I got life

29 09 2015

So: “pinched nerve” might be a lay and not medical term, but it does describe a real phenomenon, in my case, an impingement upon the sciatic nerve.

No, I didn’t get this diagnosis from a doctor—there’s not much she could do, so why bother—but it’s pretty clear from my symptoms that my occasional lower back troubles can cause what is literally a pain in my ass.

If I want a more exact diagnosis than “o.l.b.t.”, then, yes, I’d need to see a doctor and undergo a variety of expensive (e.g., MRI) tests, but as a more exact diagnosis would likely lead to no greater precision in treatment—rest, time—there’s seems little point in doing so.

I am gonna have to get more ibuprofen, though.

I.

While I haven’t enjoyed in any way the pain from my grumpy sciatic nerve, I did take interest in the (non-pain) side effects of the jumped-up nerve, namely, the random twitching up and down my lower right side.

At one point early on I watched the middle toe of my right foot flutter like a drunk hummingbird. It didn’t hurt at all, and if I concentrated, I could stop the movement; in any case, after 10 or maybe 20 minutes, it stopped.

Sometimes my glutes twitched, sometimes, the muscles in my calf. It’d start, then stop, seemingly at random.

I still get the occasional muscle-shudder, but as whatever is annoying the nerve is slowly retreating, so to is the twitching.

II.

One of the reasons I love teaching my bioethics course is that I get to talk about human biology, which is so astonishingly jerry-rigged that I can’t help crowing “biology is so cool!”

Most of us Homo sapiens sapiens have 46 chromosomes occupying the nuclei of our somatic cells, but some of us have 45 and some have 47, 48, or even 49 (that’d be one of the varieties of Klinefelter’s).

A woman with Turner syndrome is missing a second sex chromosome (45,XO), and while she’s infertile and may experience some developmental delays, she likely will have normal intelligence and may live out a normal life span. On the other hand, a child born with a deficiency in the short arm of the 5th chromosome will be born with Cri-du-chat syndrome, which affects both her physical and intellectual development, and may leave her unable to communicate.

So, missing an entire chromosome might have fewer effects than missing a portion of an arm of chromosome. A man who is 47,XYY is likely to experience no effects whatsoever, 47,XXY will have Klinefelter’s (and thus be infertile), and 21,XXX (Trisomy 21 or Down syndrome) will experience profound physical and intellectual effects.

Oh, and some women are 46,XY.

Now, one of the things that can be inferred from this little recitation of chromosomal abnormalities is that the genes on these chromosomes are tremendously important, such that the genes on the short arm of the 5th chromosome are involved in aspects of our development that genes on the sex chromosomes are not; similarly, the Y chromosome is so gene-poor (~350) that doubling up on the Y has no discernible effect.

Then again, the few genes—most importantly, the SRY gene—that do remain on the Y are clearly important: their dysfunction, after all, can result in an XY woman.

The second thing that can be inferred from all of this is that biology is messy—I haven’t even discussed mosaicism or chimerism, or situs inversus or any of the other kinds of weirdnesses within us—and that the messes themselves are messy: sometimes they matter a whole lot, and sometimes not at all.

III.

So the first day my sciatic nerve commenced its protest it hurt to stand, was uncomfortable to walk, and running felt fine.

The second and third day, it hurt so much in the morning that shortly after rising I would sit down, gasping, from the screaming in my leg; after moving around a bit, however, the pain receded.

A couple of days I limped. Some days it hurt to put pressure on my right leg, some days it hurt not to put pressure on it. If I positioned my foot this way I was fine, that way, not; later, the fines were reversed.

I can walk quickly, but for the past 4 or 5 days, can’t run. Going up and down stairs was initially problem-free; now I grasp the railing.

Slowly, slowly, I am getting better: while the troubles migrate, they also abate. I was hoping they’d be gone by now, but I expect by next week, they will be.

IV.

Aging sucks.

V.

I’d rather not have gone through this and will do my damnedest to forestall a recurrence, but it does make me wonder what is going on beneath my skin.

Yes, I pay attention to my body, but usually when something is wrong I can trace it back to its source: I ate too much, didn’t stretch after a workout, wiped out on an icy sidewalk;  thus having linked effect to cause, I lose interest.

)And with migraines, well, they’re just SO irritating that I become preoccupied with the pain itself; the rare occasions when I get auras I am less fascinated than, well, irritated. Knock it off, shimmering lights, you’re blocking my view.)

In this case, I’m pretty sure I know what set off the latest back pain, but how that migrated down into the sciatic nerve, and how that nerve proceeded to respond to this trespass hopscotched around predictability. Why is my toe shaking? Why is my calf muscle clenching and unclenching?

What the hell is going on?

Oh, I know: what’s happening is that my body is now more assertive in letting me know it is unhappy with my treatment of it, i.e., that I’m getting old.

It’s not that when younger I thought I was in charge of my body, but, yeah, I thought I was in charge of my body.

I’m not humbled, but bothered, to learn otherwise, and I will not be gracious in relinquishing control.

It will be a fight to the death.

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Running to stand still

18 11 2012

What is the line between acceptance and resignation? Is there a line?

I do not accept my body.  No, wait, that’s not right: It’s my body, and it feels like my body, and some parts are fine and some parts are not, blah blah.

But it is rounder than I would like and I wonder if this is what inevitably happens with age or with the shifting assertion of my Absurd and Beat genes or if this is simply the result of my unwillingness to give up cheese and beer and chocolate or to work out more than I do.

If it is a battle of wills, then my will for my kick-ass home-made peanut butter bars is kicking my will for a taut ass.

I’ve been going to the gym for over two (three?) years and have “progressed”: I am stronger and my muscles have more definition and despite my recent back-induced sabbatical, I’m confident that this trend will continue.

Why the scare quotes for “progress”? Because in this context I’m not sure what it means. Is progress about gaining strength, or staving off decline? Is it about being healthy for my age, or to be healthier than others my age—to be healthy for someone younger than me? Is there some point at which I won’t add be able to add more weight, to increase my speed on the bike or treadmill or loop around the park? Will it be progress simply to be able to do anything at all?

I’d like to run the New York marathon some day, and to do that I will train, with a clear goal in mind (finish within a respectable period of time).

But I’m not now training for that marathon, I’m training for. . . huh: I’m not training at all. I want to look better and feel better even if I don’t know what “better” means, I know that it’s not what I look like now. I’d like to be leaner, tighter: I’d like my discipline apparent in my body.

Ah, and there it is: my discipline is apparent in my body.

*Sigh*





One foot in front of the other

23 01 2010

I’ve become such a lard ass.

It’s not (just) that my diet has gone to hell, but that I’ve basically stopped moving.

Oh, I get up to get my coffee and I walk to the train and I take the stairs, but beyond that and some basic weight-lifting, nada.

I’ve been physically active my entire life. The 1970s were a time of mothers shoving their kids out the door and saying ‘Go play!’, as in, Get out my hair for awhile.

The adults did what they had to do, and we did what we had to do—which involved a combination of innocent exploring and things best not revealed to the adults.

Both sides preferred it that way.

So we went off roaming around backyards and alleys and streets, racing our bikes and clambering up trees and over fences, and trying to scrape off any excess mud and blood before making our ways through the back doors at dinner- or bed-time.

We didn’t call it exercise, of course. We called it play.

I did start ‘exercising’, I guess, in high school, where I ran cross-country and track and played basketball, but even then, it more about ‘going out for sports.’

College was running and biking and ‘staying in shape.’

Only in grad school did I really start ‘exercising,’ as in, joining a gym, lifting weights, swimming laps, and running or biking in place.

It  was fine, really, especially once I fell into a routine: hit the gym in the late morning, then head over to the poli sci department for the rest of my day.

There was, of course, down time in grad school and after, but it was rare that exercise lapsed for more than half a year.

Until I moved to New York. I biked a lot my first summer here, but after that, not so much. There was also some running, but I never managed to keep at it long enough to stick. My job at the bookstore at least required that I move around a fair bit, and when working three jobs there was lots of veryfastwalking to and from the trains.

But it’s been awhile since I worked at the bookstore, and I spend a laaaaahhhhht of time online.

Hence: lard ass.

I’m not fat, although I have gained weight, but I don’t feel right. I’m used to feeling fit, that I can take care of myself, and lately I’ve just felt bogged down. I’ve also had a few issues with my gut, which was well-behaved before I, well, stopped moving.

As mentioned in early January, I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions, but it did occur to me that if I were dissatisfied with my degeneration into an indigestion-ridden blob, I might just consider doing something about it.

So many excuses not to: I can’t afford a gym. I need to find a job. I don’t have time. Later, I promise.

Well, I did find another job, and while I still can’t afford a gym, it’s not truly necessary. [*Update: There’s a gym in DT Brooklyn which is mighty cheap, so perhaps. . . .] Furthermore, instead of thinking I need to give 90 minutes every day over to sweating, maybe I could start small, by, say, walking. Briskly.

I do prefer to run, but starting a running routine from too far in out-of-shape-land is a recipe for failure. Nope, I need to trim myself up a bit, remind myself of what it’s like to propel myself along, and then, once it’s light enough long enough after work, I can start running or biking again. Hell, I’m less than a 15-minute walk to the southern end of Prospect Park, which is a lovely place in which to breathe deeply.

So, I’ve begun taking those walks. I’ll be working an office job M-F and teaching Th & F nights, but I figure I can simply get off the train at my usual transfer point and walk the remaining leg at least the nights I’m not teaching and, depending upon my mood, the trains, and the weather, perhaps even those nights as well. And then on the weekends, longer walks in the park.

If I manage to keep to the highly-manageable schedule of 5 days of walking a week, I figure I can graduate to running and biking by the time the light lasts into the night.

That’s the plan, at least.

I miss those days in which I didn’t even have to think about my body, when I could simply jump off the back stoop and tear off to the nearest trouble.

C’est la vie. My jumping and tearing off days may be over, but I can still move.

Oh yeah, for an old broad, I can still get around.