Tuesday, March 6, 2012

This weekend has been, quite literally, the most physically painful experience of my life thus far.  It beat out both toe procedures, my chronic knee condition Chondromalacia, a gymnastics finger injury when I was thirteen, intermittent ophthalmological migraines, and my typical monthly hell-and-brimstone menstrual cramps.... combined.

Thursday morning at 5:00am, I got out of bed to use the bathroom.  Upon my return to bed, I lied down to a searing pain surging through the right side of my neck and back.  Thinking it was some kind of strange crick that could be rectified by some pressure point therapy, I proceeded to massage the area, which resulted in a debilitating spasm that started with a sharp stab, transitioned into the most intense clenching of a muscle I have ever felt that refused to release for what seemed like forever, and finally ended with a deep burning up and down my neck.  I tried to sit up and a second spasm forced me back down.  This happened several times until I was able to force myself to a sitting position anyways.

I am used to being able to control myself when I am in pain.  My standard response is to grimace and hold still until it passes- no tears, no screams.  But with each spasm, I found myself with tears streaming down my face, gasping for breath, and my knees buckling out from under me.  I managed to get my phone and called my mom, during which, I experienced the worst spasm yet and couldn't even talk.  My mom told me she was going to pick me up and take me to the ER and I said I would try to get dressed.

I discovered very quickly, that I could not move my right arm above my waist or turn my head or tilt my head in any direction other than slightly left, without a spasm surging through my neck.  It was terrifying.  I was unable to brush my teeth, change my clothes, carry my purse, put my hair in a ponytail, open the car door, or put on my seatbelt without additional spasms. So, some of those tasks were forgone, others required my mom to help me.

On the way to the ER, every turn or lane merge resulted in another spasm due to the centrifugal force, but I found that if I started doing La Maz-style breathing as soon as the spasm stabbed in, I could freeze it in the "clenching" stage and then calm it to the burning stage sooner.  However, breathing in and out like that seemed to hurt even more intensely and went against every natural instinct to cringe or tense up, but it seemed to counteract the clenching muscles and pull them in a seemingly downward motion.  It ended the spasm sooner, so the pain was worth it.

We waited in the ER for two hours, but I understood because my ailment did not seem to be life-threatening, so by all means.  I was unable to fill out my paperwork, because I could not look down or hold the clipboard up to my line of sight, so thank God my mom was there. 

When my name was called, we had to walk a ways to my assigned room and I lagged behind the others.  We waited for quite some time and then Dr. Lew came in, asked me questions, and did some tests, one of which resulted in yet another severe spasm.  By this time, all my muscles on both sides of my neck, shoulders, and arms, were sore, weak, and exhausted from all the clenching and compensating.  Dr. Lew light touched my neck and shoulder in various places and he said this was a pretty bad case because he could feel it and it spanned across my  trapezius and my sternocleidomastoid muscles.  He said I had what is called torticollis, a muscle spasm that tends to affect relatively young, healthy women.  I was relieved to hear his affirmation that the intensity and type of pain was really that bad and I wasn't just being a baby.

He wanted me to have x-rays done just to rule some other things out.  A friendly, articulate, and helpful nurse game to give me a double dose of Robaxin (a muscle relaxant) and a dose of Vicodin for the pain.  By the time I was wheeled down to the x-ray lab by a sweet young woman named Norma, the meds had started to kick in.  Despite them, pain was still evident.  Several x-rays later, I was wheeled back to wait.

Dr. Lew said my x-rays did not show anything besides the severe spasms, so that was a relief.  He prescribed me with medications to ease the pain and relax the muscle and said the average case of torticollis works itself away within 1-2 days, but since mine was so bad, he expected 3-4 days or so.  I was told that I could not operate a vehicle while on the medications because it would be equivalent to driving under the influence.  At that point, any small motion sent a new debilitating spasm up my neck and I couldn't even imagine driving in that state of pain and limited mobility.

The rest of the weekend was intermittent periods of what suffering, weeping, and fatigue.  Sitting up or standing felt less bad at times, but then my neck would get exhausted from holding up my head and I would have to lay down, which always resulted in one or two spasms just to lower myself to the bed.  B insisted that I come stay with her so she could help me and I have no idea how I could have taken care of myself on my own. 

She fed me, helped me move around, tried to get my mind off the pain, and was nearby every time I had another spasm, crooning words of comfort and breathing deep breaths with me.  Simple tasks like brushing my teeth or showering were impossible and sitting down to go to the bathroom even sent new spasms.

In all, I missed three days of work (Thursday, Friday, and Monday), practically an invalid for Thursday-Sunday morning).  Monday, I was on the mend, but not capable of operating a vehicle or sitting up for more than a few hours at a time.  Today, is the sixth day and while I am much improved, the pain is still relatively uncomfortable - all the leftover aches and soreness from the incessant clenching and pulling, but I need to be off the meds to drive.  But, on the bright side, I feel at about 75% of my normal strength and am so incredibly thankful that the spasms have subsided.  I am also so so thankful that this didn't happen this coming weekend when our photographer is flying in from North Carolina to shoot our engagement photos!

All I can say is, things are looking up!  And may it be, that this experience never ever befall you...