Tag Archives: Pain

Two words

Chronic pain.

Not happy words. But that’s where I am right now with my shoulder. I’ve been to the surgeon and there’s nothing structurally wrong with my shoulder – it’s actually healed really well. I have a little bursitis but that’s about it.

I know that I was told repeatedly at the hospital that my arm would never be the same once it healed but I didn’t expect it to be like this either. I thought it might ache a bit in the cold and be weak initially but with some work it’d return to fairly close approximation of how it was before the accident. That’s so not what has happened. Nearly two years later and it still hurts. We’re not talking eight or nine on the pain scale, or even a five. We’re talking a one or two but it’s my constant companion. I have times where it doesn’t hurt at all which is nice but they are few and far between.

I guess I wasn’t helped by the fact that the accident happened at the worst possible time. Pregnancy and broken limbs definitely don’t go together. Especially broken limbs that need rehab to recover. I did do mild rehab while I was pregnant but in the end it was too much. I felt so physically overloaded by the end of my pregnancy that the idea of doing anything for arm felt like it was just too much. Guess I’m kinda paying for it now.

I think I’ve worked pretty hard with my physical therapy and I guess it’s worked because I have pretty good mobility. However, mobility doesn’t mean pain-free. I don’t want to be in pain for the rest of my life. (If my grandma is anything to go by, I’m going to be around for a while yet – she’s 98!!)

So now we’re into where to go from here? How do I learn to manage my pain?

I know chronic pain is caused by the brain’s plasticity. Provoke it into a pain response for long enough and your brain rewires itself into that being the default. Any movement, any position that your brain decides is wrong leads to a strong pain response. What fun! The pain can come on at totally random times and it can tip up into the high end of the scale. If you’ve ever noticed me with my eyes shut taking a few deep breaths, it because my shoulder is giving me a hard time at that moment.

I’m about to find out if I can rewire my brain back to how it was before. I figure that if it can wire itself into this position, it must be possible to undo it. The trick will be working out how. I’m starting with acupuncture and have an appointment with my GP in a week to see if there’s something I can take to suppress the pain in the short-term. The logic behind medication is to simply give my brain a break in the hope it’ll get the picture to quit it with pain messages. Also thinking some therapy wouldn’t go astray. Talking to someone about how to manage my pain is probably a good idea.

It’s been so long since the accident. I was undoubtedly naive in the thought that it would simply get better and go back to how is was but I didn’t expect it would be like this either.

Lies they told me

To infinity and beyond!! Juno being super cute, even while asleep.

So, you get pregnant and pretty much right from the start you get asked if you’re going to breastfeed. You get told repeatedly that it’s a wonderful, bonding experience that you really must do to give your baby the best possible start in life. The other thing you get told repeatedly is that breastfeeding shouldn’t hurt.

I wish someone had been honest with me.

I wish that, while I was still at the hospital, more than one midwife had the decency and the guts to say it’s gonna hurt. The basic biological purpose of breasts may be to feed a baby but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to feel painful, strange and overwhelming – especially for a first time mum.

Pretty much every other woman I’ve spoken to who has breastfed has said the same thing: breastfeeding freaken hurts! The let down hurts. The baby latching on hurts. But none of the breast-feeding advocates ever seem to say this. They all speak about how amazing it is, how natural it is and spend a lot of time lamenting the lost art of breastfeeding.

This isn’t helpful in the least when you’re in the middle of the blur (and panic) of having a new baby.

It wasn’t bad at first. While I was in hospital it was okay, even though I had the bizarre experience of being “milked” by a midwife the night after my c-section after Juno wouldn’t/couldn’t latch on and she really needed to get some colostrum into her. I had another midwife whose idea of teaching me how to breastfeed was to grab my boob with one hand, Juno’s head with the other and bring them together with some force. Not that helpful really.

After the c-section I was pretty determined to breastfeed because I felt that I’d missed out on that initial bonding experience. I wanted to breastfeed her. I knew it would potentially be quite difficult, being a large busted woman but I really thought it would be okay. After all, how hard could it be? I did nearly every feed during the day in the breastfeeding room so I could be near the midwives. I was told how good I was doing, how calm I was about it, how lucky I was with Juno being big because big baby means a big mouth and an easier latch. (“My, what big teeth you have.” “All the better to eat you with” said the wolf.) My efforts were praised and I was pretty much left to my own devices. I didn’t speak up about the difficulties I was experiencing because I thought other women deserved more help then I did.

Well, it wasn’t okay.

Before leaving the hospital, I had cracks in both nipples but didn’t really say anything about them (I know, I should’ve). They got significantly worse once we were at home. The skin was so raw and broken. Every time Juno latched on, she rubbed the raw skin. It got to the point where I dreaded feeding Juno. I would drag it out for a long as possible so that I didn’t have to deal with the pain. It got so bad that one night I was sitting on the edge of the bed, trying to feed a screaming Juno who was understandably hungry and just sobbing. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know how to feed my baby without experiencing a huge amount of pain.

This isn’t conducive to a good bonding experience. My determination to breastfeed was actually damaging the fairly fragile bond that I felt that I had with her. I couldn’t enjoy my baby because I so dreaded feeding her. I wanted to stop – I so desperately wanted to stop – but I felt that I couldn’t because I’d bought into the whole thing of it being what was best for Juno. I was consumed with guilt because I hated it so much when all I’d been told was how wonderful breastfeeding was and how it would make me feel so close to my baby. It didn’t. All it did was make me resent her which then made me feel even more guilty.

In the end I hired a breast pump and saw a lactation consultant. The consultant had good advice and tried to be helpful but on the day Juno did the perfect feed – latched on easily and comfortably – so the consultant couldn’t really see how (badly) our feeds normally went. I did listen to her advice and some of it did help. But what really made the difference was deciding to try bottle feeding with expressed milk. Thankfully Juno took to the bottle straight away so we began a routine of her having half of her feeds out of a bottle instead of from the boob. It meant I was attached to a breast pump three or four times a day but it did give my nipples a chance to heal, making the times she did feed off the boob less painful. I could sit on the couch, cuddling Juno while she drank her bottle, look into her eyes and feel peaceful. I could hold her close and not be consumed by how much it hurt to give her the sustenance she so desperately needed.

Making this choice – which so many breastfeeding advocates would disagree with – has totally changed my relationship with Juno. I don’t regret it for a second because if I hadn’t, I’m pretty sure I would’ve stopped breastfeeding all together and Juno would be a formula-fed baby by now. We’re even back to the majority of feeds being off the boob which is something I didn’t think would happen. I’ve also breastfed in public which I thought I’d never have the confidence to do. I’ve even expressed milk in public!

But I have to admit that I’m still more than a little ticked off by the lack of honesty when it comes to breastfeeding. I really wish someone had said to me that there was a very good chance that breastfeeding was going to hurt more than I could possibly imagine but that it would get better, that it’s not the end of the world to switch to bottle feeding, that I’m not a bad mum for doing what I did. I really wish midwives and other breastfeeding advocates would acknowledge what appears to be a common experience for women when it comes to breastfeeding – that it hurts – because them not unintentionally makes women feel like failures when it does. I know I really felt like I was a failure and I thought that I must’ve been doing something so terribly wrong (but now I don’t think I was).

I’m a big believer that knowledge is power. But when it came to breastfeeding I can’t help but feel that I was seriously let down by the people who were supposed to help me get the knowledge I needed. I had to work out how to solve this problem on my own. It was so hard to work out felt was right for me and Juno and it’s a solution that some would disagree with. Still, I have to not care because this mix of boob and bottle is what works for us. And that’s what matters in the end.

Must be getting serious…

…if I’m willing to spend $60 on a pair of bike gloves (and that was after the super-nice Ben from BSC in the QV knocked ten bucks off). It was money I was nominally keeping to buy a new pair of tyres but still…

Mmm… squishy!
my new bike gloves

I’ve done a few rides now and I’ve been having some pain issues with my hands and elbows. My old gloves have a very annoying seam that pushes hard into the pad of skin between my thumb and fingers. I have some really deep calluses forming on both hands that actually resemble blisters and it bloody hurts! I also think I’m unintentionally over-compensating for my hands and holding my arms more rigidly which is killing my elbows. I know it sounds weird but the pain only started after I commenced the 2+ hour rides. I thought it was my position on the bike but I asked at the bike shop today and apparently aching elbows are not a common complaint due to poor positioning.

I was a little doubtful about the positioning thing anyway because nothing else was hurting. If it was positioning, I should’ve been experiencing the elbow pain even in my short commutes to work. My hands did hurt when I was just doing my daily commutes but it’s gotten far worse now I’m riding for longer. I’m hoping new gloves will help.

Still, that’s not stopping me from contemplating going to see someone about my bike fit. I have very little power from a standing start and get overtaken by little old ladies wobbling their way across intersections on bikes that are too big for them. It’s embarrassing! Once I get going, I’m fine. It’s the getting going that’s letting me down. But that might be because I still need more practice with my shoes. 85% of the time I get clipped in straight away but the other 15% I’m kicking the peddle over, my foot goes flying forward or I simply can’t clip in. If I ever have a spare $150 lying around, I’m sure it’ll be a good investment to see a fit specialist but I’m doubtful I ever have $150 lying about. Not when I need new tyres and want a new helmet.

I have achieved something though. Yesterday I did my first 50+km ride (52.64kms) and had my first experience of Beach Road. The plan was to ride to Black Rock but it turned out the road was closed in Brighton. So I didn’t really get to ride on Beach Road because it doesn’t actually start until Hampton and I don’t think we got that far. Oh well, it was still an experience. I don’t think I’ve been overtaken by so many lycra clad men in my life. On the way back, four guys latched onto us and a mini bunch formed. My first ever! My riding partner and I led the group for about five kms when he told me to drop off the front and let someone else do some work. I’ve never had to do it before so I really had no idea what I was doing. I had problems latching onto the guy in front of me. I couldn’t work out his cadence and his bike creaked with every revolution which was hugely distracting. Yup, my bunch riding definitely needs work. If I’m honest, I need to develop more power because only reason I could keep up with them was the rather brisk headwind. I also think they were taking it easy or on a recovery ride. But what can you do? Everyone has to start somewhere!

The pain will set you free

Mental note to self: if you’re going to keep doing Thursday night rides after work, make sure you eat enough during the afternoon.

Last night was the first of our Thursday night rides and we did about 40 kilometres (it was 43.21km by the time I got home). We were heading home along Swanston St and I started to feel decidedly woozy. Really, really not good at all. We’d stop at red lights and I’d have real problems getting going once they changed. I just felt totally wiped with no energy left at all. All I wanted to do was get off my bike and lie down. Or throw up. Not sure which would’ve won out if I had stopped. There was a whole ick factor to the experience that was not pleasant at all.

So what I learnt was that I need to snack solidly during the afternoon to make sure I have enough fuel for the ride. I might be a little fattie but a mars bar at 4.30 simply doesn’t cut it.

This isn’t to say the ride was bad. It wasn’t. It was challenging and that’s what I need. If I’m going to ride more, I have to adjust to being in heavy traffic for longer than five minutes. I need to build my confidence and adjust to the physical and mental effort that’s required.

The mental stuff is interesting. I find the rides to be enormously helpful. It clears my head of all the crap I end up thinking about. I’m so distractible these days but the bike riding forces me out of that. If I don’t focus, I will come to grief. I have to pay attention to what I’m doing right at that moment. My riding companion told me to snap out of work mode last night because I really wasn’t paying attention when we got into the heavy traffic. It’s really great to be riding with someone who takes care of me. He decides where we’re going to go and respects my wishes about avoiding heavy traffic. I just have to follow. He’s had the experience of doing this sort of riding (which I’m discovering is very different from commuting) while I push him to ride harder because I’m fitter than him. We’re a good match.

I suppose I’m thinking a lot about why I ride at the moment. I know I love it, I love the sensation of movement that’s caused by my own physical efforts. There’s something amazing about cruising along at a steady pace that you somehow inherently know you can keep at it for hours. I suppose it’s because in the moment, I feel more alive than I do at any other time. I can feel my heart beating, the vibration of the bike, my legs complaining when there’s a hill to be tackled. Sure it hurts but there’s a freedom to be found in it that makes it worthwhile.

Found this on Netti’s web site:
“It says something about the fibre of a person, who even after the advent of the automobile, chooses to ride a vehicle thats engine consists of their own heart, lungs and legs. But the struggle of a hill, the solitude of an endless road, the games you play with your mind, the false promises you make to your screaming limbs, these are all part of the joy of cycling. The fact is – no sport is more gruelling. Cycling demands everything of its riders.”