Pop, Lock…Stop?

You may remember me writing a post a few weeks back about how I started picking back up on my fitness regimen and was going to the gym every second day. Seems that has slowed right back down, in part because of my body’s resistance and in part because of my brain’s.

I was going to the gym and all was well until I noticed that even light weights were beginning to cause multiple joints to pop. Literally my shoulders, ribs, hips, knees, and ankles would pop as if about to dislocate. Now, I know these things are more likely to happen in those of us with CTDs and I had experienced them here and there but never to this extent. At first I just ignored it, reasoning that the stronger my muscles got the less the joints would react but eventually it was causing them to be continually bothersome at home as well.

Eventually I got in to see my doctor and reluctantly asked her what she thought. I should mention that something in my throat had also recently begun to dislocate. I noticed if I were to look down and swallow that there would be a popping sound and sensation in my throat followed by an excruciating pain. And when I say excruciating I mean it. The pain would be made worse each time I swallowed, but eventually the act of swallowing would cause another pop that would make the pain go away as if it had never happened. Thank goodness because I wouldn’t be able to handle it for more than a minute or two. This has happened a few times now.

Along with this a few of my ribs have begun to subluxate. This is also quite painful and seems to be followed by the trademark pop. First it was a pop in my ribs, then this last time it was in the shoulder opposite the one above the ribs that dislocated. When this happens it’s impossible for me to bend over, in fact I can barely move. I can hardly breathe in either because of the pain it causes and both times I’ve gotten extremely light headed from the shallow breathing. There have been other occurrences similar to these but much less painful. I wouldn’t be able to breathe in very deep without it hurting but often a cough or swift deep breathe would be just the thing to ‘pop’ them back into place. These last two incidents happened only two weeks apart which is scaring me into thinking that they are becoming more and more common. When they dislocate like that there is nothing I can do but hobble my way to my bed and lie there. After this all of the surrounding tissue etc takes a while to fully recover.

Now, back to my doctor’s appointment. She told me that it’s obvious to her that my joints and tissue are becoming ‘looser’. As to why so much, so suddenly, she isn’t quite sure. Her advice as far as the gym was that it’s extremely important for me to stick with it as the extra strength will aid in making up for my faulty tissue, but that anything I do in the gym will have to be done extremely slow. To explain it she stated that “what will take a normal body a couple of weeks will need to take you 2-3 months.” She said that muscles strengthen much faster than tendons and ligaments which are what need to be strong in order to help hold my joints where the tissue is failing. So, I need to give those things time to catch up to my muscles. She explained that light weights and repetition is the key and that upping the weights will need to be done little by little over a long, long period of time. As a competitive person who used to pride herself on the sports she played and loved it’s safe to say that this news demolished my motivation. For some this may not seem like a big deal, but it’s hard when your body tells you that you can’t, over and over. “You can’t sit in a classroom”,”you can’t play basketball”, “you can’t run”, “you can’t lift anything heavy”, “you can’t have that career”. It’s like a chant stuck on replay in your head. Everywhere you turn is another reminder that you can’t. This is my brain’s resistance that I mentioned before.

But there are things I still can do. I can walk, I can ride my bike, and I can go to the gym whether I want to go slow or not because going slow will get me a lot further than not going at all will. I’m just going to have to learn to accept this new development and that might take some time. But I haven’t given up and I’m still willing to work on it, and for now that’s enough for me.

“If you’re trying to achieve, there will be roadblocks. I’ve had them; everybody has had them. But obstacles don’t have to stop you. If you run into a wall, don’t turn around and give up. Figure out how to climb it, go through it, or work around it.” – Michael Jordan

A Healthy Change

I‘ve been really craving a lifestyle change lately. For the healthier that is. I don’t hate working out, but I don’t love, love it either. But I’m hoping that’ll all change soon. I’ve been eating really healthy for the past week (I’ve done so in the past but it never seems to stick!) and I notice that I not only feel better in general but I also feel better about myself.

I’ve recently started to go to the gym three times a week and have an elliptical at home. It’s been really hard to get back into going to the gym. A lot of the times I’m supposed to or want to go I have a havoc wreaking headache or haven’t slept, etc. But I finally realized that it doesn’t really matter because no matter what I’m always going to have a reason why I don’t feel good enough to go or why I don’t want to. Eventually I just forced myself to go anyways, and once I got there I was happy about it.

Since then I’ve gotten back into my old routine of going once every second day. Sometimes it’s hard to motivate myself about going to the gym because while it’s good for my spirit and my confidence my body always seems to freak out afterwards. If I have a slight headache then by the time I leave I have a huge one. Same with any aches and pain in my back or ribs. The gym seems to irritate those things more. The same goes for how tired I feel. If I’m sort of tired going into the gym I’m absolutely exhausted coming out and for hours afterwards. All of those things are downers on the experience, but I still think that the pros outweigh the cons.

There are special considerations for those with connective tissue disorders when working out, especially if you have aortic root dilation. Since mine is still on the slight side and I’m not on beta blockers yet I’m still allowed to get my heart rate up as high as recommended for a good cardio workout. I’ve only been instructed not to lift extremely heavy objects as that can be too hard on the heart. We also have to be careful because of the dangers of damaging our already weakened tissue. It’s easier for us to tear muscles and dislocate joints than most other people so we need to be aware of what to do and what not to do.

I choose to get my cardio workout on the elliptical because it’s low impact and easy on the joints while still being a good way to get your heart rate up and get your sweat on. I stay on it for thirty minutes and then switch to weights. A lot of those with CTDs have lower muscle tone than others. This is mostly true for me when it comes to my upper body. My geneticist once described my arm muscles as “doughy”. The speed that I can increase my leg weights is much faster than my arm weights. The difference is huge. Sometimes I feel like maybe I am pushing myself harder than I should or am supposed to, but I’ve been given the go ahead by several different doctors so it must be okay.

For those of you with Marfan Syndrome and other similar disorders here is a link to the National Marfan Foundation’s website explaining safe ways to get exercise without injuring your body: http://marfan.org/marfan/2728/

If you plan on joining a gym or something similar make sure you’re educated and aware of how to be safe about it. Talking with your doctor may be a good idea.