After a week of sometimes extreme physical and emotional discomfort post-massage, I have happily resumed mobility, experience far less pain, and have come to understand how and why the big setback occurred.
Although my intention in seeking massage (and the intention of the massage therapist) was inflammation reduction, I see now (with input from my excellent PT) that I have formed, over 7 months of recovery, a delicate balance of tensions and flexibilities to accommodate my injury. This was unintentionally disrupted by massage, so that my neuro-muscular system read the new imbalance as a need to protect the injured area with a vengeance.
As an Alexander teacher, I could/should have known better than to seek a specific result! Alexander principles are always indirect in application. We seek, in the Alexander Technique, to address a whole person response in balance, rather than to change any specific indication.
Setbacks may be a reality that have to be accepted in the non-linear progress of recovery. Hopefully, setbacks provide new information for what does and doesn’t work for continued recovery. Although I experienced great dismay, I am relieved and happy now to have recovered from my own backward direction with pre-massage mobility intact, and, I hope and believe, with more thorough recovery in my future.
I have recently enjoyed great progress in recovery from my patella fracture. With delight and joy, I have been walking an average of 4 miles daily with ease and even occasional speed. Exploration of more vigorous activity in Gyrokinesis and Gyrotonic exercise has been great fun and has involved many fewer limitations than I had expected. I was becoming quite confident that recovery was proceeding easily and well. Then…
Several expert people had suggested that I seek further inflammation reduction through massage techniques. Since I have every interest in and full commitment to full recovery, I followed this suggestion, and received a lovely, subtle massage specifically aimed at reducing the lingering inflammation in my injured knee. My massage therapist warned that I might be a bit sore after the massage, as the tissues would interpret intervention as renewed injury. At her suggestion, I iced and elevated post-massage to calm any tissue reaction.
Extreme pain and huge inflammation ensued despite all the best intentions otherwise. For the past 5 days, pain and swelling have increased so that I am unable to walk with any ease, sleep without disruption, or even sit for longer than about 5 minutes. In other words, I am back to early post-injury levels of pain, inflammation, immobility and insomnia. My use of my entire self is challenged all over again.
Despair, discouragement and an overall sense of helplessness have begun to overwhelm me. A week ago, I could walk easily to work and to all desired locations. Now, I hobble to the bathroom and must think my Alexander directions with vigor to manage even simple activities like getting dressed or climbing stairs. I have to find daily reasons to remain optimistic, such as the sightings of scrub jays near my office, and the fact that I can still teach with some ease.
I know this stage will resolve and shift with my continued determination to not end-gain, to ask for quiet and for the bigger picture, to not pull down to the pain, but after 7 months of recovery, and with the joy of being more mobile suddenly removed, I am weary. I want so very much to progress, and struggle not to collapse or to end-gain with this temporary return of disturbing limitations.
For people intrigued by the challenge of new movement, new physical strengths, and daily exertion, serious injury changes all expectations. What was once easy and joyous becomes painful and impossible for weeks, months, even years. The reduced possibility of movement exploration can be a recipe for despair. Lengthy recovery affects every aspect of being. Patience, instead of pushing, becomes primary. Any end-gaining in movement is no longer an option. Proceeding intelligently in rebuilding strength in mobility requires support from expert professionals who view the whole self as an elastically responsive and integrated system.
Happily, in augmentation of my Alexander knowledge, I have found Physical Therapists whose approach to recovery and rehabilitation is compatible with Alexander thinking. Janette, a PT with certification as a Gyrotonic exercise instructor, worked with me this week to tweak, refine and clarify my Gyrotonic routine. With deeply preceptive attention to detail of the entire self, Janette showed me simple ways to not only strengthen the muscles supporting my injured knee, but to also address nervous system connections and feedback loops, so that I can exercise vigorously and consciously without increasing pain or inflammation. The work that she showed me also addressed lymphatic drainage, so that inflammation around the injury site clears as the whole body moves with ease and intelligence.
Today, I attended, for the first time since injury, a Gyrokinesis class given by Master Teacher Mia Munroe. Since I haven’t taken a class for 6 1/2 months, I was uncertain how much I could do with ease. Happily, I was able to move, with Mia’s skilled direction, with rhythm and strength. Obviously, I had some limitations. I can’t kneel, for instance, due to the hardware (pins and wires) in my knee, nor do “knee circles” with any comfort. Limitations aside, I deeply enjoyed the experience, once again, of exhilarating movement, of challenge, of learning, of thinking in motion with my entire self.
Feeling strong, being appropriately challenged, experiencing vigorous mobility reduces attention to the possibility of pain, and even reduces pain, if the whole self is attended. Enlivening the entire self with conscious thought, and taking conscious thought into activity, is what the Alexander Technique supports.
The dance of my Self in recovery continues!