Visible Hope

Today I’m blogging an image of visible hope for Invisible Illness Awareness Week.

It was finally time to look closer at my chronic neck pain and last week I had an MRI that showed degenerative disc and facet disease and other side effects caused by swelling and inflammation aka arthritis.

I’m glad I finally have an answer. It’s very new and I wasn’t even going to share until I got a better feel for it, but I found out about Invisible Illness Week from Lauren’s blog and wanted to contribute my pic.

My plan for now – as I continue to learn more – is movement.  I love yoga and I feel strong when I practice and that is my visible hope!

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Much Too Young (To Feel This Damn Old)

My body has been craving yoga, so on Tuesday I went to a class fully intending to kick off a seven-day binge, but then on Wednesday I woke up with the worst back pain ever.

I know, I know, “Waa, my back hurts” sounds totally wussy, but I think I have a pretty high tolerance for pain and it was BAD, I couldn’t move – like a stiff neck, but focused right under my shoulder-blade. Other parts of my body were a bit sore or tight from yoga, but not anything I’m not used to, this was something totally new.

And to clarify, I don’t correlate the pain with the yoga class, it’s just one of those things.  I blame most of my back pain on sleeping the wrong way and/or stress and/or the ergonomics of my job but my company is in a bit of a budget crunch right now so I don’t think it’s the time to ask for them to pay for an ergonomist to come in and figure out my desk arrangement for me.

Anyway, yeah, back pain = bad. I’d call it a 9.5. I might have cried a little and walked around all day with my shoulder tweaked up and head tilted to the side.

It was on my right side as always and I was concerned it was my disc issue flaring up again (my eating hasn’t been great and I’m REALLY going to focus on that in September). I got the earliest chiro appointment I could and he (Dr. Jeff Robinson at AZMulticare in McDowell Mountain area, he’s fantastic) put me at ease that it was likely a muscular issue (the meanest, nastiest knot ever in the whole world) because of the way my skin reacted to my beloved gua sha very heavily on the right side versus the left’s reaction to the same treatment…

Day of treatment in the white tank and today, two days later, in purple…see? It’s not so bad!

Thursday, I walked around looking like I got beat AND wearing an Icy Hot patch, but my head was slightly less tilted, we’ll call it an 8. I was also using the tennis ball in the picture above for a little myofascial release (where one person doing this looks normal, the collection on Google Images makes people look so weird). 

I’m usually a big advocate of moving to kind of heal myself, but I’m also trying to be better at listening to my body, so I took one more day off and this morning I felt soooo much better, like a 6. As you can see, I’m dressed and ready to head out to stretch those poor muscles in a hot yoga studio and give my body a little delayed gratification to its earlier request!

Gua Wha?

So, my back looked like this last week:

Nope, it’s not road rash.  No, I haven’t been secretly dating Chris Brown.

I sought out a chiropractor for my neck issues that have been going on for at least a year at this point and found an integrated wellness clinic practically in my backyard!  They do traditional chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, gua sha (which is what I had done), allergy elimination and tie everything together with a big emphasis on nutrition.

He’s the fifth chiro I’ve been to and have also tried massages, physical therapy and other forms of stress relief.  One of the many reasons I started yoga was the thought that it would loosen up my back muscles.

None of that has really helped, but I’m very happy I found this new chiropractor.  He diagnosed – as I’ve considered before – a disc issue and I’ve been doing spinal decompression.  That misalignment in my spine has been pulling my muscles, so that’s where the gua sha comes in.

The gua sha tool, just a smooth-edged piece of plastic about the size of a credit card, but stronger, is scraped over the skin to bring stagnant blood to the surface, releasing the knots. It’s like intense myofascial release.  It also is useful in releasing toxins, and I’m crunchy enough to be excited about that.

He scraped all over my upper back and neck (except the spine), so the strange pattern is a result of where the stasis actually was. The color of mine was pretty uniform – and red is pretty normal and healthy – but I found out that it can range from pink to a more bruise-like blue/purple/black depending on how long the blood has been pooling.

And for the record, it looks terrible, but feels great.  Well, the actual therapy doesn’t feel good or bad really, but the quick results feel great and the “bruise,” which is more like a rash, doesn’t hurt like a bruise.

The first session on my back helped a lot and an additional session on my neck two days later has started to ease things that have been out of whack for a long time.  And the sha (rash) was gone in about two days.

The most important part of fixing my issue is sticking with a doc and a plan through feeling better and a little beyond and I’ve always known that, but I haven’t found the right combo until now.  I ran eight pain-free miles tonight, so I think we’re definitely on the right track.

Once this issue kind of subsides, I think I’ll even look for a gua sha practitioner for monthly all-over back muscle treatment (I get way too tight) – it’s that good!

Have you discovered any alternative treatments that really work for you?  Would you go out in public looking like you got smacked with a two-by-four?