The Back Story
My woes began six months, when I strained the muscles in my lower back by lifting improperly. Recovery from that was frustratingly slow but I was definitely progressing when I caught a cold in mid-February. The ensuing cough (the inevitable conclusion of a cold) kept the muscles around my ribs sore for a fortnight, and I was just getting over that when I accepted an offer to have some body work done around the first of this month.
Unfortunately, in a well-intended effort to stimulate the flow of chi, the practitioner was more enthusiastic than my torso could handle, resulting on two ribs popping out of position, right where they join the breastbone. This made breathing tricky (and coughing excruciating) and it's been a challenge all month to lift anything heavier than a coffee cup. This set back (back set?) was hard on my morale.
A couple weeks ago I went to see my local physician (an osteopath) to get his take on my condition. He confirmed that two ribs were out of alignment and gave me an exercise to do three times daily to help get everything realigned. Bit by bit, I've been feeling less tender and more able to function normally—now I can lift as much as two gallons (if I'm careful) and can work at my desk all day without a nap.
Thus, when my friend Jennifer suggested I sign up for a massage (being offered by the older sister of Jennifer's daughter's girlfriend, who was halfway through massage school and needing practice), I hesitated. I needed results that would be forward for my back; not backwards.
Getting Back on the Horse Table
While I ultimately decided to give it a try, I arrived for my appointment with no small amount of trepidation. While I was quite stiff just lying down on the table (wondering how crazy I was opening myself up to semi-trained hands), I immediately enjoyed the heating pad on the upholstered table. My back muscles said, "Thank you!"
At the outset I explained my back history and the first portion of the massage proceeded well. I was so relaxed, in fact, that I almost fell asleep. Then the moment of truth arrived, when the masseuse asked me to roll over on my belly—a position I had not attempted since my ribs popped out. Encouraged by how things had gone so far, I gently turned over and was pleasantly surprised that the discomfort on my sternum was mild. Whew. (Of course, no pressure was being applied yet, so the test was yet to come.)
Working slowly, but deliberately, she gradually worked deeper into my back. At one time I was close to the edge of what I could tolerate and I asked her to not go any firmer. I was surprised when she reported that she was already working deeply and that she had hardly encountered any knots (I thought I'd be lumpier than an old mattress).
While happy with the results in the moment, I noticed that I was feeling increasingly sore in the hours afterwards and bed looked pretty good that night. What I couldn't tell right away was whether the soreness was productive (as in moving blood into damaged areas) or just adding to the strain on my poor body.
Fortunately I felt much better in the morning. More limber, and less reflexively tense—like I no longer needed to protect myself as much. For the first time in weeks I swept the floor, beat a rug, and did dishes, all of which were highly mood elevating.
Back to the Future?
To be sure, I'm not fully recovered, and I have no real idea how much longer that will take. For one thing, my ribs are still not right, sharply limiting how much I lift. While it's unquestionably better to be improving. I've got a long way to go before I can handle ordinary homesteading chores without assistance.
I figure that I'll have turned a major corner when I'm well enough to start stretching and exercising (even going for walks) on a regular basis.
When I recall all those years when I blithely assumed the absence of pain to be "normal," I shake my head at the folly of it all.