Sunday, November 7, 2021

Tai Chi, Yah You Betcha

Over the past several months I have had some pretty painful back and leg issues going on from a canoe episode near the BWCA several years ago. I had an accident and was injured, and over time arthritis has set in and at times, will flare up with a vengeance. It will require a few trips to the medicine cabinet for Ibuprofen and a few visits with the chiropractor to get everything aligned and loosened up once again. And with each ache and pain that happens it always makes me  think back to the day it happened. 

We were camping up near the BWCA. It is one of our favorite places to go for some solitude and paddling and some good fishing, usually. It was early morning and as usual I was awake and ready to go fishing before daylight. I let my Best Half sleep and headed with my fishing gear and paddle down to the lake where my solo canoe rested on the shore. While I love to fish from my kayak, my little 33 lb solo canoe also ranks up there for some good times fishing. It is half the weight of my kayak and much easier to pick up and haul if needed. But also more tippy.

I got all my rods and tackle situated and was in the canoe paddling out to a spot about a mile from our campsite. The day was breaking and I could see the dark clouds in the West. The lake was calm so I figured I had time before the rain came. There was a fog just above the lake and was beginning to lift. An absolutely beautiful morning. I cast my line and trolled to the spot I wanted to try out. I caught a tree stump and a small sunfish. I got to the spot and cast out from my ultra-light rod looking for some crappies. Second cast and I had a small perch on my line. Just as I was reeling it in, a huge Northern grabbed the perch. I let out my line and reeled it in and played with the Northern back and forth for a few minutes, although it seemed like an hour. And just as I was getting the tuckered out fish up near the canoe the line snapped and off went the Northern.

I paddled over to shore to restring my line and let the adrenaline stop pumping. As I sat there I noticed big splashes coming from this little pond about 10 feet from the shore where I was. I got out of the canoe and flipped my line in there a few times to see what was there. I caught several small sunfish and thought maybe to portage over with the canoe and try it out. But just as I was going back to the canoe it started to rain, and then downpour. The temperature had cooled down a lot and I decided it was time to hop in the canoe and paddle back to camp.

As I was getting ready to get in the canoe, I slipped on a big wet rock. Trying to catch my balance, my right leg went out in front of me way further than it should have and I heard a loud pop coming from the back of my leg. To this day I swear it was a loud enough pop that it echoed off the lake and it was in surround sound. I lost my balance completely, grabbed the canoe hoping to keep upright and proceeded to tip the canoe and fill it with water. I was now sitting on the rock next to the canoe in the water watching all my fishing gear exit the canoe to the water. It was only about 2-3 feet of water and it all started to sink.

I was frantically trying to gather all my gear and throw it to shore until I could empty all the water from the canoe. It was still downpouring and now I was completely soaked to the skin and getting cold. I crawled out of the water to the muddy shoreline and sat down. My leg was killing me with sharp piercing pain. I can honestly say I saw stars when it happened and thought for a moment I would pass out. I started doing the breathing techniques you use in the end stages of childbirth to try to not think about the pain. I was a mile from the camp and needed to get back to the other side of the lake. Continuing to do my Hee Hee Paw Paw breathing, I stood up, but only on one leg. The right one wasn’t going to let me put any weight on it without me screaming out in pain. I hobbled to the water filled  canoe and tried to lift it to empty. It wasn’t going to happen. I sat down and started to bail the water out with the empty travel mug I had. I was shivering, really hurting and the rain was coming down in buckets now compared to my little travel mug. I finally tried again to stand and empty the canoe. I got up and pulled it as best I could with it full of water, closer to shore, to see if I could lean it over and empty it. I was able to do just that. Most of the water emptied and I could now load my gear and get home. I got everything in the canoe, except me. This was going to be a sight, trying to hop on one leg and get in a canoe. I couldn’t do it on shore so I went out in the water a few feet. I took a deep breath and pretty much stood on both legs and lunged into the canoe and immediately saw stars again, but managed to steady myself so I didn’t tip over. I heard and felt another pop in the back of my leg, but not as bad as the first time.

It took what seemed like hours to paddle back to shore. With each stroke of the paddle there was a sharp pain in my leg. It took me a few minutes of paddling to realize the moaning I heard was coming from me. I got back to shore and my Best Half was there waiting for me. He had seen me coming back. I’m not sure if he heard my moans too, but I was just glad he was there. He helped me out of the canoe and I gimped back to the campsite on one leg and with him hauling me.

Once back to camp and changing into dry clothes, I was able to do a full nursing assessment on my injury. It was starting to swell behind my thigh. It still hurt pretty bad. My best guess was that I had torn my hamstring. I drugged myself with Ibuprofen and cold compresses. Meanwhile, this was the day we were to go home, so I did the best I could to gimp around and help pack up to go home. 

We made the 4 hour trip home with many stops along the way to grab some ice and let me rearrange my leg to get comfortable. Over the next few days, I kept icing and resting it as that was about all I imagined could be done. I now had a bruise from my upper thigh into my ankle and a pretty good size bulge on the back of my leg. But I was able to hobble on it when needed.

After a week of resting and icing, I decided to go to the Chiropractor to see if there were any adjustments to be done. I figured going to the MD would be pointless since they would just tell me to rest, ice and elevate it which I was doing. When I got to the Chiropractor, he looked at it, pressed a few spots gently and said it needed more time to heal and lose the swelling. He did confirm that I had torn the hamstring muscle and probably a few other ligaments. He sent me home with instructions to rest, ice, and elevate for 2-3 more weeks. Then I was to go to Physical Therapy and they would give me strengthening stuff to do.

So off I went for another 3 weeks of home treatment. After that, I made an appointment with the PT people and went in. By now I was walking and the pain was tolerable. I got there and walked in, pretty much on display as the PT person was watching how I walked. She had me lie on my stomach to work on my leg. She took one look and said it was still too bruised and swollen. This was now almost 6 weeks since the injury. The bruising was still there but all yellow and old and mostly just behind my upper leg. She suggested another 2-3 weeks of resting it before PT. I went home. I eventually went back and finally got some treatment and exercises to do to strengthen it. That was about 10 years ago.

My leg and back healed eventually after about 6 months. But as the years have gone by and I’ve gotten older, time has settled into my bones, and I have gotten arthritis in that area. There have been days, I have cussed out that fateful morning in the canoe. The lingering and ongoing effects have caused pain over the years and made me...pity myself some. 

This Summer I had a flare up pretty bad and I was barely walking once again. There is nothing more obnoxious than me in pain that I can’t fix and moping around feeling sorry for myself. After several people telling me to get it checked out, I finally went to a new Chiropractor. She did massage, pressure points, and some adjustments every week for about 2 months. She also, along with my niece, the Yoga instructor, showed me some yoga stretches and moves with a foam roller. I was to do them to help stretch and loosen the joints and muscles. I attempted to do them and about broke my whole body flailing off the foam roller onto the ground. I was finding myself sprawled face first on the ground more than I was in the Yoga poses. I have no balance. And getting off the floor once in my “face plant” pose was really hard if Max ,the dog, wasn't there to lean against getting up. I needed to find another way to keep my legs and back loose and stretched out. I pictured myself spending way more time sprawled out on the floor than I wanted to be.

Over the past month I think I may have found the key to keeping my arthritic body from screaming out in pain. I have discovered Tai Ch through YouTube. There are many teachers doing 15-20 minute instructions. I have found a few videos and every morning when I wake up I am facing East and the TV and doing my Tai Chi movements for 20 minutes before I do anything else. Not only has it helped keep my back and legs pain free and stretched out but it also has given me more calm and mental and physical balance with the deep breathing that goes along with it. And it works the whole body and all those other up and coming arthritic areas. While I dreaded getting on the floor with the Yoga moves and the rolling foam pad, I am enjoying starting my day doing this routine and being free of pain in the mornings and throughout the day. 

Tai Chi Yah You works.

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