus on healing from the treatment. I’m pretty sure she’d love to get back to doing her work in a more convenient way—both for her sake and for the sake of everyone else.

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