Pain and other challenges, Part 2

Posted: May 16, 2012 in CrossFit, Exercise, Fitness
Tags: , , , ,

So, gentle readers, all that I mentioned yesterday happened at the end of last year.  I’d written that post back in January on a good day. They were pretty infrequent, so I put off posting until I had something more encouraging to report (at least in the end).

Just before Christmas, things got even worse, although, for once, the injury was completely not my fault. The water heater decided to lay a trap for me. Our washer/dryer is in the garage and the water heater is just beside the door from the kitchen to the garage. We’d been in and out during the day. My mother was coming in for Christmas, and, an hour before we were to pick her up, I went out to the garage to get some laundry out of the dryer.

I was sitting in the puddle at about the same time I realized I’d fallen. I didn’t feel anything at first, which alarmed me a bit because all of the worst injuries I’ve had in my life didn’t hurt right away (unlike a paper cut, which is a dramatic little screamer).  I fell hard enough my husband heard it reverberate through the concrete (the same thing happens when anyone drops a weighted barbell in the garage). I was able to get up; nothing broken.

But it made the fibro critter incredibly pissed off. By Christmas day, I couldn’t lift my arms to brush my own hair. Overwhelmed with pain and frustration, I think I cried pretty much every day for at least a week. (Of course, there’s always menopause to blame).

Let me digress for a second. Fibromyalgia is one of many syndromes that result from neurochemicals getting crosswise with each other. Dr. Wonderful  told me that it, along with migraines, crop up because your brain is hypersensitive to various stimuli. Given all these interactions, the chronic migraines returned in force. All my medications were upped. Whee.

And the migraines receded, but I was still so crippled by pain that walking or standing was a challenge. I went to my internest, and she checked me out and said, “Well, there’s nothing more I can give you because of all the medications you’re already on.”

Argh. One of those moments where your heart drops and you think you’re doomed.

But then she sent me to back to Stephanie, my ever-so-awesome physical therapist, giving her pretty much a free hand to deal with my fibromyalgia as needed (I think it’s technically “assess and treat”).  The first few visits were murder. I’d cry during the therapy, which, although I freely admit in writing that I cry over stuff, I rarely cry in public. It’s pretty ingrained that crying in public is an invitation to abuse. I don’t like being that vulnerable; generally I hole up when I’m in pain. (Which is another reason I haven’t posted in ages).

One of the things that fibromyalgia can do (or is responsible for creating fibro–the experts won’t agree) is create knots in your muscles:From

I’m not endorsing the site that created this image; it’s a nice illustration, though. I don’t know enough about it to give an opinion. However, I’ve been warned by several doctors (some friends of the family, some treating) to be careful when choosing treatments for fibromyalgia; just like any other chronic ailment, there are some treatments that are possibly useful, but not scientifically studied and others that are downright hokum.

So you’ve got this contracted muscle. It’s freaked out and won’t relax. Notice the biceps in the illustration below from Human Locomotion at Connexions:

When the bicep contracts, it bulges in the middle and strains at the insertion point. When this goes on for too long, it begins to become inflamed. So it’s a bit of both happening all at once. The trick is to convince your body that it’s okay to relax.

Physical therapy has helped. I have to spend a couple of hours a day doing home exercises to improve; at least an hour to stay even and start going downhill if I miss a day. Unfortunately, I still have days with migraines and the fibro flare still makes its presence known. My social life consists of seeing health care professionals and my immediate family members.

Among the various discussions about what I could do in the way of working out, squats came up. At the physical therapist’s location, I was doing squats on a Total Gym. Basically, it takes the load off the knees but allows you to do the same motions as a squat, leading to an exchange that went something like

“So, can I start doing air squats at home?”


“I mean after I’ve improved.”


“After I’ve lost weight?”

“Which part of ‘no’ are you not getting?”

[laugh; pause]


“Not with your knee.”

Bummed me out. She went on to explain that if I didn’t do every single squat perfectly, I’d end up reinjuring myself. She agreed with CrossFit’s position that it takes several years to master the squat. I’m in a situation in which the arthrogenic (read: Getting Old) changes in my knee won’t allow me to go through the learning process.

However, SCALING still applies. So I’ve got a new toy. CrossFit isn’t big on equipment, but for those of us who are overweight and aging, sometimes you need something to scale down lower than zero weight. (Again, I’d like to put a fat suit weighing a hundred pounds on some of these guys and say, “Go ahead. Do a friggin’ air squat.”)  I got a home version of a Total Gym, although not the trademarked one. My husband did the comparison shopping and we invested in a Jillian Michaels Body Shop. It’s not nearly as sturdy as the one at the therapist’s office, but it’s at least one-tenth the price.

So far, I’m only using it to do the squats (in 8 minute stretches) and working at the pullups. I use the next to the lowest setting, which allows you to do the exercise carrying less than your total body weight.  I’m having to accept that I will max out on what I can do with squats, and weighted squats are a no-go for me.  Running is also off the table.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t work toward other goals.  For me, I’d define it as wellness, a bit shy of the CrossFit fitness model. More on that in the next post.


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