Intuition: Listening to my body

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Sometimes in life, we have to stop listening to what other people say and listen to ourselves. In most cases, our intuition leads us in the right direction. But sometimes, society or even our own sense of adventure tells us otherwise, leading to internal conflicts.

I’ve noticed messages from my body in two main ways lately and am trying to take heed of their warnings: pain and food allergies/intolerance (digestive issues leading to eczema, hives, and other physical issues).

This is not the first time I’ve written about chronic pain. I never experienced daily pain until my NOLS Semester in the Rockies (1989), and I’ve never gone a day without pain ssince then. Perhaps I strained muscles and other soft tissues on my 95 day exploration and adventures in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. CT scans show some arthritis and bulging discs in the neck and low back, a hemangioma on T5, and signs of old compression fractures on T8 and T9, but they say nothing that should cause daily pain. In 1997, I had an osteochondroma removed from underneath my right scapula, and the doctors thought that would relieve most if not all of my thorascic pain. After five abdominal surgeries (two ovarian cysts and a dermoid tumor, appendix, and two umbilical hernia repairs) and seven surgeries on my right leg (five on the knee for torn meniscus, and two on the ankle for torn ATFL and tendons on both sides in the back) my body is not quite what it used to be. I’ve become accustomed to feeling stiff, sore, and achy and have changed my exercise regimen to include more physical therapy, yoga, biking, swimming, and other low-impact activities. Yet, I still have pain day to day. I seek the fine line between strengthening and conditioning and injury.

Yet, my spirit longs for more, so occasionally I get tempted to push my limits and challenge myself. The most recent example of this is back in May when I decided to join in the #handstand365 challenge. While I knew I couldn’t do a handstand every single day for a year, I thought I’d try doing them when I felt I could and still try to get to 365 of them. I made it to 29 so far. And now my neck hurts more than it used to, so I’ve been taking a break from it for a couple of weeks. I remember doctors and physical therapists telling me that becaues I have three bulging discs in my neck (C3/4, 4/5, and 5/6) that I should avoid lifting weights over my head. In fact, my physical therapist also told me to stop doing shoulder shrugs with weights and to start pulling resistance bands DOWN toward the floor to encourage those muscles (the levator scapulae?) to lengthen. I thought doing handstands would be ok since they are considered “yoga” moves and ignored earlier warnings not to do inversion exercises like headstands, handstands, and shoulder stands because of neck issues.

I learned how to do handstands as a child when I was a gymnast. I didn’t realize that doing them “yoga” style was different, but I finally figured that out when one of the #handstand365 teacher posted a video of her handstand instead of just a still picture. I noticed she went into it from downward-facing dog. I was going into them from a standing position. I noticed the yoga handstand was more fluid, slow, and easy on the body. When I tried to do them that way, it was much harder for me. I wasn’t even doing them right, duh! And I wasn’t always doing them as part of a yoga practice. handstands here and there in cool places and sometimes after having drinks with friends (not very yoga-like). I started noticing from the pictures that in almost every one, my body leaned to the left (my left leg is shorter than my right, maybe that’s why? I don’t know but check out the pictures). And what the pictures don’t show is that I land on my right leg every time (and that’s the one that’s had seven surgeries). My leg is getting more sore, and my neck is hurting more these days, so I hate to say it but I must listen to what my body is telling me and put my #handstand365 challenge on the back burner for a while. Maybe one day I will get stronger and be able to do them better, but I’m worried that putting my body weight on my hands like that is just as bad if not worse than lifting weights over my head. After so many surgeries in my past, I know that the consequences of getting hurt again are serious!

Since May, I’ve removed gluten from my diet again. A couple weeks ago, I also started eating a paleo diet. That means no grains, dairy, refined sugars and oils, and legumes (including peanut). I wrote another entry about getting diagnosed with gluten sensitivity. My dietician told me to go ahead and experiment with gluten-free products that include corn, hoping to open up more options for me. Based on past results, corn and sugar (they are in the same family) do not agree with me. I react and get sick every time I have them. I tried to tell her that, but she urged me to try it and see. So I did. And I got really sick; I call it ‘corn poisoning’ because that’s how it feels. After following up with my chiropractor at a natural wellness center, I took his advice to completely eliminate grains from my diet for a month and also try the paleo diet to give my digestive system a break. Apparently, my small intestine was spasming, and my stomach was irritated. For weeks, I’ve had a bad stomach and back ache, so I can tell something is very wrong. Having a diagnosis helps me keep a strict gluten-free diet, and hearing that my guts are as bad as they feel is enough to give me the self-discipline it takes to eat a paleo diet. I need to listen to my gut, literally, and eat the foods that make me feel healthy not sick. Apparently, the proteins in grains are difficult to digest, and dairy products are also inflammatory. Although it’s very difficult to eat paleo, after a month I will reassess and hopefully be able to introduce some brown rice and cheese at the very minimum. I really miss those two things! I’m definitely not going to reintroduce corn again. This is the second time I’ve eliminated it from my diet, and the cause/effect relationship is clear, so I am going to trust my instinct and away from it altogether. I don’t really feel the need to get a corn allergy test because I definitely react when I eat it.

Over the next months and years, I look forward to feeling healthier with less pain, and will focus on taking one day at a time.

Self Care Sunday: Balance

20130414-221855.jpg Life is all about balance. To be healthy people, we have to learn to balance the many aspects of our lives. I found these three graphic organizers that display different facets of our overall health. It’s so hard to balance just the five things in the circle graph above. We need enough sleep, yet we also need to exercise and relax. We need to feed ourselves well and exist within a social support network of some sort. Whether that’s family or friends, time together is just as important as time alone. If you are a mom like I am, you are also in charge of making sure you meet and balance these needs for your children too. No pressure!

Last week, I worked on the sleep section of the pie, staying home two days in a row to take naps instead of running around during the day. This week, I’ve been exercising more; physical therapy twice this week for my knee and two days in a row of swimming laps at the pool this weekend. Our pool is at our gym, and the aquatic area includes both indoor and outdoor pools with lap lanes and fountains and water slides for the kids. There is also a sauna and two jacuzzis and steam rooms. The weather was super nice this weekend, so I also took advantage of the opportunity to relax in the sun both yesterday and today.

Nutrition is always a challenge for me because I’m allergic to/intolerant of wheat, corn, sugar, and eggs. I know how to eat clean but it is very hard to sustain it meal after meal, day after day. I’ve focused hard this week on eating foods that agree with me instead of foods that make my inflamed and reactive. It’s really hard though. I mean really hard.

 

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This Venn diagram is interesting because it shows that different parts of our lives are interrelated. It’s helpful to see that there is overlap between varying aspects of our well-being. I spend a lot of time in the mind and emotions sections and am learning to spend more time in the spirit section. Working some, but not too much. Taking care of my body and working on nurturing relationships.

 

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This thinking map identifies specific ways to work on different parts of our lives. This graph suggests that by working on these individual components of ourselves, we can achieve balance and feel happy and healthy, free from depression and anxiety.

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!

Daybook 4/2/13

http://thesimplewomansdaybook.blogspot.com

Outside my window…It’s getting dark. The sky is a soft pale blue gray with clouds and the sun peeking through as it sets. It rained lightly today, so the ground is a little wet. Yesterday it was sunny and 80 degrees! It’s still warm today, but it’s cloudier. It’s warm enough for the outside pool to be open at our gym. I fell asleep outside there this weekend while I was waiting for a lap lane to open up.

I am thinking…my foot hurts. There comes a time during the day when I have to sit down. We just got back from Thomas’s Taekwondo class. He goes twice a week. Zoe is at dance for five hours tonight.

I am thankful…for life, for my husband and my kids and my relative health.

In the kitchen…dinner is almost ready. Tonight, we are having chicken, vegetable, and rice noodle soup. I roasted cauliflower, broccoli, red pepper, and asparagus then put it all in the food processor. The soup is very thick and chunky with veggies. Yum!

I am wearing…light blue sweats and a black t-shirt from Painting with a Twist (that I won from the weirdest thing in your purse contest during ZTA mom’s weekend).

I am creating…this week’s fiction episode. I have the prompt and am thinking about where to go in the story with it. This week, I compiled all thirteen episodes in one document, Handle with Care, and it was over 14,000 words. I also entered a fiction contest with a $1000 prize and publication with just under 5,000 words.

I am going…to PT twice a week for my knee. I hurt it a few weeks ago. Apparently, my kneecap isn’t tracking right. It hurts to walk and to move it, so I’m focusing on it for a couple weeks to see if it will improve. I’ve learned that kneecap tracking issues can be related to quadricep insufficiency and to stretched ligaments. Although it also hurts on the back of my knee, the surgeon said there is no more meniscus left on the lateral posterior side to tear. He should know because he did the last two meniscus repairs (out of five total on the right knee).

I am wondering…how Zoe did on her STAAR writing test today. She said she thinks she completely misunderstood the prompt. But it’s not like her to be off base during testing. In fact, she generally scores in the advanced categories and sometimes has perfect scores. She said she wrote a personal narrative, and other people told her they wrote expository pieces. Not sure what to think about that.

I am reading…fiction written by other bloggers in our group, Friday Fiction Friends. There are thirteen of us now, and we all write fiction based on the same prompt. It’s interesting to see the different interpretations of the prompts and to meet all the different characters. I’ve also been reading some non-fiction about music theory. I’ve been learning about key theory and what chords go in the different major keys.

I am hoping…we are able to go to Virginia this summer. Our friend is getting married, and we would like to have beach week there attached to that trip instead of going to Destin, FL this summer. We haven’t made any plans yet, but I sure hope we are able to make the trip! It’s been five years since we’ve visited Virginia.

I am looking forward to…summer. I hate getting up early in the morning. It will be so nice to get more sleep in the summer time. I also can’t wait to spend time at the pool with the kids and lying in the sun. The kids can take swimming lessons at our gym too. They’ve done it in the past, but not every summer!

I am learning…the solo for “You Shook Me All Night Long” by AC/DC. I can get through it, but not as fast as the recording and not as good at all. I need to work on speed and techniques like vibrato. It’s hard, but I enjoy it, and I have a guitar teacher who comes over for a lesson every week.

Around the house…got caught up on the laundry today. Rescued a remote-control helicopter from the roof this morning. Refrigerator is majorly full. Sierra’s room is empty again; she went back to college yesterday after spending Easter weekend with us at home. Lots of pictures to frame and hang.

I am pondering…how to get more sleep. Took a nap today, and it was wonderful. I think I need to do that more often. Once I have coffee, I’m usually up for the day and don’t ever try to go back to sleep once everybody leaves for school and work. Bedtime is usually after ten (sometimes I crash earlier) and when the alarm goes off in the morning, I am never feeling rested. Weekends I do sleep in, but getting through the week is rough. I don’t know how some people function on less sleep. I’m just one of those people who needs more than average.

A favorite quote for today…”Seduce my mind and you can have my body. Find my soul and you can have me forever.” ~Anonymous

One of my favorite things…massages (had a sixty minute one today).

A few plans for the rest of the week: gym/pool tomorrow, PT Thursday, tutoring Wednesday through Friday.

A peek into my day…

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Pain is a Pain

I suffer from chronic pain and have seen all kinds of practitioners over the years without much relief. I am addressing the problem from every possible angle including alternative medicine. I go to PT and workout at the gym on a regular basis, but over the years my gym activities have changed to accommodate my need for low impact, low resistance exercises. I’m trying to find that fine line between resting and strengthening without injury.

Physically, my body has been through a lot. Sixteen surgeries, including five on my abdomen and seven on my right leg have resulted in weakness and dysfunction in many areas. I’ve had three children and am turning forty-five this year. I know I have a lot to be grateful for including the fact that my body has produced three kids, and I can walk, swim and do yoga. I do miss the old days when I was strong enough to hike, mountain bike, rock climb, ski, run, and jump. Those days seem like forever ago. But I appreciate the memories of many adventures.

Working out can cause pain flare ups. Rest causes weakness and stiffness. Every day, I work on stretching and some kind of light activity. All I can do is take things one at a time.

I’ve always been a fan of massages and get them at least monthly to decrease muscle spasms. I discovered a place in town that provides Chinese foot reflexology and full body massages. The therapist told me my channels are blocked and that I think/worry too much. The idea is that if the brain is over active, it overloads the nervous system, and the body breaks down on many levels.

I’m becoming increasingly interested in alternative medicine like acupuncture. I first tried it in 1989 for pelvic pain. It didn’t help because I had a dermoid tumor the size of a grapefruit. I had surgery to have it removed.

My new acupuncturist told me my chi (energy) was blocked too. She opened up some chakras (energy centers) and has been using both needles and cupping to help increase circulation and remove toxins. I’ve never tried cupping before, but I thought it was interesting how my left shoulder area left lots of dark marks, and the right didn’t. The dark marks indicate where there are more toxins, and my left shoulder area has been flared up for weeks now after hurting it somehow doing side planks at PT.

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I first started seeing the acupuncturist more than a year ago on a referral from my ankle surgeon. I had two ankle surgeries, and there is a lot of scar tissue. I saw her for a while and then returned this month to follow up on back pain. She’s awesome! Check her out at… http://www.points4health.com

In Chinese medicine, they study the tongue. Check out this picture and see what tongue matches yours.

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Last year, I had the Yin deficiency tongue. I’ve focused on adding more yin to my life since then. I go to yin yoga class at the gym every week and love the inward focus and calming effects. This year, I have the Qi deficiency tongue (teeth marks and everything). It goes with being tired all the time and not having a good chi flow.

And by the way, can I say that tongues are weird?! Have you ever stopped to examine your tongue? They are weird. And they are always in motion. Just try to make yours hold still.

Anyway, at PT this week, my therapist asked if I have ever had my hormones checked. I didn’t know hormones could affect pain. I had hormone testing once in 2000 when I had spinal fractures and was diagnosed with osteopenia (low bone density). All my hormone levels were fine then. But I’m a lot older now, so it’s something to consider I guess.

I saw a chiropractor today and failed his applied kinesiology tests for adrenal function. I did a little Internet research and fit the description pretty well. Apparently the adrenal glands are what our bodies use to respond to stress. And he said I need cortisol testing. Cortisol is a hormone that’s produced in excess when we are stressed. And it causes widespread inflammation. So, I made an appointment for hormone testing including cortisol. He also told me to take these supplements.

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Vitamin B-12
Adrenacalm
Fish oil
Bamboo powder (to calm down my reactions to food sensitivities).

Check out these beads he put on my ears too.

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My right eat has two sets of beads; one for my back and one for my knee. And my left ear has one set of beads for my shoulder. They are accu-beads placed on acupuncture spots with clear tape on top. I’m supposed to leave them there until they fall off (1-2 weeks). They are a bit tender, but they said if they are tender they are working and to leave them there!

I’ve also been focusing more on meditation and calming my energy. After getting feedback that I think and worry too much, I learned I need to spend less time thinking about the past and worrying about the future. I strive to find calm energy and live in the moment. It helps.

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Thanks for reading. Peace out.

Pain

You know what sucks? Pain. 

You know what sucks more? Learning that to be in less pain, I must cut back on exercising (hence become fat and unfit). 

I don’t really like my choices here.  For my entire life, I’ve cared about my fitness and my appearance.  Now that I’m reaching mid-forties, I’m being told to cut back on exercising.  Cut back?  I need more! Are you kidding me? Have you seen my legs? 

I’ve been losing muscle tone and gaining fat for years now since I hurt my ankle playing over forty women’s soccer.  (I should have known….hanging head in shame)  It was the beginning of a cascade of events that have led me to today.

First I rolled it running full speed playing soccer.  Little did I know that I have a leg length discrepancy. My right leg is longer, so I keep hurting it over and over again (to date I’ve had five knee surgeries and two ankle surgeries on my right leg).  A ligament partially tore, so I wore a boot and limped around until it healed.   Then in the spring of 2009, I decided to show Sierra (who was then trying out for varsity dance as a junior) that I could still do high kicks.  I did one, two, then three, then oh no I heard a snap and there I was lying on the floor crying, screaming and writhing in pain.  It turned out I tore the ATFL all the way off the bone and a  few tendons in the back (peroneus, brevis, and longus).

Fast forward three years to today.  I had the surgeries, I did the PT, and I’m still in pain.  Every day. And since my ankle isn’t right, my knee isn’t right, and since my knee isn’t right, my lower back isn’t right….and so it goes.  I had already been suffering from chronic pain in my neck and mid back from previous over-wear and tear.  Now that my lower back decided to join in, I’m just one ball of pain from neck to toe literally.

PT helps. Yoga helps.  Diet and hydration help.  Rest helps.  Working out doesn’t help.  It flares me up every time.  My physical therapists tell me to stick with the baby steps before I try the more advanced exercises.  I’ve got to build up strength a little at a time.  I tend to overdo it and set myself back. 

Until my current flare-up settles down, I’m only allowed to swim and do five PT exercises which involve lying on the floor (neutral spine) and a physio ball and foam roller.  It’s not like me, and I’m having trouble transitioning from my active lifestyle.  I really don’t want to give up on fitness and stop exercising.  But I really can’t function on a daily basis when I’m in pain.  Pain is a pain!

http://blog.traumeel.us/default.aspx?Tag=muscle%20and%20joint%20pain%20relief

30 Days of Truth: Day 1 Something you Hate About Yourself

I found this challenge here:  (thanks for the idea!)

http://debiehive.blogspot.com/p/30-days-of-truth.html

Day one is something you hate about yourself.   I hate that I have chronic pain.  My neck and mid back have been hurting since 1989.  My low back started hurting when I injured my ankle in 2007.  I’ve had a total of sixteen surgeries including seven on my right leg (two on my ankle and five on my knee) and go to physical therapy two to three times a week to work on strengthening without injury.  I get monthly massages, Chinese foot reflexology, and I’d like to try Rolfing.  It sucks to be in pain because it makes me grumpy, and it keeps me from being as active as I would like to be.