Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Written a thousand miles off the ground and posted later.

Physical therapists are the bomb. Physical therapy for my tendonitis has been a godsend, and in the process I have learned valuable things, like how wearing clunky, unfashionable shoes can make you happy.

In fact, I now have two physical therapists. The second one is the amazing Liz Waldner, who is helping me with my stiff neck, headaches, tight jaw, teeth grinding, et al. She has been working with me to shift out of the rounded back, head-thrust forward posture I tend to slip into when I am reading, writing, etc.

(You must be thinking that I go around hunched over like a Quasimodo, but that is in fact not the case. Or so Liz has reassured me. “We all do this,” she says.)

This all relates back to my latest obsession, Lymph Drainage. Ever since I stopped dancing I have had terrible problems getting my lymph to drain. Lymies know the symptoms: headaches, swollen lymph nodes, that congested feeling in the armpits and the groin, general malaise. On Rocephin it’s gotten worse, and I am compelled to do huge bouts of exercise daily just to keep the systems in my body moving.

According to Liz posture plays in as well. If I can keep my chest open and neck straight, the lymph will drain more freely. I have been noticing this is true over the past few weeks, and I have tried, whenever I remember, to engage the middle back and drop my tail bone down just a little while I am sitting. This brings the shoulders gently back and opens my chest. I always feel better until I slip back into my habitual hunch.

I think over the past two weeks in DC my posture has gotten a little better—at least enough to for me to now notice when I am really uncomfortable and doing my lymph a disservice. For example, when I am typing at my laptop computer: totally hunched up.

And now today, on the plane home to Seattle I have had a revelation.

I have always been miserable on planes. I get blinding headaches, preventing me from reading or watching movies to pass the time. I also have become violently ill from flying. On one terrible flight I sat through a particularly rocky last twenty minutes before landing trying desperately to hold onto my cookies. I tried to put my head between my legs to help with the sickness, but United Airlines no longer accommodates such luxuries—my forehead hit the seat in front of me. So instead I put my head in the aisle. The stewardesses bumped into me as they strode past, but it was better than the alternative.

We landed to everyone’s relief except mine. Instead of getting better, my nausea got worse. Then we sat and sat, waiting for a gate to open up. I fumbled for the airsickness bag just before I lost the contents of my stomach. Not feeling much better, I shakily pulled down the tray and put the bag, hoping a stewardess would come by. I rang the bell, but evidently no one was allowed to get up in that situation, because no stewardess arrived. For an endless ten minutes as we waited to be allowed out of our seats, I sat with a bag of my own vomit on a tray in front of me. No one asked if I was OK.

So needless to say I don’t look forward to airplane trips much. To add to my apprehension about today’s flight, I’ve had headaches and nausea over the past few days without even coming near an airplane. I managed to get over the worst of it, enough to think it might be OK to fly, but not enough to feel happy about it.

As soon as I took my seat a headache started up. We hadn’t even pulled away from the gate.

I noticed that the head cushion (unremovable) was thrusting my head and neck far forward and forcing my back into that terrible hump. There was no adjusting possible. Was this really causing all my trouble?

The night before my brother had given me a midsized hardback novel he thought I would like (Michael Chabon) and I had hastily thrust it into my backpack on my way out the door. I had little hope that I would read on the plane, but it turned out to be the best move I’ve made in a while.

Sitting hunched up in the ergonomically evil airplane seat, I thought of the book (who wouldn’t?), pulled it out and placed between my back and the seat. Voila! My back was brought forward just enough, I could now comfortably rest my head against the immovable cushion behind and everything was in alignment. I felt much better.

As it turns out, due to Swine Flu there are no pillows on airplanes anymore, so I have spent the entire flight with my brother’s book behind my back. And I have felt great! Tony the Tiger Great. Thinking happy thoughts, no headache, and hardly any nausea. (For that I have some fiber and charcoal capsules and they are taking the edge off. The nausea is only an indication that the lymph is draining, down into my unhappy stomach.)

Reading my book is, of course, not possible, but fortunately I wasn’t planning on it anyway. I brought my quilting on board and I have been stitching away, until I was inspired pull out my computer and write this post. Using the laptop is not ergonomic nirvana, but with the hardback in place it isn’t giving me a headache either.


Lyme is real said...

I, too, feel my PT rocks and have had excruciating headaches while flying. My husband wants to go to Phoenix over spring break and I cringe at the thought of getting on another plane. I'm glad I found your blog. It seems like some of the things that work for you would be good for me to try, as well. Blessings!

Naomi said...

Yes, so many quirky symptoms with this illness, and everyone is a bit different! I am sorry to read about your struggle with Lyme and with your daughter's health. There is hope for us, though.

Thanks for the link!