Health Concerns for Artists and other Creative Persons
How I got RSI or The Diary of a Mad Nerve, or Nerve on Hot Garage Cement, or, oh, shut up, cecilia!
One day in January of 2000 it rained. I only mention this because that made the ground wet and that's fairly unusual around here. The upshot is that I was walking down to a garage and right where the gate comes down it's metal and I slipped. I tried to catch myself and landed on my right hand and one of my knees. I only saw a bruise on my knee that night. But the next day my back hurt. The next day after that my arm and shoulder were in extreme pain. After that I was walking around with my arm in a sling. And so began my adventures with carpel tunnel.
Two weeks later I got my first night of full sleep. And that's only because a friend gave me her prescription Advil's which are three times the strength of over the counter stuff. It's quite unusual for me to take ANY drugs but I needed to sleep. I was in constant 24 hour pain. I never felt this kind of pain and I wouldn't wish it on anybody (except maybe Dr. Mengele). Just a quick description of this pain: numb in the fingers, the pain in the elbow was from this "funny bone" area, which was anything but funny because it was constant, and there was this nerve between my bicep and triceps which felt like someone was stabbing me. I could feel pain in my shoulder, across the upper back to the spine and up my neck. If I lay down on the floor I couldn't put my head all the way down. My muscles were all cramped up. I couldn't even turn my head from side to side! By the time a month passed I noticed there was tingling in my fingers. That's my thumb, index, and middle fingers. I was using cold packs and of course became "left-handed". I just let my right hand and arm rest. As much as I was able to. Anytime I was in a car (passenger) it was just hell. Even though I was sitting there doing nothing the pain was excruciating. Six weeks after my fall I started taking MSM. This was suggested to me by someone who has horses and she said that's what they get for their nerves/bones/muscles. I figured that since horses are more valuable than me (they are an "investment", after all) then MSM must be useful. At least in a few days I was able to write without too much discomfort, but rest is very important at this early stage. As my mother said, nerves take a long time to heal. I was glad, however that a week after starting the MSM my thumb was feeling more normal. And 13 days after starting the MSM I made a note that I didn't have pain in the car that day.
Aside from resting during the day, I always slept with a brace on my arm to keep it as immobile as possible. I couldn't sleep on my right side for months! Ten weeks after the fall I slept without the brace. I actually wrote that down! I really need to get a life. And speaking of which here's a site I found in which this person got his RSI from repetitive movement rather than mine which is called a "trauma". Indeed! Repetitive Strain Injury
Less than three weeks later I started work on DUNE. Now, I was feeling much better but don't think for a minute that I was just fine. This condition really does take time to heal. Remember I was driving to work now, not just being a passenger and, as I have come to realize, driving really is stressful on my arm - not to mention the rest of me! Things seemed ok for awhile (I can't find any extraordinary notes about it in my diary). However a little over nine weeks into the job I made a note that my shoulder hurt. Hmm. The arm and shoulder hurt that next week. That next week started out with pain but it lessened mostly because I started walking for 40 minutes in the evening. Here we come to the next phase of the healing process. Once the nerves have been quiet, it's time to move the muscles. I went for walks ever few days and that helped alot. It was the end of July and the beginning of August and very hot. I don't do well in that sort of heat. I ususally get dehydrated and feel faint. I noted that my back was hurting around this time and I'm sure the weather, lack of water, and the extra exercise was stressing me. However, here's a site (which I didn't know about at the time) about using exercise to get rid of stress: Desktop Yoga
By mid-September I had a break from work for a couple of weeks and stayed home to watch the Olympics. Hmmm, love those swimmers in their little suits. By the beginning of October we were back at AI working on shots for the DUNE DVD. The work was stressful for various technical reasons, but I have no notes on the state of my nerves. We were done in about a month. After that I worked on web pages for friends and decided to relax. I do seem to remember that I developed a pain in my right leg that went down from my hip to the foot. Around Thanksgiving I was actually limping from this.
I visited my family for Christmas and was able to talk to my brother about various health concerns. His and mine. The upshot is that he gave me various sites to visit and a list of herbal supplements that he was taking himself. LEF is a site that has some interesting and useful information. In January of 2001 I decided to break in the new millennium with a bit of DHEA - for my bones mostly. Plus it's supposed to reduce inflammation. I also was trying to go for walks every other day. It's hard to describe how the DHEA helped but I do feel "newer". Whatever that means. I was still feeling aches and pains in my back although my arm was doing fine. I continued to read and look for other things I might be taking and doing. I tried to eat more fruit and healthier food in general. And, since my body had been stressed for so long I took vitamin supplements. I also drink Green tea and other antioxidants. And I drink a ton of water.
At the beginning of April I started taking CLA. In less than a week the pain in my leg was nearly gone. By a month's time I had no pain in leg, lower back, upper back or neck. It was amazing. I could feel myself getting slightly better every day. Somehow, the CLA seems to relax my muscles so I can exercise more and longer. I can now walk (and run if I wish) ever day and I'm not tired like I was at first. Certainly by June I'm basically pain-free. If I sit at the computer a bit too long I may get stiff muscles in my shoulder and neck but I stretch out and feel better. I do what I call "sloppy yoga" which is just simple stretching - no standing on my head or weird positions. I also use light free weights when I remember to use them (3 lbs) to help build up the strength in my arms.
It's now mid-August as I write this sentence and things continue to improve. Over a month ago I started running almost everyday. I basically do sprints. That is run for 15 counts, walk for about 15 to 20 counts then repeat. I exercise like this for about an hour. While I have no pain I sometimes feel a slight "sensation" in my right shoulder. It's so subtle it's like a shadow. I really can't describe it. After I run or do any exercise it's gone. And I feel great in general after a run. No surprise there! Anyway, one of the things I've been trying to do is increase my intake of protein. I take soy milk, soy nuts, tofu and salmon which has all those "good" fats - the Omega 3.
By now my back and general health were much improved. So, in my continuing search for improvement, I turned my attention to my Rosacea. For those who don't have Celtic white skin it's basically a sensitivity to irritants such as the Sun. Although there are other things that can set it off like very hot or very cold drinks, spicy foods, alcohol, etc. The main "bad guy" (at least for me) is the Sun. I've been using SunBlock number 50 (yeah, you read right. I said "fifty") for years. But that really prevents the worst reactions rather than healing the skin. The skin around the nose - especially! - gets inflammated, red and tender.
I found out about this dermatologist Nicholas Perricone who believes that many skin problems come from the distruction of the skin by free radicals. And this can be repaired with antioxidants like Vitamin C ester, Alpha-lipoc Acid, and Vitamin E among others. In mid December I got some Alpha-lipoc Acid gel caps and applied this to my face. Instantly - and I really mean this - the skin felt better. I noticed that a slight itchiness around my nose that I had lived with for years was gone. Completely gone. My skin has continued to improve and whenever there is a new inflammation, it takes less time to heal and isn't as bad as it's usually been. Of course, taking antioxidants internally helps also. Not to mention drinking alot of water! I've been experimenting with topical application of other antioxidants and while it seems to help it's not very scientific so the details aren't important here. What is great about this doctor's book (The Wrinkle Cure ) is that he includes foods - most of which I've been eating already. So I consider him very much on the right track!
This is not meant to be a complete explanation of my experiences, but I want to give people an overall feel for what I went through. If something like this happens to you, just remember to take things slowly, trust your body and do everything you can to let it heal itself. Some people are told that surgery is the only solution. Yuk! Ok, I'm not a doctor but my take is that letting a stranger plunge a knife into your flesh should be a last resort! I'm with Doctor McCoy on this one.
And for the rest of you, try to prevent something like this from happening by living a balanced life. As the Greeks used to say, "Nothing in excess, everything in moderation". Exercise is the best stress-reliever. Eating poorly is stressful and overwork is stressful. And, frankly, putting up with idiots is stressful. I'm removing stress from my life.