“No Pain, no gain,” they said.
There was pain, so I should be feeling gain, right?
Here’s the deal. The pain that I was feeling was not muscle fatigue. It was real actual pain. I’ve been feeling it my whole life and I really didn’t know any better because it has always been there in some shape or form.
Hi, my name is Amber. And as all good stories start, it all happened on the day I was born. I was 11.6 pounds at birth and my mom well…understandably had struggles. There were way more problems than my size that caused my birth but by the time that I was delivered, we were both on the brink of death.
I was in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for a while as I struggled to breathe but after the immediate threat, other more obscure things showed up. My left arm was paralyzed for months and my legs were eventually put in braces due to the muscles wanting to ebb back towards the fetal position. My left arm started moving on its own, however, it doesn’t straighten properly. For the most part, I’m “fairly” normal, however since my joints were affected by my size at birth, they are more susceptible to injury.
I didn’t realize the effect that my birth issues were going to have on my body.
Now, let me be clear. This is not written to bash, discourage, or anger anyone. I’m just laying the background so that we can move forward together.
In my mid 30’s I decided that I needed to be healthier by eating better and exercising more. I want to be a great example for my kids and someone that my husband would be proud to be with. I started running and finished a 5K and went all the way up to a half marathon when my knees started to hurt. I mean hurt. I was hobbling places and my knees creaked every time I bent them. All my friends thought that I should literally just “run it off”. But I could barely walk.
I finally went to physical therapy and felt so much better soon afterward. I had some muscles that surrounded my knees that weren’t working so well. And the therapy strengthened them and helped me feel good enough to take on a marathon. I finished my marathon and weeks later ran all the way (two miles) to the PT office to show them my medal.
Last year I completed a sprint triathlon with some wonderful friends and LOVED it! The pain that trailed behind it for a week, not so much.
Lately, I had been training for an Olympic Distance Triathlon, however, my left arm and shoulder have been giving me fits. Planks, push-ups, bike riding, swimming, running, and weight lifting started taking their toll on my back and soon I couldn’t even lift my arm without pain.
But I kept pushing through because I didn’t want to be a quitter.
“No Pain. No Gain.” Right… Wrong!
Eventually, my arm would only be comfortable in the fetal position, drawn in so that I could barely move it without duress. I started Physical Therapy once again during the quarantine. The first telehealth appointment I had with my therapist he took a good look at me and said “Did you know that your left arm is smaller than your right one?” Umm…I did not know that. I thought that it seemed that way because I couldn’t straighten it all the way. After a few more minutes he noticed atrophy (muscle deterioration) on my left side.
There really was something wrong with me!
It’s been a few weeks and I’m still in therapy doing things that I’ve not done in years without pain. I still have a way to go to a Triathlon, but I’ll get there eventually.
I share my story because we all have quirky things about us that make us unique. Maybe not a science experiment like my weird arm. But things. And we won’t be able to get better without breaking down and asking for help every once in a while.
And honestly, since in quarantine, a lot of us have been more physically active and could have overworked ourselves into injury.
Here are a few ways to know if you need to ask for help:
Don’t wait: Trying to push through a problem that is painful is not going to make the pain disappear. If I would have reached out earlier, then I wouldn’t need such extensive therapy.
Listen to your body: If it is acting weird, there’s a reason.
Talk to friends: My friends noticed that I was acting differently while working out and called me out on it. I was too stubborn to listen to them.
Make an appointment: I contacted an orthopedic surgeon because of the shooting pains in my arm, I thought that I needed surgery. He suggested physical therapy.
Find a solution: We are working on finding a solution. I ran, biked, and swam this week. They were each a short distance, but I’m looking forward to moving ahead.
If I would have never had lofty goals, then I would have never found these issues to the extent that I have now. But I still plan on crushing my goals even if I have to push them back a year. What’s important now is that I’m moving forward in a healthy way. I wouldn’t have gotten this far without breaking down and realizing that I needed to ask for help.