Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Stick

I just bought the coolest tool for tight muscles!!! It's called The Stick. In my last post, I explained a bit about hypertonic muscles, where some of my muscles are so tight that they limit mobility. My hypertonic muscles are in my neck, my calves, and my hamstrings. I can still touch the floor despite very tight calves and hamstrings though!

In PT a while back, I was introduced to The Stick to help calm the hypertonic muscles in my leg that limit mobility in a bad way. I was hooked but didn't get to use it again after that. Then my PT used the Stick again last week to help relax my trapezius muscles and their nasty trigger points. (BTW, a great book on trigger points that you can use at home is called The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook) I don't typically buy something like this unless I feel a true difference with it and I've wanted it for a long time, so I got it the other day. I worked on my legs for a while (20 light rolls per segment) on Sunday and felt some relief. However, I also seem to have overworked an area behind my right knee! It feels bruised but there isn't one. Seems I rolled over some nasty points on a tendon or ligament. Felt painfully good at the time I worked on it, but now I know to take it easy! Can't figure out how to work on my traps muscles without help though. I'm hoping that consistent work on my legs at home will help with some of the puffiness and venous insufficiency/blood pooling issues I have from squishy tissues. Get some qi moving!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Shoulder/neck stuff - taping and mobility

Taping #3 definitely helped a lot with my shoulder instability. Apparently my left shoulder blade deviates from the spine more so than the right one and that instability contributes to problems with my shoulder itself. I can't do any more taping for a while because the skin on my shoulder is raw to the point of peeling. I think it's been two weeks now since I took Tape #3 off and my skin is still irritated. I definitely don't recommend taping for some one with classic type unless the person is very specialied in tissue fragility! Gotta love EDS!

We're working on shoulder stabilization exercises in PT. The trick is to do so without engaging the neck muscles - see below!

My PT has been doing some intense work on my neck due to its noticeable lack of mobility - who'd a thunk?! After treatments of deep massage on my trapezius muscles (ones running across base of neck out to shoulders), I tend to be really spaced out and a bit confused for the rest of the day (or a few days thereafter). I came home early from work the other day because I was sooo fatigued and couldn't concentrate (more so than normal EDS); just wanted to sleep for a few. I laid down on the couch, got comfortable and didn't wake up until my husband came home 2 hours later. I was really confused about dinner and couldn't figure out how to put things together. It was very strange. This all has something to do with the nerves being stimulated in ways they haven't been in decades! Not kidding - that's how bad the hypertonia is!

We've been doing some neat exercises on the floor to help my core and shoulder muscles without engaging my neck muscles in a way that causes problems. I basically roll/flop around on the mat (floor mat, not my PT Mat)! I have to go from facing up to facing down without moving either my upper body or my lower body. It is sooo hard and I have much more trouble rolling my upper body from left to right due to weakness in that sohoulder. You'd think rolling on the floor would be easy but trying to use only the upper body muscles or lower body muscles to move is sooo darn hard! Wish I could describe this exercise better.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Adventures in Taping #3

I took my 2nd round of tape off two days ago. My shoulder was a bit less unstable but as soon as I took the tape off, my muscles running along the scapula up to the neck went into spasm.

Today was PT and Mat had been at a seminar over the weekend. I love this PT place because they are big on Continuing Education. It's fun to see them trying out the new techniques and assessment tools they learn. So I got a functional assessment first thing. He had me bend and move in certain ways and actually looked for where I was tight/restricted, not where I was too flexible. Always knew my hamstrings and calves were tight and my neck is chronic, but I didn't know that my neck stiffness is worse than the average person.

The seminar instructor said that in order to deal with instability issues, you have to deal with mobility issues first. We had not looked at me as having mobility issues other than HYPERmobility. Now that it is obvious my neck is very problematic, my PT is going after that problem. He also thinks that what we do with the neck might help with tightness further down my body (legs). This idea comes from over-stimulation of the nerves in the neck area taking over the impulses that are supposed to go to the legs, I think.

We proceeded from the assessment to the table for more taping. Interestingly, he taped the areas I had felt needed taping. His thinking is that the shoulder instability is actually from problems with the shoulder blade being too loose. I have an unusually small set of wings, I mean scapula, but plenty of room for big muscle spasms! He taped a right triangle on my back. A length of tape from the top of my shoulder almost to my C7/T1 vertebrae, 90 degrees to a length of tape running straight down my back alongside my spine. The connector stretches from the top of my shoulder, across my scapula, and connects with the other tape at about T11.

The first try didn't last more than 20 minutes before it pulled off from the bottom (closest to my butt). Fortunately, I was still at the gym and he was free for a few minutes to re-tape. This one is still holding.

I have muscle spasms but not as bad as before AND my shoulder feels stable. The added bonus is that the tape pulls my posture into better alignment and I can breathe! The true test is how I sleep tonight.

More tomorrow!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Adventures in Joint Taping #2

I'm avoiding the tons of housework I have to do for overnight guests arriving later today. I'm not feeling good and waiting for my meds to kick in. Perfect time for a post!

I went to see my PT on Thursday, two days after the first shoulder taping. The 1st tape stuck really well and I had only taken it off that morning in the shower. I learned a trick too - instead of pulling the tape up, which pulls my skin up, I start the tape by pulling up but then push the skin down to release it from the tape. Both less painful and less traumatic to my skin. My skin did surprisingly well.

I explained to Mat that the tape helped a lot but one of the strips (in front) could have been tighter. I also mentioned that it felt like my shoulder blade was pulling up and my shoulder was falling forward - would it make sense to tape my shoulder blade down too. He said my feedback made perfect sense and we'd proceed with taping the shoulder again that day. So, back to the ultrasound (the thing turned off for a few minutes making the 7 minute session into a 12 min one!), e-stim and ice. Taping occurred just after the ultrasound.

Mat put tape in the same two places as before but tighter and then added a strip that went diagonal from my shoulder all the was past my shoulder blade almost to my spine. It felt weird at first but definitely provided the stability I was lacking last time.

Next was the e-stim and ice. I had the tech turn the stim up higher this time. While I was lying there, I realized why one spot where the sticky "nipple" was placed last time hurt so much - it was directly on an acupuncture spot! Lung 1. They didn't put the lead on the same place this time so no pain. I got to relax there for 15 minutes. My neck hurt and I had to ask for a rolled towel to put under it, despite the pillow I was on. Much better.

Two days later and I feel so much better. My taped shoulder has brought my arm up about 1/2 inch! I definitely feel the squishiness of the right shoulder now, though that one is not as problematic. I think now that my hormones are shifting back to normal, my left shoulder should tighten up again. I'm not interested in pulling this tape off so I'll wait until it starts coming off of its own accord. Yes, I can shower with it - I'm not going to be stinky just for some tape! :)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Two useful blogs I really like

This is going to be a short post because it is late and I have to get up early. I just wanted to note that I have discovered two blogs I find incredibly useful and so relevant to my life right now.

In sickness and in health: A place for couples dealing with illness: Just exactly what the blog title is. I like the authors style, and her insight into couples' interactions when chronic illness is in the picture is poignant. She is hosting the upcoming Grand Rounds and her topic is connections. I'm thinking a lot about EDS-related "loose connections" at the moment with my joints, but connections with friends, social activities and other stuff in my life has really changed since pain has become a daily visitor.

How to Cope with Pain: Again, title and subject are one. Insightful, interactive, proactive, and engaging blog. She tends to have really interesting links as well.

I want to write more but I'm too tired to think. You'll just have to go to these blogs and find out for yourself what they are all about. TTFN!

Muscle taping for instability

My first experience with taping a joint to keep it in place has been interesting thus far. My left shoulder, the one I dislocated two years ago, has been bothering me for a couple of months and got progressively worse over the holidays. For the last several days, I've been taking my Aleve/Tramadol mix around the clock to manage the pain. It feels like my arm wants to fall out of the shoulder socket if I let it hang.

So, I went in to PT today and had to tell him I couldn't do my usual workout. We've gotten into a good routine over the last year and I am to the point where I am in less pain and feel stronger/more stable now than before working with Mat. He is the first PT who a) hasn't hurt me during sessions and b) hasn't given up when I have flares that take me out of commission on occasion. I am very grateful to have been directed to this particularly good PT who understands that hypermobility needs stability and slow strengthening, no stretching and no major weights right away.

Anyway, so Mat is good when I have something out of whack because we spend the whole session dealing with getting inflammation/pain under control. Today is the first time at PT that my shoulder has been so painful I was close to tears. He did an assessment, which was not fun but gave him an idea of what muscle/area needed the most attention. He said something about the 5th rotator cuff muscle? The gleno-somethingorother attachment point. I laid down on the massage/treatment table for ultrasound. He noted that I have a sulcus, which is when the arm (humerus) separates a bit from under the glenoid (bone above the shoulder) creating a bit of a groove between. This sulcus can be an indication of instability.

After the exam and ultrasound, Mat got down to taping my shoulder. He didn't use "kinesiotape" but some heavy duty flesh-colored tape. Of course he had to put a less sticky layer underneath to protect my skin but we'll see what happens when I try to take the tape off. (I didn't have good fortune when I had my heart monitor for 24 hours and had to take the circle things (look like nipples!) off. Ouch and nasty skin afterwards. I had a round patch of raw skin just center of where a v-neck shirt shows the chest!) I had to hold my arm in such a way that I could push my shoulder into place while he put the tape on - the point being that the tape would hold my joint together when I let gravity pull on my arm. It worked! I felt relief right away and this suprised me most when I laid down on the table again for an ice and "stim" session. I know my shoulder can separate when I am sleeping but this taping method showed me how much my shoulder moves around not just when I am upright.

The PT assistant put more nipples and leads on points around my shoulder and new tape. These connected to a machine that sends a current to the leads. They slowly turn the power up until you are uncomfortable (which can feel like bees stinging) and then back off until you are comfortable with the tingling sensation. I guess the stim is supposed to help calm the muscles? Then he packed my shoulder in ice while I was laying there. I could have fallen asleep.

I've had pain off and on since the session earlier today but the taping has helped overall. Mat says I can leave the tape on up to 24 hours. I am accompanying hubby on a business luncheon tomorrow in Arizona so I had to think about what I am wearing so I can keep my tape on! I wish I had known about this technique sooner, but I guess that issue of "sooner" is going to have it's own post sometime since my whole life with EDS has been about "if only sooner..."

Can you be a tape junkie? I think I could tape up so many body parts right now! Everything feels like it wants to go in different directions these days. At least hubby feels like crap right now too, so I don't feel too bad for being a bit grumpy in pain. But truly, I am amazed that something as simple as tape can make a difference! I'm hooked.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Purpose for posting

I've never been one for keeping journals but I am hoping I'll be good with this blog. I suppose I need a purpose for writing to stay interested so I've decided to use my Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) diagnosis as a reason to post regularly. One of my big interests is in current research on EDS and I hope to provide snippets from articles I read over time.

What is Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome?
It's a genetic disorder (born with it) that affects the glue holding our bodies together. Collagen, that molecular glue, is defective in those with EDS so we have more elasticity and less strength in our connective tissue (tendons and ligaments primarily). The most basic symptoms common to every one with EDS are loose (hypermobile) joints, stretchy skin (usually soft), and fragile tissues. There are six main types of EDS.

What type of EDS do I have?
I have hypermobility type. My joints are extra stretchy and can go beyond the normal range of movement. Many of my joints don't like to stay in place; they don't fully dislocate but partially dislocating can be really painful too. I dislocated my left shoulder two winters ago and have recurrent pain there. I have very soft skin, look younger than my age, and I bruise very easily. I'll go into more details over time but a great resource is the Ehlers-Danlos National Foundation (EDNF). I might shorten my type of EDS to HEDS with the H for hypermobility.