Monday, February 12, 2007

Art of Explaining

At the physical therapist today. With my shoulder, I have "achey days" and "okay days." I've tried to describe what "aches" to the therapist, but it's hard. There's no pinpoint of pain. The explanation is simply, "My whole arm hurts."

Until today, I'd say, "My arm hurts," and she'd associate it with the pain in the tricep that is usually associated with the rotator cuff muscle injury. I'm not good at explaining body parts, so it makes total sense that's what she heard. Today, though, I was lucky. I'd had a horribly achey day, and with all the pain sensations shooting through my arm, I was able to more articulate what was happening.

I said, "I've been really achey. I've had this burning pain in my bicep."
She replied, with furrowed brow, "Bicep?"
"Yeah, and, well, sometimes, it hurts in my elbow."

She immediately got to work, kneading and feeling and trying to figure out what I was talking about, for, as I discovered today, the bicep and elbow have nothing to do with the rotator cuff. She found what felt like a frozen pea deep in my bicep, and another at the top of my armpit. She also found what is typically called "tennis elbow."

She asked, "Is that tender?"
I replied, using the technical terminology learned from my ancestors, "Like a son of a bitch!"

With the discovery of these other muscle injuries, it's clear there's lots of work ahead of us. However, on a more positive note, since muscles are vascular systems, they are a lot more responsive than dried up, yucky tendons. With today's breakthrough, I'm more hopeful about my shoulder, erm, arm. More than ever, I feel it's possible that I might be doing a real "Stick" in my Sun Salutation (see Step 6) sometime again soon.

The lesson that I hope readers get from this is TAKE CARE TO AVOID REPETITIVE STRESS INJURIES. I've been sitting in front of a computer for over 10 years, and only now have I spent the money for the right chair, the right keyboard, and the right mouse. What's $200 now compared to hundreds and hundreds in medical bills later?

But this also points to a bigger challenge I've been facing lately. I can't seem to get my ideas across to people. I feel like I've lost my vocabulary, and I can only see the pictures in my head of how I understand a topic, with little access to the words that go with the pictures. This has been especially challenging in recent meetings with people who are more mathematically inclined than myself, and my inability to say things with precision just generates more furrowed brows. But, in this charged environment where people constantly interrupt each other, it's hard to be able to pause and reflect on the right phrase to convey an important research idea. I can't blame the enviroment entirely. I need to be more patient with myself, and more assertive with others. If my audience doesn't understand an idea the first time, I need to ignore my rather irrational embarassment, and just explain it again a different way.


shannon said...

Okay, so this 'stick' in your salutation is really chaturanga, and it is hard...if you want to continue doing your salutations, go into cobra (with the whole front of your body touching the ground, pressing up with your arms, arching your back). Chaturanga is a pain even if your body isn't screaming at you already...

FemaleCSGradStudent said...

Shannon. Thanks for the tip. My yoga instructor is an occupational therapist, and modified the Sun Salutation for me in the exact way you described. From Plank to Cobra (but never bending my elbow, for that is hard on the rotator cuff) and then straight into downward dog. It's a little wonky when I'm flowing through it, especially because I get into downward dog so much earlier than everyone else. So, I spend some extra time in downward dog, since it is my favorite, and it all works out.

Great minds think alike! :)

shannon said...

New sequences are always a bit wonky, until you get used to the flow.

I'm ready to practice tomorrow's been far too long. When you're back next, we should try to go to a class together!!!