My mom is an emergency room nurse. Growing up, this meant many things for me. (1) whenever I got sick, my mom knew what was wrong and how to make it better; (2) in order to get sympathy I had to be missing a limb with active bleeding; (3) if I got into trouble, my mom KNEW because she knew every cop in three counties – this kept me on my best behavior because my mom was scarier than any cop, and; (4) I grew an overly confident sense of my own health and ability to recover from injury and illness.
Number 4 has led to a walk it off mentality. If I cannot walk it off, the suck it up mentality is quick to follow. For example, when I tore a ligament in my ankle last winter, I fell down on our icy driveway and sobbed and could barely move from the agony. Once the mister carted me inside and packed ice around my ankle, though, I was all “no, no, I’ll be fine. I’ll just rest for a minute and then I’ll walk it off.” The next morning I tried to stand up and my ankle just folded under the weight. So I went with suck it up until my mom told me to go to the hospital, dummy.
In the end, I am unreasonably stubborn when it comes to seeking medical attention. Whether it’s because I don’t want to bother the busy nurses or doctors or I just feel that my illness or injury isn’t that severe, I don’t know.
I get knots in my back, right between my shoulder blades. The knots are the result of tension. Usually, a long soak in the tub and an advil are enough to ease the knots. If not, I make the mister rub them out for me and they’re fine.
Recently, though, I’ve been getting them more frequently and they hurt more and they don’t ease up as well. So I’ve just been rolling my shoulders and listening to my joints crack and ignoring the pain.
Which led to today.
This morning when I tried to brush my hair I noticed that my upper back was really sore. I ignored it, got dressed, and headed out. At work, I tried to reach a coffee cup in the cabinet and found my arm would not extend above my shoulder. And my head refused to turn or lean to the right. In order to move my gaze, I had to shift my entire torso. I worked for several hours, whimpering occasionally when I turned too far. When my assistant referred to me as John McCain for the second time, I gave in and called the doctor.
The doctor looked at my naked back and pronounced me foolishly stubborn. “This has to have been painful for days. It looks like you’re smuggling marbles, your back is so knotted up. From now on, don’t ignore pain like this!”
Diagnosis: strained muscles in my upper back and a pinched nerve. Awesome. I got a referral to a chiropractor and a massage therapist and orders to go RIGHT NOW.
After they worked on me, I can turn my head a little more and my range of motion for my arm is somewhat improved, but I'm still very stiff. I have to go back on Wednesday and Friday and get fixed up again.