Yeah, no, they weren't kidding. Neurological Exams: Sensory Nerves and Deep Tendon Reflexes
My arms are really bad. Super bad. I've lived with it so long that I don't even count my arms in a pain level assessment, so they've always been missed until now. If there were a word for severe carpal tunnel down both arms, that would be it. I ignore it because I can still force them to function, right? Arms aren't as important as migraines or invisible arrows stabbing my feet or walking doubled down over unidentified gut pain. And not every day is that bad, but I guess it's not cool to ignore pain until everything goes numb, except for the tingly prickly sensations. It's not numb at all, I'm finding out. One little tiny squeeze in the right spot made part of my hand ache for hours. I could barely hold my steering wheel or open a door just after a simple assessment.
Top on the priority list is finding out whether this is nerve entrapment, and if so, where does the entrapment lie? Entrapment is mostly a soft tissue problem and can sometimes be helped with vigorous deep tissue restructuring via micro shredding hardened fascia tissues around the muscles, allowing better blood flow while healing fascia grows in stretchier, all of this relieving pressure on whatever nerve runs through. This can happen clear back to the spinal column, so the deep tissue work I'm going through involves every inch from the palms of my hands all the way back to my spine beneath my skull down to my upper mid back and around my shoulder blades. We've done this before, but with different intentions.
If nerve entrapment is not identified, we'll be moving on to other experiments. My personal goal is to find out whether the pain and tissue hardening is ultimately an autoimmune response affecting my nervous system, since this seems to be a system-wide problem. I've definitely got the 'severe fibromyalgia' diagnosis from several doctors, but they still quibble over the autoimmune part, even though they automatically treat for it when it arises. I've yet to get a specific diagnosis beyond a generalized maybe lupus from a speckled ANA pattern and high SEDs, even though I've exhibited a number of outlying markers for autoimmune problems.
One of the next priorities if there is no specific identification for nerve entrapment will be more imaging to find out if there is nerve scarring. I already know there is a little bit and I've had some of it for a long time, but if it's not noticeably increasing, I'll probably just stay in the fibromyalgia category and keep working on maintaining the flexibility and mobility I've managed to gain back. So far I've been told there seems to be no degeneration in specific areas already checked, which is awesome, but doesn't mean there couldn't be over time. However, since I've spent most of my adult life with whatever this is and my condition and function are actually improving as long as I keep working on them, I don't expect to get much more in the way of answers, although I am hoping to rule out autoiummune complications from exercise.
I knew going into it this time I would have to buckle up for a deeper dive back into pain in order to learn more about it. I am in a LOT of pain, but I keep asking myself, Since when have I not been? I acclimate to a certain kind or level of pain and fuss when it increases a bit, but I'm learning to venture out into pain changes, and even pain stimulation as part of an assessment and problem solving tool.
Nerve pain is very sucky. There are plenty of forums and blogs filled to brimming with people describing pain, so I see no reason to go into that here. I have learned in this life that there is no horrible pain that can't be replaced or overridden by even more horrible pain. Everything about pain is perspective, and that perspective has everything to do with a mixture of chemicals washing around miles and miles of nerve tissues and the way both inner and outer environment affect it. Pain may not have a 'reason', but it is always real. The funny thing about 'real', though, is that a pain syndrome, while not an accurate perception, perhaps, might actually be quite a lot more painful to live with in some ways than simply dealing with 'actual' pain from a disruptive event.
I tell people it's not a contest. We all hurt because pain sucks. If pain stops or even if the pain level goes down, hooray! But some people know that the absence of pain isn't always the goal. The relief from pain is always high on the priority list, but sometimes the only way to get relief is to do more damage so that we simply can't feel it.
I live with what's lovingly called the suicide disease, and that is just one small part of a whole body that experiences never ending pain. I'm a pain pro. I've come to love and enjoy certain pain levels because it forces my brain to pump out unbelievable amounts of the kinds of chemicals people like to artificially induce to get high. When my pain level drops even slightly, I walk around high as a kite. It took a bit of training to learn how to do this, which means I voluntarily jump in and out of very rigorous physical therapies that over short term increase and stimulate pain while I learn how to control and even manipulate pain back down to lower levels. I use my body to get high. This might sound like I'm a pain freak, but since most of my medications either stopped working for me years ago or complicated into even worse health problems, using my own natural pain chemicals is actually a good idea, I think.
My physical therapy team is excited. The buzz about me behind my back is that it's bad and I still want more. I even go through it cheerfully. They're excited. This is what they trained for, someone who lets them go all the way without wimping out. Someone who says "Keep digging" when a tool is tearing little holes through tissue up and down their body. Someone who says "Cool" when a new sheet of homework full of new stretches and flexes and core reps is handed to them. Someone who likes the pain.
I feel like the Rambo of the physical therapy center. The only problem is, anyone could take me down in a second if they knew the right places to squeeze. You never see a neurologist or nerve therapist rise up in popular television saving the day with a quick dart of the hand to exactly the right spot, while weapons clatter to the ground and baddies goes to their knees. The whole arm twist behind the back thing? If you don't hit the right nerve spot on me, I'll kill you. Pain means nothing to me. Gently touch the sweet spot, I'm all yours, on the floor nearly blacking out. You're welcome.
I really love my neuro-techies. I had no idea how addicted I am to pain until I started working with them. I hurt like suck right now and I'm floating, not a single pain pill in my body. I'm almost euphoric.
THAT is the secret behind super villains. At least this one.
Afterthought- I'm not mocking pain. There are several kinds and levels of very specific pain I hope I never go through again, but I'm not holding my breath. Also, I've never experienced being burned in a fire or gunshot, although I have experienced several violent accidents and injuries, including a spectacularly nasty car wreck. Like I said, not a contest. Everyone's pain is a very intimate path down a dark road all alone, and it is through pain that we burn the chaff and find our gold. By the way, weeping alone in despair is part of the finding the gold part. It's a riddle that we find our strength through our weakest moments, just as we find our calm in the biggest storms.