Written 18 April, 2008
About six weeks ago I noticed a slight soreness in my left arm. I happened to be seeing the doctor for a checkup and mentioned it to him, mostly to be sure it had nothing to do with my heart (it didn’t).
The pain didn’t go away. In fact, it got worse. Soon my neck was stiff and my arm was hurting like the blazes.
I rarely take pain relievers, but I found some Vicodin that had been lying about for ten years or so and took it. And I was gobbling aspirin.
My doctor, damn him, was not taking my pain seriously (I have since fired him), so I called my insurance company and got a referral to an orthopedist.
The ortho knew what it was right away, and it wasn’t the dread progressive neuromuscular disease I was half certain I had. He took an x-ray of my spine, and ten minutes later he was showing me a calcium deposit at my sixth cervical vertebra.
“You have a little osteoarthritis,” he said cheerily, “but it’s not bad. I think the pain will resolve. If it doesn’t within a month we’ll do an MRI.” And he referred me to physical therapy.
As soon as I started therapy, I knew things were going to get better. Some of the exercises my PT gave me hurt like hell. It was a good sort of hurt. I could tell my muscles were tight and the stretches were working them. He sent me home with a big rubber band and a list of exercises and sore muscles—but the arm and neck pain had already begun to lessen.
I was certain my position on the computer was the primary cause of my pain, so I took a look at my work station. I raised the height of my chair (now my arms aren’t raised nearly so high) and pulled the monitors closer so I wouldn’t lean forward quite so much. And I put a pillow behind my head when I was working, and iced my muscles every now and then.
And I did those darn exercises religiously.
I’m not out of the woods yet, but I’m content because I know the nature of the problem; I know what causes it, and I know what I need to do to alleviate it.
I spend a lot of time in Second Life, but I have a real-life friend who is online more. Recently he found a growth in a certain unmentionable area of his body. He went to the doctor and was immediately put in the hospital. He had surgery the next morning, and has two additional procedures because of infection. He’s not out of the woods yet, but seems to be slowly getting better.
My episode, and that of my friend, has caused me to realize that being in one position for hours on end is not inherently a healthy thing. In fact, I’m certain it’s harder on the body than passive activities like watching television. When we're in world we sit rather than recline, we keep our arms raised in front of us, and we make thousands of repetitive moments with our fingers. It’s a recipe for carpal tunnel syndrome, pinched nerves, and other maladies—and if we don’t tear ourselves away to walk around or exercise every now and again, our cardiovascular fitness decreases.
I’m taking care these days to change my position frequently, rise and walk around every little while, and go to bed at a reasonable hour instead of fiddling with a script or building yet another ridiculous object until four in the morning. And I do my PT exercises and walk a mile or more most days.
It’s not much, but it’s a start.
I hope you’re taking care of yourself, too.