Monday, December 07, 2009

Dodging the pain

Have you ever pinched a nerve? I think I may have, last night, while I was sleeping. I was tossing and turning in semi-awareness of a murky dream and then I bolted wide awake, vibrating with excrutiating pain that radiated out of my lower right shoulder blade. After several seconds, it went numb, but as soon as I moved, the searing pain shot through my body again, as though my shoulder was hooked up to electric cables triggered by movement. It was early, about 7 a.m., five hours after I went to sleep. I got up and paced around my room, reaching over with my good arm and massaging my back, trying to coax away the streaks of pain that would leave me frozen in place, moaning out loud. If I relaxed, the numbness returned, but not for long. I laid back down. I sat up. I paced some more. Nothing I did brought me any kind of comfort.

A couple hours passed. I read a book, standing, pacing, leaning against the door. The sun came up. The sky was clear and beautiful, and I was annoyed, because I really wanted to get out today. The pain was subsiding, with longer periods of numbness, but discomfort lingered, as did the periods of acute burning sensations. I sat on the bed and tried every position I could think of. I stretched and flexed. I held out my arms and clenched my fists, and as I started to sense a level of comfort, I realized I was perched in a position that was very similar to the one I make while riding my bicycle.

So I went for a bike ride. It will sound totally crazy but standing, sitting, even laying down caused me pain, but I didn't feel a thing as I pedaled up the road. Sometimes I would stand out of the saddle or lean hard into a turn, and the pain would streak through, but as long as I held steady, I felt comfortable. The temperature was 25 degrees - cold therapy. And since I suspected my injury was more annoying than serious, I kept at it, all three and a half hours I had left until I had to get ready for work - about 45 miles.

I'm not saying I believe the bike ride actually helped. As soon as I stepped off the bike at my front porch, the resulting streak of pain was so intense that for a minute I thought I might black out. And I couldn't muster that wherewithal to ignore the pain long enough to actually lift my bike up on the porch, so I just wheeled it behind the house. But I don't think the bike ride necessarily hurt, and it gave me several hours of much-needed relief. I popped some painkillers and my shoulder continued to throb, but the pain subsided over the course of the day. Still not sure what is causing this injury ... maybe it is a delayed reaction to a crash I took onto hard ice on my snow bike yesterday, or maybe I really did pinch a nerve in my sleep.

But the lesson here is, I think, as I work out the kinks in my life, my body is telling me to stay on the bike.