Archive for July, 2011

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Exposure of Weaknesses

July 17, 2011

When I left hospital with a broken back I had been taken in by the immature thinking of the medical establishment that suggested my problem was one of paralysis from the waist down, caused by nerve damage, while from the waist up I was fine. Such thinking is, of course, absurd and the reality very different. Closer examination of my body, by a trained eye, revealed that the problem is actually one of catastrophic collapse of the intrinsic structure of the body, the inner volume of the trunk (head, neck, chest, abdomen and pelvis) being terribly depleted, leaving insufficient capacity to support the use of the legs. What is truly amazing, though, is the body’s ability to adapt in order to carry on regardless. As the structure collapses the body kind of closes up around it to maintain rigidity, burying the weaknesses deep within; out of sight and out of mind.

Until I embarked upon ABR therapy I was not aware of the true extent of the damage to my body. I was aware of weakness in my upper body, but considered this as the need to build up muscular strength, with the increased demands placed upon me by having to deal with paralysed legs, rather than fundamental weakness due to collapse of structure. Through ABR we address the essence of the intrinsic structure, improving the inner volume and once again opening up the body. As we open up the body we expose the weaknesses, one by one, with these weaknesses usually coming to light, in my conscious awareness, in the form of discomfort. Luckily, such discomfort rarely lasts long as, once exposed, the weaknesses are rapidly given the opportunity to grow strong.

This discomfort is a different matter all together from the pain associated with such an injury, and the resulting condition one finds themselves living with. Every case is individual and some spinally injured people never suffer from pain at all, the nerve damage ensuring that they feel nothing. I, was to start with, in great pain from the waist down which then gave way to periodic pains down my left leg. All of this calmed down, over time, as my body settled into its new condition, but was never going to go totally without improving my condition. Throughout the ten years that I have been pursuing ABR therapy we have continually improved the structure of my body and year by year I have lived more and more comfortably. I am now troubled very little with pain and so when discomfort arises it is nearly always a sign of positive change within my body with the exposure of a new weakness; and welcome as such.

Some exposures are very subtle and amount to a tender spot that can only be found by probing, down the spine for instance. Others are far more obvious and some severe. I used to chop many of my logs for the fire to heat my cottage in the winter, until one day we very much exposed an on going weakness at the cervical thoracic junction and I had to get someone to man the axe for me. That weakness strengthened and I finished the winter chopping logs again, but then, last winter, we opened up the shoulder girdle and exposed the weakness in my left shoulder and using an axe was out of the question again. I think I’ll leave chopping logs now until fully fit and strong again, it’s never been very easy while sitting in a wheelchair.

Quite often do I find myself pulling muscles yet I haven’t being doing anything different than usual. What’s happened is that the structure of my body’s improved bringing muscles into play that were previously taken out of the equation. This can then lead me to a conscious awareness of the change.

Last autumn there was a very dramatic exposure as my pelvis began to be brought back to life. The first sign of this was two very sleepless nights with pains in my hip joints. Shortly after I became aware of new found strength and feeling in my pelvis, and sacrum, as we finally created connection between all the elements of the trunk, from head to pelvic floor.

For the latter part of last year and the start of this year I had many headaches which I can only associate with the improvements we have generated in the structure of my head. My right ear is another on going weakness that was buried for a long time before we exposed it, this being damaged in an accident eight years before I broke my back. Although I’ve been deaf in that ear since, for twenty years I had no other problems with the ear. When we exposed the weakness I ended up with an ear infection and have had many such niggling problems for the two years since. Finally with some new techniques I am managing to address that weakness and hope soon to put it behind me.

Strangely enough I look forward to the weakness we expose.

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Within Limits

July 3, 2011

Yesterday I got a gang of lads together, from the pub, to bang in the fence posts at the kids home at the end of my lane. The manager there had asked me if I would keep some animals in the grounds, so I’m fencing off a paddock to keep a few of my sheep there. This should have been done much earlier in the year when the ground was soft, but we had such a dry spring, that by the time I was ready the ground was baked hard and we had to wait for some rain to even attempt the job. Anyway, we got it done, but they had to push themselves to their limits.

We all have to live within the limits that our physical bodies allow, but when you live in a badly damaged body, those limits become rather different in nature. For the few people who have bodies that operate at near 100% capacity their limits would be reached by the shear physical effort required to undertake a task, just as the weight lifter has a maximum weight he can lift, or the length of time they can work before tiring too much. In practice, however, very few people are that fit and strong. Most people have weaknesses within them and have to be careful not to aggravate the shoulder they struggle with, the bad back or the old hernia injury. Some people over exert themselves and suffer the next day, but most are sensible enough to learn their limits in order to live comfortably within them.

Now that the posts are in, the next job is to brace the corners and to do that I have to hammer in short stakes to keep the braces in place. I’ll sit on the ground to do this and getting in a good position to swing the club hammer will not be a problem, but, especially with the ground so hard, I will have to be careful. My elbow will be the weakest link and if I don’t limit myself then I’m likely to suffer with tennis elbow. However, the limits of strenuous activity are the least of my problems. The far greater challenge is to live a full and active life within the limits of movement that the structure of a paralysed body allows. Of all the tasks I undertook yesterday, the hardest was to do up the zip on the bag on the back of my handcycle. To do this from my wheelchair, I had to lean forward and hold my body in that position while I fiddled with the zip. That is extremely demanding of limited strength, and weakened structure, and if not careful I could easily cause a strain in sacral region of my spine. All too often have I seen other paraplegics bending over with their body resting on their legs in order to do something with their hands at ground level while seated in a wheelchair. The strain they place on already overstretched structure is enormous. Those structures may be so depleted in quality that they don’t feel the strain, but more the point is that they are simply doing their best to cope with life as a paraplegic and unfortunately fail to find a better way of undertaking the task.

There is an art to living within the limits imposed by a damaged body and it’s actually an art that I’ve learnt to enjoy practicing. When undertaking practical activities, wheelchairs are seriously limiting. If it is something you can do on a work surface then that is fine as long as you can get your knees under the work top. A well designed kitchen is a pleasure to cook in, while a kitchen designed for the able bodied can be very hard work. You end up with your wheelchair side on to a worktop and then have to twist your body to work with your arms at right angles to your legs! When cooking, you tend to move around a lot and a wheelchair is good, but for tasks in the workshop I find the crunched up sitting position in a wheelchair too hard to bear. I would much rather sit on a stool or a chair where I could anchor my feet firmly on the ground (legs work as anchors and support even if paralysed). Many wheelchair users sadly feel that they have to crunch themselves up in a wheelchair in order to create enough stability to use their upper body, but I have always striven to live out of a wheelchair as much as possible. The vast majority of manual tasks, I find, are best undertaken by sitting on a cushion on the floor. That way I can support my body, probably sitting cross legged, in order to use my hands for whatever the task is, gardening, chopping kindling, quad bike mechanics etc. When performing such tasks in a wheelchair it is hard to do so without leaning awkwardly out of the side of the chair. It is all too easy, when living life sitting down to over stretch yourself to undertake a task, but the art is to always know your limits and to position your body so you can work within them.

A good lightweight wheelchair is a wonderful tool for getting from A to B, but it is actually very difficult to do so while remaining within your limits of ability. The sad fact is that no one uses a wheelchair until they’ve lost the ability to do so through pure body movements. Intrinsic weakness inevitably means that the trunk collapses with every push, causing a hinge in the rib cage, and the shoulders lack the structure to transfer the force efficiently to the hands. When I first became a paraplegic I refused to let the wheelchair stop me getting around under my own steam. I have had a car at times, but that presents a whole new set of challenges; hauling a wheelchair in and out while sitting in the driver’s seat for example. I used to think that not even the steepest of hills would get in my way while pushing a wheelchair, but slowly I learnt to limit such activity and now use a wheelchair as little as possible, preferably only on the flat. I still get out and about a great deal under my own steam, but do so these days, much more, using a handcycle. In this I am well supported in a reclined sitting position which allows me best possible use of the hands on the pedals (or hand crank as it is really in this case). I also employ my husky dog, working in harness to take much of the strain. I’ll cycle up to the butcher’s shop or the pub and then crawl in on all fours, or I may just take the dogs for a run, which also gives me fresh air and invigoration.

With all the work I am doing using ABR Therapy to rebuild the damaged structure of my body I feel it important to be as kind as possible to my body, learning to use it within its limits while at the same time living as full and active a life as possible.