Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Road to Recovery!

For around 7 or so years I have been living with an intermittent pain underneath my right shoulder blade. The earliest I can recall this being a "chronic" problem is from when I was 18 years old and I was engaging in a weight lifting exercise known as the shoulder shrug. I did not have a very good weight lifting set up at this point and at the end of the exercise I would lift the barbell up on to the bench rack. It was at this time that I moved in an off way and felt the electrifying sharp pain shoot up from my mid trap to upper neck. I put off weights for a bit to "recover" but not for long enough. During the next several months to a year I continuously re injured and ultimately stopped lifting weights.

A few years later I started working with a personal trainer to try and work through what I now called a "shoulder problem". I made gains over the course of a year, however, as I started to get heavier my shoulders started to pull frequently. I stopped going to the gym and subsided my physical activity to playing soccer, biking and downhill skiing in the winter.

A number of other "causes" that I will deem contributors to the overall "injury" are:

  • I come from a family of tall lean people. We have long limbs but not a lot of muscular support to hold things in place.
  • I am by profession a computer programmer and have been working on the computer for hours at a time since I was a young teenager. This means slouching and sitting in odd positions.
  • I am a guitar player - which means holding a significant weight of the instrument on one shoulder (which happens to be the affected one)
  • In high school and in college I had a bag that I tended to carry on one shoulder. Sometimes it was the less affected shoulder (left side) and other times it was the more affected (right side).
  • I participated in backpack style camping which means carrying a big backpack for hours at a time on hikes and sleeping on questionable surfaces (air mattresses etc).
I think that any number of these activities without proper preparation or exercise to maintain strength and posture probably has some amount of weight to the accumulation of the injury. 

The injury has always been a come and go sort of thing, but I finally at the point where I want to deal with and overcome its effects. I started out doing this myself, focusing on the shoulder. I found a shoulder recovery program and an article about shoulder mobility and starting to follow exercises in each of these regularly. There are a number of other sources of shoulder mobility / flexibility that I will be adding into my routine and ultimately creating various stretching routines. In big internet business we heavily practice the idea of variation with respect to optimizing results and so to me it makes sense to apply a similar principle when it comes to flexibility and mobility.

Next, I booked myself an appointment at a local chiropractor and muscle therapist center called Back To Health. I was referred here by a trusted colleague. Here they did an assessment that lasted 45 minutes or so. The kinesiologist, who started my exam had my twist and bend in various ways and also did some manual movement of various limbs and made some notes. Next chiropractic doctor came in and asked me some questions and poked around feeling for adhesions and checking my spine for irregularities.

Today I went in for the "report" in which they discussed their findings and gave me some more stretching exercises and outlined the path to treatment that they suggested I follow. 

I will be going in twice a week for chiropractic adjustment as well as ART and on top of that will be seeing the massage therapist who also works here. They sent me the details of the report via email and so I will post that up here as well for reference by others. I had already decided that I would go ahead with this as I would really like to resolve these pain issues so that I may ultimately return to weight training and a comfortable life etc etc.

I then had my first session of ART / chiropractic adjustment. I have only ever been to a physiotherapist once before for the same problem and did not find it all that helpful. This experience was quite interesting.

The doctor started off working on my right knee, with ART work. I had heard that this could be quite painful, however, I have to say that I did not find it painful at all. She then proceeded to an adjustment on my knee. I had read in my report that this would be done and was somewhat wary that this might hurt, however, she made two quick taps on the upper part of my knee and that was it. Next, she started working some ART on my pec and underneath my arm (which I assume would be Teres Minor or something - I will ask next time). Again, not a painful experience, even though it was a bit ticklish in some areas (I am rather ticklish in general, so I was not alarmed). Then she used some sort of device that was like a little mini jack hammer to make some adjustments to my shoulder. I found this to be rather interesting as I barely felt anything. I was wearing a sweater and I think that in order to try and increase effectiveness I will near only a tshirt next time so that there is less clothing in the way.

Next, I rolled onto my stomach and she did some ART to the muscles on my back near my shoulder blade and then she had me inhale and then while exhaling did an adjustment move to my mid back (thoracic spine area) by quickly pressing the area. There was a popping sound which I was told was believed to be nitrogen being forced out of the areas where vertebrae are out of place.

Next I rolled onto my side (and then she had me move so that my hips were on their side but my upper body flat). She took my leg and did an adjustment to the lower back (which ended up feeling quite interesting the rest of the day). Then finally she did an adjustment to my neck which made all sorts of crazy popping sounds and felt great!

It was an odd feeling after this was done and as I had walked to this place from my house which is not too far, I walked at a slower pace than normal so as not to make any sudden movements that might revert the adjustments made. Throughout the day I experienced some odd feelings particularly in my lower back and upper next that they said would be expected.

Attached are the report findings. As you can see I have a number of "severe" misalignments in my cervical and thoracic spine a few lesser so in my lower back. I have never really had any lower back pains or problems however as I now understand it the shoulders and spine very much connected and misalignment in one can cause misalignment in the other and add on to other problems that may already exist in the area or be accentuated by injuries (such as poor form and dangerous weight lifting practices :P). So in terms of chicken or the egg? Well as Dan Dennett says in a Google talk "as you know the answer to any good chicken or the egg question is: yes" - so whether the spinal curvature was caused by the shoulder injury or the shoulder injury was accentuated by the existing spinal curvature is anyone's guess, however I tend to believe that there was likely some spinal issues due to the above stated reasons and the weight lifting injury was the first major tidal wave to flood the grounds so to speak.

My next adjustment will be Friday.

I am very interested and excited to seeing where this goes.


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