In 2007, I was involved in a very minor car accident. I still got whiplash, though. WAD-1, it’s called: Whiplash Associated Disorder, level 1. The doctor who examined me told me to ice my neck, and gave me a short prescription for a muscle relaxant. Cyclobenzaprine. The pain got to be pretty intense, and the drugs made me woozy enough to pass out, so it was a rough few weeks after that.
I was hardcore into Taekwon-do at the time, and had taken a break to recover from my injury. As soon as I started to feel better, I started training again. In the middle of class one night, a move I’d done hundreds of times before went wrong. Something in my back hurt. A lot. I was frozen in pain as the class continued around me, until a friend noticed and helped me off the training floor.
That sharp pain in 2007 formed a muscle knot in my lower back to the left of my spine – a lump which remains in my back to this day. It varies in size, and on good days is pretty hard to find. On bad days, it’s the size of an egg and super painful.
And so began my struggle with myofascial pain syndrome, a chronic pain condition involving the muscles (myo) and muscular connective tissue (fascia). The basis of the pain comes from trigger points – basically “knots” in the muscle – that can spasm painfully, and can even create pain in other areas of the body, known as referred pain.
It started in my back, but it spread. You might have experienced something similar; you’ve got soreness in one part of your body, so you compensate – maybe you limp, or you use your non-dominant hand – which creates a stress on the compensating portion of your body. Or your shoulders hurt, and then your neck gets sore, and then you get a headache. My pain moved. Trigger points spasming in my lower back made my midback develop trigger points, and then my shoulders and neck (already primed by the previous whiplash injury).
Cyclobenzaprine stopped working. I was in a lot of pain, almost all the time. It put my stress levels through the roof. What I didn’t realize at the time was how heavily my stress levels would impact my condition. Continue reading “Why Sexist Comments Sometimes Make Me Smile”