|The leaves are starting to pile up in the yard.|
Down and back. Shoulders down and back.
That has been almost a mantra for me over the past few weeks. Ever since I started physical therapy on Oct. 3, therapists have reminded me many times to make sure my shoulders are down—not up around my ears—and back—not slumped forward.
Because I do tend to slump. My posture is horrible. Years of hunching over first paper and pen, then typewriters, then a word processor, then computers have instilled in me a slumped over posture.
Even now, as I write this, I have to remind myself over and over to sit up straight.
One of my therapists, Kyle, explained that when I lift up my right shoulder, whether it’s to pick up something, reach for something, or indulging in bad posture, I’m “grinding” those nerves that are irritated.
“When you feel pain, check to see what position your shoulder is in,” he told me once.
He recommended finding a cue to remind myself to keep the shoulders down and back. So far, I realize pretty quickly when I’m slumping forward or holding my shoulders up around my ears. But I would like to think of an actual cue.
Physical therapy has been a positive experience for me. I still have pain, but I am feeling stronger. And Kyle, plus Darius and Katie, are teaching me ways to adapt so I’m not putting pressure on nerves.
For example, during last Thursday’s session, I was having a lot of pain when I lifted up both arms to do an exercise with a stretch band. That pain had gotten better, but it seemed to have flared up again.
I can easily tell now what muscle soreness from exercise is and what the original nerve pain is.
Katie and Kyle were ready to find another way for me to strengthen the muscles without pain. It involved lying face down on a table and lifting my arm from that position. Gravity wasn’t pulling on my shoulder, so no pain.
I’ve been working on making adjustments in other areas of my life, too. When the pain was at its worst, it was very hard to use the computer—to move the mouse around, to hold my arms up to type.
Not using a computer was not an option for me. I write and edit for a living. I write and edit because I love doing those things.
The written word is like my breath.
So I am adapting. At home, I placed a firm pillow in my desk chair to lift myself up so I didn’t have to do any lifting of the shoulder to work.
I’m still working on my desk environment at the newspaper office. I originally had the mouse and its pad almost an arm’s length away from me so I could use the space right in front of me to place notebooks, reports, etc. Reaching for the mouse and moving it hurt. I found that moving the mouse pad closer to me helped a great deal.
In my daily life, I’ve learned that it’s OK to place my drinking glass on the left side of my plate so I can lift it with my left hand. I’ve learned that I can throw things pretty well with my left hand when I’m playing with Chase Bird. (He likes to smack rolled up pieces of paper or little play mice. It’s like playing volleyball with him.)
|Chase Bird enjoying the sunshine on the enclosed porch.|
A doctor told me years ago that I would have to adapt my life to having depression. I learned what helps me with the depression, and with OCD, and what doesn’t.
I’m learning that it works with my physical health, too. I can find ways to do the things I want to do. I just have to adapt.
And keep my shoulders down and back.
Have you ever had to adapt the way you did an activity? What would be a good cue to remind me to place my shoulders in a better position? I appreciate your input!