Chronic

A number of years ago I was in a pretty ugly car accident. It was almost midnight, I was on my way home, and some criminal was leading a high speed chase of at least 30 police vehicles from three different departments (two separate cities and the highway patrol). He ran a red light in a residential area going about 60 miles per hour and slammed into my car, T-bone style. I spun through the intersection, he kept going, cops in pursuit. I found out later that he had stopped a few blocks down the street and tried to escape on foot, only to be caught by an enormous German Shepherd, the crook was taken to the hospital to treat his dog bites, and then to jail, where he languished for weeks. The dog was given a police treat and loaded back into the K9 truck to catch the next criminal. The news reports said the driver was evading police, who were only trying to pull him over for a headlight violation. Uh, that’s not true. The only thing I really remember pre-impact was two headlights coming right at me. But, whatever, I guess it’s good that a) he was caught and b) he miraculously had insurance, not that I knew that for another 6 weeks (because, who calls their insurance agent from  jail), but whatever.

Anyway, as you can imagine, there was quite a bit of damage done to my car (totaled! RIP Daisy, the adorable yellow VW bug!), and to myself. I had pretty severe whiplash, bulging discs in my neck, I felt like my spine was compressing into my chest cavity, my pelvis—which is supposed to be a nice, even, triangle shape—got twisted almost off the base of my spine (yes, really), and my ribs were so far out of place they were literally cutting off circulation down my left arm, which was slowly going numb while I waited for an appointment with a spine specialist.

The day of that accident I was in the best physical shape of my life, I had run 12 miles without stopping, my last long run prior to a half marathon I was signed up for a few weeks later. After the accident, I could hardly walk, and anything more than a block left me in a sobbing heap. I couldn’t sit, sleep, or stand without incredible pain. I spent months packed in ice and going to two (or three) different doctor’s appointments a day, I was in and out of neck traction, trying to prevent my neck from corkscrewing itself into my chest. I lost my job, learned what a jerk my boyfriend was, and–for the first time–about my Dad’s incredible bedside manner.

Fast forward 8 years. I can run again, but haven’t quite made it back to that 12 mile mark. My neck bothers me fairly regularly, but it’s usually something a trip to the physical therapist or chiropractor can fix. I sleep with an orthopedic pillow and often with a wedge under my knees to keep my spine in alignment. My pelvis is…well, it’s a process. Make a “gun” shape with your thumb and pointer finger on both hands, now put your thumbs together and your pointers together, the latter pointing to the floor, palms towards you. See that nice, even triangle? That’s what your pelvis is supposed to look like. Now, take your left hand and rotate it 90 degrees, palm parallel to the floor. That’s what happened to my pelvis. Your pelvis is a joint—granted, one that isn’t supposed to move all that often—in women it is supposed to unhinge a bit for birthing babies. So, I didn’t shatter my pelvis, I just hyper-extended it in a major way. And sometimes, despite YEARS of physical therapy, it slips out of place and needs to be popped back into place. Yes, it’s as painful as it sounds.

That experience aside, post-accident my biggest problems come from my ribs. Ribs are also joints, but again, not ones that are supposed to move very much, just enough to allow you to take a deep breath without anything breaking. During my collision-induced spin I managed to yank my emergency break hard enough to stop myself before I slammed into any other vehicles. But, the combination of the spinning car, spinning body, seat-belt restraint, and sudden, violent stop popped my ribs out (8 of them) and tore and stretched the muscles in my back in unnatural ways. My muscles were no longer strong enough or tight enough to hold my ribs in place, and again, despite years of therapy, my ribs do not stay put. I have anywhere from 3-6 ribs put back in place every time I visit the physical therapist. The ones that are particularly horrible are the ones that are underneath my shoulder blades, they pop out towards my shoulder (not in towards my lungs), so every time I move my arms there is what feels like bone grating against bone. Washing my hair is out of the question, simple tasks like doing the dishes or vacuuming bring me to tears, breathing hurts. I can usually find one position, carefully padded and supported by pillows, that will not hurt, and it is not unheard of for me to spend two full days laying there, not even picking up the remote to advance Netflix to the next episode, I just wait for it to advance itself.

Last Thursday my ribs and back were so out of whack I could not brush my teeth, or comb my hair, or sit up by myself. It was excruciating, perhaps the worst episode I’ve ever experienced, and it pisses me off that the reason they popped out was because I rolled over and slept on my side for a few hours one night. That’s it. Seriously. And, my ribs popped out like comically too-tight shirt buttons after Thanksgiving; my pain was at an 8 of a 10 point scale. And, of course, my physical therapist is 700 miles away at the University of Utah. Of course.  I have a couple of foam rollers that I’ve learned how to use to help nudge my ribs back in place. I tried, I really did. But I couldn’t even get myself in position on the roller without sobbing. I was a complete wreck. Luckily, thanks to a recommendation by Kayla, I got into see a chiropractor who managed to force a few of the worst ribs back to where they were supposed to go. I still have a few out, but I can function like a normal human (showering, brushing my own teeth, etc). I have a follow up appointment tomorrow where I hope he can get these last ones back in place.

You want to know the suckiest part about chronic pain? The chronic part. At least for me, there is no real permanent solution. Short of slicing open my back and fusing every single rib to my spine, there is no way to keep them in place (and, uh, that sounds horrifying in and of itself). This is something I will deal with for the rest of my life. A few weeks of general discomfort followed by a couple of days of horrifying, excruciating pain. Rinse and repeat.

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33 thoughts on “Chronic

  1. I’m trying to find the right words to express my draw dropping shock at this situation, the incredible amount of awe you’ve inspired in me just now, and the guilt and anger I feel at myself for whining over the unimportant problems in my life (in comparison). And I thought my TMJ was depressing because I couldn’t eat anything but broth for a month and lost a little weight. I don’t think there’s anything consoling or appropriate to say without sounding cliche or annoying, so I’ll have to sum it all up into this: damn girl.

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      1. You’re right, I must. Laying still, streaming Netflix, and eating bon-bons is only acceptable (to me) for so long, I have to do stuff. So, I do it slowly and carefully as best I can.

        xox

        On Wed, Feb 3, 2016 at 10:40 AM, Feisty Harriet wrote:

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    1. Well, I still whine about things that are pretty insignificant, it’s all about what’s significant to you. Laying in bed watching Netflix doesn’t seem nearly as terrible as not being able to really eat for a month. So, po-tay-to, po-tah-to.

      xox

      On Wed, Feb 3, 2016 at 7:07 AM, Feisty Harriet wrote:

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      Liked by 1 person

  2. 1. I didn’t know you had a bug!
    2. I knew you were in a bad car crash, but I didn’t know the circumstances. A police chase??! Who does that even happen to?? You, apparently. Damn.
    3. So sorry about the pain.

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  3. Ugh. Where’s the magical pain removal fairy when you need it. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with such a huge issue. Watching my mom suffer from chronic pain is horrible. I can’t imagine dealing with it myself. Sending you love and in-place ribs, chocolate and all the netflix. xoxox

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  4. oh my GOD, woman.

    So this is obviously NOWHERE NEAR SIMILAR, but I had a faaaarrr less traumatic incident as a teenager that popped out my 2 top ribs (although I didn’t know it at the time, those ones don’t really hurt when they’re out of place). Fast forward 15 years and I found myself in acute pain because those good ol’ ribs under the shoulder blades had popped out. I was in physical therapy for other reasons at the time and she was able to put them back in, but it started happening a lot so I ended up with a chiro as well. He found the 15 year old subluxations in the top ribs, and said it’s likely why everything else was falling apart, they’d been out for so long. The first 3 chiros I went to would pop them back in with an audible crack but they’d be right back out again if i slept wrong / got into the car wrong / etc.

    ANYWAY. I only give you all this background for an additional likely useless piece of internet-assvice: my most recent chiro uses the activator method (http://www.spine-health.com/treatment/chiropractic/activator-method-chiropractic-technique) rather than direct manipulation, and my body has responded FAR BETTER. I don’t actually know if it’s the method itself, or if this particular chiro is just better, but I thought i’d mention it as someone who also can’t keep her ribs in place.

    Also I am so angry/frustrated/mad for you. GAAAAH. Unfair.

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    1. The chiro I’ve been to the last couple weeks does the activator thing, but he spends less than 10 minutes with each patient, and apparently my stating that he didn’t get everything back in doesn’t extend my appointment. Fired him today. NOT OKAY, CHIROPRACTOR! On the hunt for an orthopedic physical therapist, I seem to have the best luck with them.

      Ugh.

      xox

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  5. Oh girl… I can’t even imagine the pain you deal with on a daily basis. Virtual hugs! (Which are probably better because they can’t cause you pain?)

    P.S. I had a bug too and Dave sold it out from under me. I’m still bitter.

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  6. That is terrible! My bout with back pain a few years ago introduced me to chronic pain. I can’t say mine is anywhere as bad as yours, but you definitely have my empathy. So glad you found someone to help you that was local. Much love, girlfriend. Xoxo

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    1. I need another team of people–very disappointed with the 2nd and 3rd visits to this chiropractor, doesn’t seem to have enough time to spend more than 10 minutes per patient, and, frankly, that just isn’t enough for me. I need a solid 45 to make sure everything is where it’s supposed to be. Sigh. Back to the hunt for an orthopedic who knows what they are doing.

      xox

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    1. Thanks dear, I also cannot believe that after 8 years my body is still in regular agony. Stupid criminal jerkwad insane driver bastard (a technical term, obvs.)

      xox

      On Thu, Feb 4, 2016 at 4:41 PM, Feisty Harriet wrote:

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  7. Well that just plain sucks. And I don’t have any words for how much it sucks. I’m sorry, though. And I’m happy to bring you ice cream on bad days because: ice cream.

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