Our bodies can take only so much during a lifetime. Words to live by, I suppose.
I was sitting in the anteroom at my rheumatologist’s office this morning, and I had taken along my latest edition of Yoga Journal magazine for entertainment while I waited. As the soothing voice of the medical information television issued in a slow, repetitive cycle from the vidscreen above, I read about the misuse of hamstrings and what it does to a body.
As this was in a yoga magazine, the narrator was singing her woes of feeling the pushback in her hamstrings after years of indulging her hypermobility in advanced Ashtanga Yoga poses. Even though I’ve never attained advanced practice status, I could relate with her when she talked of microtears in her hamstring muscles that made folding forward painful after awhile. I also have pain when folding forward, only it is my lower back that seems to provide it.
People think that hypermobile joints mean that certain physical activities, like stretching (and especially yoga) is easier for us. Hell, I used to think that, because my hypermobility is one of the things that added to the exhilaration of attaining that difficult pose or managing to bend and not break in my long-ago martial arts practice. But, after one April day in 2016, I’ve had to re-evaluate what I can do and what I can’t do. Hypermobility is a veiled curse, only revealing itself when it’s too late.
That leads me to personal life narrative, another concept that light-bulbed in my mind as I described the current state of my life to my doctor. As I sat there talking to him, I realized that I was spinning a yarn, creating a narrative of what was going on in my body and how it was affecting my experience of pain. Was this a true narrative, or was I creating a slightly altered reality as I talked?
I’ve been trying once again to lower the amount of tramadol I take on a daily basis, as my tolerance level had reached its limit and I hadn’t been getting much, if any, benefit from it. But I found myself telling the doctor that lowering my tramadol dose had made the Lyrica I take at bedtime more effective, since I could now feel the effects of Lyrica more clearly. Is that actually so? Or is this one of those subjective feelings with no basis in fact? And is the creation of that narrative going to inform how my brain interprets the pain signals in my body?
Interestingly, although I have lowered my tramadol dosage slightly, I don’t feel a lesser or greater amount of pain, although there are times when every joint and muscle in my body seems to hurt. I wonder if my implementation of expressive writing as a therapy has had an effect on my ability to tolerate pain and also on my perception that creates the suffering associated with pain. I know rationally that I feel the same level of pain, but I am able to simply accept that I’m in pain and try physical methods of relief for longer periods than I was capable of doing in the past.
My big problem, though, is that I end up pushing myself to do those difficult yoga poses again simply because I feel more on top of my condition. There have been many instances in my yoga practice where I took the absence of obvious pain during a certain pose to be a license to bind, stretch and arm balance to my heart’s content, only to feel the punishment of pain set in after class. I’m sure there’s a practice to fix that too; it’s called self-discipline! I need to develop some, don’t I? 😖
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