Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘pain

Delicate Balance

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In the end, we have turned down all the quotes for resurfacing our deck because the costs all exceeded our available funds. The only affordable option was to buy the lumber and do the work ourselves with the generous support of willing friends.

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We have already begun experimenting with several techniques for removing the old boards, with varying success. Yesterday, I resorted to buying a hole-saw bit that would allow drilling around a stripped-out screw to free up a board and leave the screw behind to be extracted with a vice-grip plier.

I don’t mind working slow, but at the pace I am achieving, the 815-square-foot deck surface will not be completed in a weekend.

Initially, I envisioned getting all the old wood removed before focusing on installing the new boards, but then I heard a suggestion of just removing one board at a time and replacing it. That way the project could start and stop at any time without the deck being in total disarray.

One big challenge for me if this project ends up lasting for a long time is the delicate balance I am trying to manage in dealing with a bulging disc in my lower back. When it flares up, my mobility is greatly hampered.

I had high hopes of making big progress yesterday removing screws from boards, but a sharp twang of breathtaking pain suddenly limited my success to a single board.

The reason I describe the challenge of my bulging disc as a balancing act is because of the way the problem manifests. For most of my days I experience no pain and no limitations of movement. Then, without warning, the slightest movement will unleash the hint of a stab that takes my breath away and sends an adrenaline spike that contracts my muscles in an attempt to prevent a deeper stab.

Moments later, I am able to move like normal, yet with an understandable precautionary stiffness in fear the worst outcome is just as possible, likely even, if I make one wrong move.

I just have no idea which movement will end up being a wrong one.

A natural response to this scenario is to walk in the stiffest posture possible, but that isn’t a realistic solution. Instead, I returned to my core-strengthening exercises and flexibility stretches. This routine is the opposite of maintaining the stiffest posture possible and allows me to move very close to normal.

But it still leaves me in a delicate balance, because the bulge in my disc doesn’t instantaneously recede. That takes time. Weeks.

In the meantime, I proceed walking and leaning forward within an immeasurably small fraction of that startling reminder the bulge is in close proximity to spinal nerves.

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Written by johnwhays

September 28, 2019 at 10:03 am

Delaying Complaining

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If nothing else has become obvious in my ten years of blogging, my quick tendency to complain about the simplest of ailments that befall me must stand out as a typical trait. Whether it’s my degenerating discs or the next poison ivy outbreak, I usually fall far short of stoically sucking up the pain and suffering privately.

Misery loves company. Don’t I know it.

I will be honest that this was exactly my first inclination when one of my recently turned sixty-year-old teeth fractured under an unexpected bite of a chicken wing bone. Sadly, this calamity contributed to spoiling our second visit to that quaint diner on the way up to the lake last Wednesday.

As I moped with Cyndie for the remainder of the drive up to Wildwood, wondering how and where I might seek treatment for this busted molar, there was a general sense that my long holiday weekend had been totally spoiled. Luckily, we had enough time in the car for me to have a change of attitude.

For the first time that I can remember, I decided I would squelch my urge to share news of my woes, in order to avoid engendering focus on my problem and tarnishing the rest of the joyous holiday festivities. It helped a little that my dentist returned my call Wednesday and remotely diagnosed that my description of the broken tooth cleared me of any need for emergency treatment.

I spent the weekend trying to remember to take small bites and only chew on the other side of my mouth, and successfully kept my problem from everyone except Cyndie, Elysa, and Julian. In the end, I think doing so worked out as well for me as for my intention of not distracting others with my problem. By not talking about it, I automatically tended to dwell on it less.

There was one interesting complication that developed when I called my dentist’s office. Not only were they closed for Thursday and Friday of the holiday weekend, but also for the following week in order to allow their entire staff a long summer vacation.

What good timing I have.

Fortunately, their away message offered a direct contact number for the dentist. She said her family has chosen to have a stay-cation and she will be in town this week.

She has offered to take a look at my tooth late this afternoon to see if she can offer some relief, sooner than later.

Thank goodness. I definitely have no complaints to offer about that.

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Pushing Through

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It has been a long stretch of time since I played either of my guitars. Lack of playing tends to become its own feedback loop. Arthritis in my hand discouraged me from pulling out my instruments as often as I used to, and not playing regularly led to the loss of calluses on the fingertips of my left hand. Lack of calluses fed into an inclination to not bother playing and the situation dragged on and on.

Alas, recent activity to ready myself for the Tour of Minnesota bicycling and camping week triggered thoughts about bringing my travel guitar this year. Before fulfilling that idea, which I said back in February that I planned to do, I figured I should check out whether I could still form chords with my left hand.

I was a little rusty, but mostly functional. My session was rewarding enough that I felt inspired to try a second time a couple of days later. That went even better, despite the tenderness of starting the process of developing new calluses. Then I moved to reach a particular position and experienced the classic jolt of a painful joint.

(No, Mary, I have not had the surgery performed yet, despite your wise advice to not wait. The doctor preferred waiting, and I chose to not try convincing him otherwise.)

After that stab of pain, the rest of the session tended to become increasingly more comfortable. It seemed a little counterintuitive at first, but then I remembered a similar experience during a lumbar disc pain episode.

The body has a keen ability to constrict movement in the presence of pain, but remaining oblivious to what is happening in these situations can allow that avoidance of pain to become its own malady. I made a surprising discovery during an early assessment of my condition when physical therapy was prescribed.

The therapist asked me to show them how far I could bend over to reach toward my toes.

“Bend over!?”

My thinking was that I couldn’t bend at all without suffering that stabbing pain. That is why I was moving around like a stiff zombie!

So, I set about showing her how I could barely lean forward at all. To my surprise, those initial hints of possible pain that normally freeze any further motion did not get any worse as I pushed through them. I was able to bend a lot farther than I believed possible.

The same thing happened with my hand yesterday. The avoidance of pain had kept me from trying to play the guitar, bringing a mindset that it would no longer be possible. Pushing past that warning message of pain proved there is still some function left in the old joint.

I don’t have the strength I used to, but I can still manage a few chords for a reasonably short duration of pickin’ and grinnin’.

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Written by johnwhays

May 30, 2019 at 6:00 am

Shared Pain

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It’s the time of year when the bucks traversing our woods are leaving plenty of calling cards. I always wonder if we are seeing marks from just one, or if there are competitors making their presence known.

Cyndie came upon this spot of cleared leaves beside the trail yesterday morning.

Just a short distance away, I found a tree with bark scraped off.

Delilah took particular interest in scents along the path, so I expect there is a lot of aroma communication going on out there.

It is much nicer experiencing the deer activity in our forest than it is dodging them on the road. There have been an unsettling number of deer hit by traffic and staining the road surface on my route to the day-job this year.

If one of the local hunters don’t take down the buck that is visiting our property, I’m hoping I might get a chance for a shed antler.

It will be an opportunity to scour our woods, off-trail with Delilah after the hunting season is over. I just need her health to improve enough that we can ease her activity restrictions.

She had a second treatment from a dog chiropractor last night, where Cyndie learned of a massage technique we are hoping will continue to relieve Delilah of her pain.

The dog and I are on parallel paths of recovery. I’m not using massage to calm my troublesome back, but have returned to my regimen of exercises and stretches to strengthen my core and improve flexibility.

It doesn’t seem like it should work as well has it has for me, but in a rather short amount of time I have regained a remarkable amount of mobility and am enjoying much less pain. The lingering symptom is a constant dull reminder of not-quite-pain in the lumbar region of my spine that occasionally warns me with brief increases of sensation a couple of notches down from the real thing.

Little hints that I’m not all good, even though I’m not feeling all that bad.

I understand exactly what Delilah is going through.

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Written by johnwhays

November 15, 2017 at 7:00 am

Epic Normal

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Some days are just days. The simple steps of tending to basic maintenance and chores that happen every day can become so routine they fade to obscurity.

Yet, living it feels anything but obscure. Each simple accomplishment brings huge satisfaction.

This weekend, having our son, Julian, visit to pick up a package that Fed-Ex delivered here, and recruiting his help with some compost distribution and wood splitting, were particularly rewarding.

We used the Grizzly to pull trailer loads of wood, and with him driving, I gained a perspective of the squeaky brakes that helped to push me toward finally taking it in to professionals for service. Julian helped me get the ATV secured in the bed of our truck and I dropped it off in River Falls.

It could be several weeks until I see it again, so we are hoping there won’t be significant need for clearing the driveway of snow until well after that.

Maybe in a sympathetic response to Delilah’s painful condition, I experienced a return of degenerating disc symptoms as I leaned forward to pick up a piece of firewood, which brought a quick end to the delightful progress we were accomplishing. I’m on limited duty once again.

Luckily, that presented no disruption to a planned visit from a co-worker and her husband. She wanted to surprise him with the trip because he has a big appreciation for the majesty of horses, despite little access to them. Cyndie was wise enough to guide some time inside the fence for them, a step that is reserved for very few visitors.

As always, Legacy proved the consummate companion for the interaction with his herd-leading confident calmness. Dezirea couldn’t spare but a moment to accommodate us, as her attention was otherwise fixed on something in the distance that I couldn’t see.

Regardless the obscuring nature of the inherent normal-ness of the weekend, it all felt perfectly epic.

Given the right perspective, living in the moment can provide that result.

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Written by johnwhays

November 5, 2017 at 10:43 am

How’s Everybody?

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Basically, we are all good, but there are some health concerns that continue to linger for some of the Wintervale crew. Time has not healed all wounds.

After the most recent hoof trimming, Cayenne’s showing a tiny bit of improvement. What we cling to there is that she is, at the very least, not worse. She still shows a fair amount of hesitation on her movements, but she doesn’t appear to be in extreme pain.

It’s possible she may have developed a habit of anticipating pain, and she still limps because that is what she has grown used to doing. It sometimes looks like she steps gingerly to protect herself, not because it hurts too much to walk normal.

Now, Delilah, on the other hand, is behaving quite the opposite. She keeps trying to act like she is fine, but continues to have moments of extreme pain. On Tuesday, we resorted to ordering x-rays of her spine and a more thorough blood analysis.

The results of her blood work are not in yet, but the x-ray showed a minor compression between discs 3 and 4. We were told there also appeared to be some abnormal marks or possible lesions on those vertebrae, which the vet is hoping the blood analysis will inform.

We have returned to restricting her movements to a bare minimum. Regardless, she continues to maintain a pretty happy attitude between moments of looking like she’d prefer to do nothing more than lay down and convalesce.

It’s been a long summer of rehabilitation for Cyndie’s shoulder, but it’s not over yet. She continues to have regular physical therapy appointments to improve range of motion. The good news after her most recent follow-up with the surgeon was that he deemed it unnecessary to put her under and break the scar tissue by force. The bad news was the alternative being extended PT with painful aggressive measures to do the same thing.

The therapist used the infamous “cupping therapy” to stretch the scarred tissue across the grain. Makes sense to us, despite a broad belief that cupping is pseudo-science and any benefits are from a placebo effect. Cyndie is growing tired of the pain from her exercises and the ongoing need to push her limits of stretching and rotation.

At the same time, she continues to find ways to function in her daily activities with only minor limitations.

The rest of us are enjoying a grace period of good health. The chickens will be seeing snow for the first time in their lives. Pequenita is happy to be an indoor cat. We brought the horses in out of the windy wet precipitation last night, but we’ll give them a short shift outside for some fresh air before letting them back into their stalls again tonight.

I avoided hitting any deer on my commutes this week. Yesterday morning, I was lucky to not be a part of a 10-car chain reaction crash,  –nor get caught in the significant backup of traffic behind it– when a vehicle hit a deer on I94, right at the bridge between Wisconsin and Minnesota. I had already passed that spot and was well on my way to work by then.

Everyday I don’t hit a deer in October and November is a successful day.

That’s my update on how everybody is doing today. We are thankful for all our good fortune.

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Written by johnwhays

October 27, 2017 at 6:00 am

Pained Puppy

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Our doggie girl is a hurtin’ unit right now. Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened to cause her all this pain, but she is wincing with a shrill whine with disturbing frequency. Like dogs do, in between the bouts of sharp pain, she acts like all is well and good, but we know better.

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Cyndie took Delilah to the vet last week and their guess-timate of a diagnosis was possible arthritis or bulging disc in her back. They prescribed an anti-inflammatory pain reliever. A few days later, when Delilah woke in extreme pain and was trembling, Cyndie made another trip to the vet.

That visit included a blood test to rule out Lyme disease and ended up with a prescription for muscle relaxants. They still think the problem is in her back. Oh, and they also issued a strict order of total restriction of activity for two weeks. How are we supposed to accomplish that?

Yesterday, Cyndie called me at work and asked me to stop at the vet on my way home to pick up a new pain med. Delilah did not have a good day.

Today, we are hoping for any sign of improvement, because nothing so far seems to be bringing her relief. At this point, the total activity restriction seems like it will cause her more angst than the pain. Poor girl doesn’t understand why she isn’t patrolling the perimeter three times a day anymore.

I think she’s worried some unauthorized intruders might trespass on her turf if she is not on the job doing her regular rounds.

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Written by johnwhays

September 29, 2017 at 6:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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