Posts Filed Under: Meaningless Dribble
Posted by Rachel
on June 6, 2017 at 5:52 pm
On a day hike in November, when I was carrying less than 10 pounds on my back, I hurt my neck somehow. What a wimp, right? There was no blinding flash of pain but the next day I couldn’t move my neck from side to side and attempting to do so hurt a lot. Trying to turn my head back when changing lanes while driving was particularly excruciating but I thought it would pass. I even went to the chiropractor to get things popped back into place, a fix that usually works for me. Six weeks later, nothing had improved so I finally went to the doctor on Jason’s urging.
Although what transpired in the months following that visit will no doubt bore many of you, for some, my experience might explain all the mysteries of life… or some of its agonies at the very least. I am an inquisitive person and I gathered a lot of information on the topic of neck pain by constantly asking questions of any medical professional I came in contact with. You might as well benefit from that tiresome habit.
Part 1: Pill Cocktails
As I already mentioned, after about six weeks of experiencing severe neck pain with no improvement, Jason convinced me to go to the doctor. My doctor x-rayed my neck to make sure I didn’t have any fractures or compressed vertebrae. The x-ray showed nothing amiss so he concluded that my injury was limited to my muscles. He believed that I had hurt a muscle just enough that the surrounding muscles had spasmed, i.e. contracted, to protect the damaged area. This sounds nice and helpful in theory but it doesn’t feel good, especially when it becomes everlasting. My doc prescribed three days of muscle relaxants to ease my neck’s grasp and 10 days of a strong anti-inflammatory to bring down the swelling. He also recommended I heat the area in the morning and ice it at night. Additionally, physical therapy was suggested as a possible aid. My pill cocktail definitely made a big difference but I was still hurting after 10 days, so I willingly signed up for the awkward discomfort of physical therapy.
- Many new muscle relaxants on the market now are not habit forming. They aren’t the Somas you remember your wild friends enjoying as a teenager.
- Even if you have stomach issues like gastritis, novel anti-inflammatories exist that won’t irritate your delicate linings.
- When your back pops while you are being squished together during chiropractic adjustments, the pops are air escaping from facet joints.
Part 2: My PT Prognosis
My physical therapist had a slightly different opinion of my situation than my doctor. He said that women between the ages of 35 and 50 commonly suffer from neck injuries caused by decades of bad posture and weak neck muscles. He thought my problems, which practically occurred spontaneously, were basically an overdue tantrum brought about by a long history of maltreatment. He agreed that muscle spasms (tightened muscles) were the main reason for my pain but believed joint damage, not just a muscle injury, was involved. In his opinion, my muscles were protecting my joints rather than each other… silly chivalrous muscles.
- Most people have flimsy necks, especially women, unless they weightlift. However, lifting causes its own brand of neck injuries.
- Neck injuries like mine are quite common in women once they reach their mid-thirties.
- Posture-related issues happen with women in part because they don’t want to look like they are sticking out their chest; they hunch instead. If you’ve got it ladies, flaunt it or you will hurt it.
- Neck joints can be injured by something as simple as lifting a heavy object over your head or sleeping funny.
- Neck injuries don’t usually go away on their own. If they are not treated, they will typically become chronic and behave very unpredictably. If you’ve had one for a long time, it is much harder, almost impossible, to treat.
- This type of injury usually gets better in 2-4 weeks with aggressive treatment. If it doesn’t, it might be time to consider an epidural or cortisone injection. Injections won’t fix the issue but they will make it easier to move the joints, which is what they need.
- Correct neck posture is a straight back with shoulders back and down. Your head should be in line with your shoulders not hunched forward. Your chin should not be tilted up.
- Computer screens and books should be held at eye level. This keeps you neck in a satisfactory position.
- Pain at the base of the skull is muscle related typically while pain along the spine is usually caused by joints.
- Those popping noises, like Rice Krispies, your neck makes after visiting the physical therapist or chiropractor? They’re caused by a bit of inflammation created from overworking the area. When the tissues swell, there isn’t anywhere for the swelling to go because everything is so tight.
Part 3: Bandages and Blisters
After my first physical therapy visit, and all the manual side-to-side rotating my therapist did that hurt like hell, I felt wonderful the rest of the day. That wonderfulness wore off though and, a couple days later, I felt pretty sore.
I liked the slight tension this tape created until it evolved into severe irritation.
Along with moving my neck around excruciatingly, on that first visit my PT put some kinesiology tape on my back and neck. This tape is used to train muscles to maintain correct posture and stretch them in helpful ways. As instructed, I left these bandages on until they started falling off, which took a few days, even though they were hurting me. When I did take them off, I discovered that I had some serious blistering going on, which explained the pain. My physical therapist thought this was caused by an allergic reaction to the adhesives used in the tape, which is not a common occurrence with kinesiology tape but an occasional one.
Part 4: Vices and Virtues
Have you ever had your head in a vice? I have, only a physical therapist calls it a cervical traction device. My neck was stretched a few times in such a contraption. It wasn’t as uncomfortable as it seems like a vice should be but it didn’t miraculously fix my problems either.
Part 5: Zapped
My therapy mishaps didn’t end with the bandage blisters. My PT used an electrode stimulator on numerous visits but on one occasion it really killed. The electricity didn’t feel constant but seemed to spike up and down. I can tolerate a surprising amount of pain, which isn’t always a good thing- just ask my ankle. So, I toughed out the jolts. When I got home, I was astonished to find that my neck had huge blistering burns on it.
My physical therapist had never seen anyone get burned by an electrical stimulator before. I guess I can add “weird skin” to my list of unique qualities.
My physical therapist had never had that happen with a patient before but thought the oils in the lotion he used on me before the stimulator probably changed the conductivity of my skin. Why do I always have to be the skin weirdo? Two layers of my skin were completely burned off and my neck is still red in the scalded spots. Hopefully, that redness goes away at some point.
Part 6: Gummed
During one of my visits, one of the physical therapists played with my joints and tried to get them to release. This was a test to see if any joints were out of place. Her conclusion? The joints weren’t out, the joint capsules were just gummed up. Nothing was blocking the movement of my neck except gunk. Yup, as expected, neck gunk is the root of all evil.
Part 7: Stabbed
After I’d been burned and blistered by different treatments gone awry, my physical therapist said he was almost afraid to touch my skin. But that didn’t stop him from having one of his associates stab me with needles. When a muscle has been constricted for an extended period of time, its chemistry changes and it can’t relax. Micro-thin needles, similar to acupuncture needles, can be driven into these muscles to change their contracted chemistry and loosen them. There is a connection between how much a needle makes a patient twitch and how much tension is in her muscles. When needles were plunged into my traps, I quaked like a fish in the Sahara. Particularly, my right side entertained everyone in the facility with its convulsing. Thrashing around uncontrollably is a strange sensation and it does make you a bit sore.
Part 8: Death
With a death in my family, my neck got much worse. My PT concluded that there is a stress component to my problems, supporting the “last straw” theory.
- Sleep is a factor in chronic neck pain. Not getting enough sleep will make it worse.
- That lump you sleep on, AKA pillow, can add to chronic neck pain. A cervical pillow might help.
Part 9: Strength and Stretching
After months of therapy, my PT decided I was ready to be cut loose… and hopefully stay loose. My neck was still having good days and bad days but its needs were finally few: movement and muscle. My perpetual treatment plan involves performing daily exercises to strengthen my neck muscles and hourly stretching to keep my joints content. The thing about exercise is that it stops working when you stop doing it so I will have to do neck workouts from now until forever. Neck rotations every hour of every day, especially when I’m working at a desk or sitting in class, will also have to become a lasting habit.
- Muscle strength is slow to build so months of daily training are needed before the impact on chronic pain can be assessed.
- When an area hurts, not moving it is a common defense mechanism. This actually makes joint issues worse. Joints want motion. When they hurt, we need to ignore our instincts and move them like crazy. This is especially important with persistent joint issues.
- There isn’t really a motion that’s bad for your neck to do. It’s designed to do everything.
- A kinked neck is a joint issue. What should you do for it? Move your neck like crazy. (Stop being such a baby and just do it!)
- A pinched neck is caused by a problem with the same joints that cause kinks, the facet joints.
Part 10: Post PT
I’m four months into my perpetual plan now and the strength and stretching exercises do seem to be helping. My head stem hasn’t seized up again. It’s whinier than a teenager in a dead zone sometimes but I’m tough enough to deal with that drama. Go forth neck and be tolerable!
Posted by Rachel
on June 16, 2014 at 8:45 pm
People envision a lot of weird things when they think of Utah, such as dirty old men that accumulate wives like I accumulate shoes. While Utah is not the polygamist paradise of imaginings or much like what most outsiders picture in many other regards, it does contain a lot of secluded locations with distinctive flavors worth a second take…or a double take.
Since I started attending photography classes last year, I have documented, via snapshot, a few of Utah’s strange habitats and unique quirks as I’ve come across them. Although I’m sure that this photographing will continue as I find more wacky spots, allow me to share some of the uncommonness, and bizarreness, that I’ve found within Utah’s borders thus far.
Elberta, a tiny town on the far side of Utah Lake, is a real throwback down to its vintage gas station.
This shoe tree can be found out in the desert near Delta.
Delta’s shoe tree is covered in everything from ski boots to Converse sneakers.
Antelope Island, on the Great Salt Lake, is home to a herd of bison.
These Antelope Island bison weren’t particularly eager for human contact but they weren’t too shy either.
We journeyed onto the Great Salt Lake via Farmington Bay last January. Talk about some serious oddballs! Spheres of puffy snow rumpled the lake’s surface and dumbfounded us.
The Great Salt Lake doesn’t freeze in winter due to its salinity but its surface ices enough for current rivers to emerge.
The snow near the Great Salt Lake crystallizes peculiarly. Is it the presence of sodium chloride or could it be Metachlorians? You got me.
The town of Thistle was wiped out in a landslide in 1983, the most costly landslide in U.S. history. This house has remained submerged in that ghost town’s muck ever since.
These bits of deteriorating stone and rotting wood are all that remain of the Thistle schoolhouse after 30 years of abandonment. It was one of the few buildings left standing when 65,000 acre-feet of water flooded the town in ’83.
Technically, I came across this conglomeration of signs just beyond Utah’s boundaries but, in my opinion, it was close enough.
Yes, Utah’s got some weirdness but who’d want to live in a state devoid of eccentricity and headshake-worthy places?
Posted by Rachel
on February 11, 2014 at 2:08 pm
If you are like the average person, you probably think about your teeth roughly four minutes a day at most…unless you are the unfortunate victim of a toothache, in which case you may find it difficult to think about anything else. Yes, most of us only give our chompers a passing thought in the morning and evening as we do our ritual brushing until something goes horribly wrong…or even a little wrong. Teeth, like that grouchy old man next door, are easily irritated. Recently I’ve had some ill-fated misfortunes in the molar department. Since February is a time for gushing tales of star-crossed lovers, in that celebrated tradition I humbly present to you this riveting story of my star-crossed teeth.
On New Year’s Eve I noticed that one side of my mouth seemed unusually sensitive but I didn’t give it much thought. (I suffer from a wanton disregard of pain.) However, later that evening, when Jason and I got home from our revelries, we decided to have a little snack and a few nibbles into that pizza my mouth got mean beyond even my ability to ignore. It suddenly hurt to bite on my left side, which started throbbing. I noticed, upon tongue probing, that there was a jagged spot on one of my molars. It felt like a crack. Oh hateful fate!
I nearly swallowed this chunk of faux-enamel.
Seeing as it was New Year’s, there seemed to be little I could do to remedy the situation immediately but the day following the holiday I called my dentist. Of course, as luck would have it, he was out of town and wouldn’t be able to see me for almost a week. That delay didn’t seem too grievous. So what if I had to bite on one side for a few days or so. No biggie. Until…
That evening I was chewing some gum, only on my good side of course, and I must have just barely brushed the questionable part of my maw with it because all of a sudden I found myself chewing on a large chunk of tooth. When you’ve just spit out a big piece of molar and you have no idea what pain’s got in store for you and no help is imminent, panicking is advisable. (Ninety-five percent of those polled agree.) That’s exactly what I did. A restless night followed as visions of unmentionable toothache terrors filled my anxious head.
Biting on my troubled side had already been out of the question but I now found that drinking was also a big problem. Anything liquid coming into contact with the exposed area of my mouth made my nerves light up like a Christmas tree from hell. So I resorted to drinking gracelessly through a straw crammed in my good cheek. Yes, it was as awkward and inefficient as it sounds. Hence, I was perpetually thirsty and probably perpetually ornery. Within a few days, I realized that I could drink without a straw by holding incoming liquids on the roof of my mouth with my tongue, shepherding them away from my problem spot. As excited as I was about this breakthrough, my newfound method of drinking proved only slightly less annoying than my sucky one.
Drinking lopsidedly through a straw was neither convenient nor dignified but, in the interest of pain prevention, it was necessary.
When my big day with the dentist came, as suspected, he told me that a crown had broken but that the tooth underneath looked perfect. He didn’t have time to put a new crown on right then but he didn’t seem too concerned with the situation. He rubbed some sort of desensitizing agent on my tooth and told me that I could bite on that side and drink like normal until my next appointment in another week. Sounded pretty good…in theory.
I had confidence in my dentist’s judgment and faithfully tried chewing on my broken side after that first meeting but, surprisingly, it still hurt like the dickens to do so and I soon had to abort the notion. Drinking was slightly better than before with the desensitizer but not much. I wondered why the dentist’s estimations were so far from my reality. The engrossing answers to these perplexities were all revealed at my next appointment. Read on fair readers, read on.
When I went in the following week to get my broken crown removed and a temporary one put in its place, and had a whole herd of hands in my mouth, I noticed that the dentist got a surprised look on his face at one point and asked one of his assistants for some sort of something in a hurry. I didn’t know what it was all about but it didn’t seem like it could be good.
It turns out that the tooth underneath my shattered crown was cracked. When the dentist removed the broken porcelain, this became apparent. After being bonded to fix that crack, temporarily crowned and then permanently covered, my molar is now back in action. It took five weeks in total for this all to happen and yes, there was a lot of agony involved in those procedures so ouch, ouch, ouch for the record.
For the curious or the likewise injured: pain when biting and sensitivity to liquids are both symptoms of a cracked tooth. Yes, the grand plan of the creator completely makes sense now. X-rays may not show a tooth crack incidentally, which was true in my case. Cracks can cause any crowns that cover them to fracture but crowns don’t need any help in failing apparently; they break on average every five to fifteen years. If one lasts a decade then the dentist can pat himself on the back for a job well done. I guess that means I can look forward to repeating this woeful experience at least a few more times in my life. Is there no relief for the star-crossed?
Posted by Rachel
on March 13, 2013 at 6:05 pm
It’s hard to say goodbye to an old friend, especially when that friend has carried you through many highs and lows, from dipping arid wastelands to lofty peaks. When that buddy has been a part of the happiest adventures of your life, separating from them is painful.
Jason and I purchased my trusty Mazda Protégé, Roxy, used shortly after we got married. Before we bought her we were sharing a car, which was highly inconvenient since my workday started at 5:00 AM and his began a few hours later in the opposite direction. We had to come up with an elaborate drop off scheme to get to our jobs. Needless to say, we were extremely grateful for a second car. We purchased Roxy for very little but, to a couple of poor newlyweds, she was the height of sophistication. With power windows, electric door locks, cruise control, and comfy seats she felt like a Rolls-Royce to us. Over the years Roxy proved herself far more valuable than her cheap price tag would suggest. Besides a couple of small AC and CV joint repairs, she never really asked us for anything so I was in no hurry to swap her. Although most of our friends kept changing vehicles and nagging us about trading up, I was prepared to hold onto that car until her bumper fell off but I guess all good things must eventually end.
It’s hard to believe that these dings represent $1600.
Roxy was aging very well but Jason and I decided a couple of years ago that we should start saving for a new vehicle since there was no telling when she’d begin to break down. We intended on replacing her roughly sometime this winter. This plan sounded reasonable in theory but Jason may not have ever been able to convince me to go through with it if it hadn’t been for an especially snowy winter day. That particular December morning I-15 hadn’t been plowed even though about 4 inches of snow had accumulated on it. Jason was driving Roxy to work and, like most of the other commuters, he was moving at only 15 MPH due to the slick conditions but, leisurely pace notwithstanding, about halfway through his travels he suddenly started sliding into an adjacent lane. Despite his best efforts, there was just no going back. He ended up hitting a large truck that was inconveniently in the exact spot Roxy was destined to occupy. Roxy only had cosmetic damage from this incident but it was enough dints and dings to total her. Rather than paying to fix her up, we decided we’d keep her until she hit 200,000 miles, a target she was quickly approaching, and then sell her to Jason’s brother. That meant it was time to shop.
We reached 200,000 miles on Roxy with barely any repair bumps along the way.
Jason and I are not the type of people that purchase cars on a whim. We look up as much information as possible on the vehicle class we are considering and then we test drive like crazy, examine additional figures, and ponder some more. This style of shopping is time-consuming but it has served us well. Since we’ve been extremely happy with the cars we’ve purchased using this method, we weren’t about to alter our system. Hence, it took us months to decide what we wanted to buy this time.
Our new vehicle needed to be a small or crossover SUV with 4WD or AWD. We were done skating on freeways and we wanted something hardier for our biking/snowboarding adventures. We were also looking for a car with good gas mileage that was little enough to fit easily into our cramped garage. Room to load up our bikes and boards was also a requirement. We are usually used car people, new cars really are a waste of money, but in this particular case, with our specialized needs, we found that the contenders in the used arena were pretty limited and not much cheaper. We realized that in order to get what we wanted we’d have to buy new.
As we began searching lots of spanking new vehicles, we discovered that it’s harder to shop for a new car than a used one. With new cars the selection is plentiful and the options are many: makes, models, colors, innards…we were a bit overloaded. After weeks of researching and test driving, we finally focused our attention on the Subaru Outback and Forester. We debated back and forth between these two for days but in the end I just couldn’t say no to the Forester’s large windows and spacious interior. (And Jason just can’t say no to me.) So the 2014 2.5i Limited Forester it was. The 2014 model, which has improved gas mileage, better torque, a streamlined exterior, and a swankier interior compared to the 2013, had only been shipped in restricted quantities to dealers two days earlier. Ours wasn’t even technically on the dealer’s lot when we bought it. We had the distinction of owning the only 2014 Forester on the road in Utah when we drove that baby home, a distinction I’m sure we’ve already long lost at this point. It’s barely 2013 so it doesn’t make sense that the 2014 is available at all; just try not to think about it too much. I’ve named our Forester Woodford, or Woody for short. (It’s a Forester and its name is Woody. Get it?) I love how open this SUV feels with its giant windows and huge sunroof. Woody already has quite the fan in me.
Woody is a cute and friendly car. He’s just what I was looking for.
But alas, with Woody purchased it was time to part ways with Roxy. Jason’s little brother was very excited about having a car of his own; however, I wasn’t very excited about letting her go. I’m only a little ashamed to say that before we dropped Roxy off at his house I cried. I know, with my many layers of sarcasm and constant teasing, I don’t seem like the sentimental type but deep in this complicated heart is plenty of emotional turbulence that usually emerges at embarrassing times.
Roxy has not only been a very reliable car but she’s been part of a lot of wonderful memories. My whole married life, which has been extraordinarily happy, has passed in the presence of that vehicle. Her aging is a reminder of just how much time has elapsed for me as well. Where have the years gone? It was hard to say goodbye. I’m sure Matt will take good care of her and she’ll be as dependable a friend to him as she was to me but I’ll miss her still. Here’s to Roxy! My classy girl that has far outlasted many “superior” vehicles!
Roxy is my kind of girl: steady, comfy, small but gutsy.
A post script: I miss the straightforwardness of older vehicles. What happened to the days when a power door lock was as fancy as it got? When you would turn the heat on if you got cold and the AC if you got hot. Now cars practically do everything automatically, even if you’d rather they didn’t, and there are so many knobs on their control panels that you need to pass a NASA course just to figure out how to adjust your radio stations. It’s funny how complicated we’ve made “simplicity.”
And what’s up with recent car models’ tiny windows? So many of the vehicles we test drove had such small windows that you could barely see the road from their stuffy interiors. They made me feel like I was driving around in a coffin. Claustrophobics of the world unite! Sure, from the outside their designs looked sleek but I think I’d prefer being able to see traffic to having aerodynamic windows. Carmakers, let’s not sacrifice functionality and practicality just so our vehicles can look like spaceships. Remember: the only flying cars can do currently is into pavement so it would be nice to be able to see that pavement before takeoff.
Posted by Rachel
on January 18, 2012 at 10:28 pm
I have been a blogger for years now, since the end of 2007 to be exact. So my post topic for this week was perhaps inevitable but it is still pitiable. Yes, I am going to blog about blogging. My life has somehow made a pathetic full circle. Although it has come to this, don’t cry for me Argentina. Let us instead follow the steady decline that led to this sad situation.
Roughly four years ago several of my friends jumped on the blogging bandwagon and started their own blogs. Jason, always the techno geeko, was easily swayed by them to follow this trend too and create his own blogging website. Although everyone was all in a tizzy to divulge the gory details of their mundane lives to the world, I wasn’t so keen on doing the same. What could I possibly want to share with every person on the planet? It took quite a bit of prodding to get me to type my first post but Jason finally convinced me to sit down and do it and that, my friends, was the beginning of the end.
Over the course of the next couple months “Jason’s” website became mine. He posted too erratically and people started complaining about the infrequency of our site’s new content. I was therefore guilted into updating more and more in his behalf and as I did so I found I enjoyed writing and sharing my bias-drenched opinions. Before I knew it I was a regular blogger.
This is common posting attire for me: a comfy t-shirt and pajama pants. No need to look glamorous for Mr. Monitor.
Since I suffer from a condition commonly referred to as pigheadedness, once I am fully committed to something I never look back and my pursuit of posting has been no different. I now write weekly pretty much without fail whether there is something minutely interesting going on in my life or not. I wish I could say the same of all the chums that got me into this mess in the first place. Most of them, after the newness of the fad wore off, grew tired of posting and their blogs have since become the abandoned places of the internet where digital dust collects and words go to die. But feel free to visit their websites if you’d like to read about something super exciting they did 584 days ago. Thanks a lot all you fickle trend fans! Get me onboard and then jump ship why don’t you?
I can’t really complain though. I now have four years of recorded recollections. It’s amazing how much you can forget in just that small span of time. Reading my old posts now and then I find there’s quite a bit that’s happened in my life that would have passed into memory oblivion had I not written about it.
Also, thanks to this website my friends, near and far, are able to catch up on everything that they really aren’t missing in my life. How could they go on living without knowing what new recipe I made for dinner Friday night?
Plus, my blog has proved beneficial in ways I didn’t foresee when I started typing all those years ago. Through it I’ve been able to reach out and give advice to a lot of fine folks with tendon problems like my own. It is quite gratifying to receive so many appreciative comments from the lot of them. I’m glad that my trying experiences have helped others through theirs.
Yes, I’ve got a cozy place in cyberspace and with over 700 monthly visitors to keep me company I’ll probably just keep documenting my small life indefinitely. I know some would say that those who write about what they do spend all their time writing and not doing. While that sounds logical it definitely has not been my experience. I am always busy doing; I do it like you wouldn’t believe. However, with some embarrassment, I have to admit that these days before I even begin an activity I often have a title for the post I will write about it later in my head. That’s when I think briefly that perhaps I’ve been a blogger for a little too long but then the moment passes and my desire to jot down a piece of my life returns.
And so, with this sorry post, I hit a new low and admit publicly that I am a hopeless blogger and I will not be rehabilitated.