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

13 Years Old – Rib Pain

Things were fairly calm aside from my foot and chest until I turned thirteen. Halfway through my first year of high school it started to become increasingly painful to sit for the entire school day -to be more specific – my ribs began hurting me too much to do so. This became steadily worse for weeks until eventually I was calling home in the middle of the day, and then eventually missing days at a time because of the pain. On a few different occasions I even went to the ER because the pain was so intense. 

At the same time I was having headaches more and more often and my sleeping patterns were causing me a lot of fatigue during the day. I was becoming worried and fed up with my situation. I was in pain daily and starting to get behind on my grades because of all of the missed school work. Eventually after having already quit the sports I loved, and losing my straight A grades during the first semester, I made the heart wrenching decision to leave public school and continue on at home where I had the freedom to move around and rest whenever the pain became too much. This broke my heart. I loved school. All of my friends were there and leaving school meant being left out of the loop and eventually left behind. And then there were the rumours. See, my brother had dropped out of high school during his first year (ironic, I know), and so whether I heard it up front or not I knew a lot of people were convinced I was making the pain up to get out of school. Rumours also began to circulate that I had dropped out because I began doing drugs. Also completely false. It didn’t help that when people asked me why I wasn’t in school I didn’t have an actual diagnosis to give them. It was more of an “uhhhh….because my ribs hurt….” type of response. Always ending awkwardly with them being insensitive and outright acting as if I was full of ‘it’ or them just becoming quiet and dropping the conversation entirely. All of this only adding insult to injury.

I finished the school year at home but unable to accept that this was to become my routine -my life- at the beginning of grade nine I enrolled back into the school. This would be the same heartbreak all over again. I only lasted a few weeks. I can remember being picked up from school by my mom and us having a conversation that solidified what I already knew -this wasn’t working. I remember the sky was grey, dull, -as was my mood. Tears slid down my cheeks as I stared out the window trying to dodge my mom’s sympathetic gaze. I knew that I had to accept the fact that whether I wanted it to or not, it just wasn’t going to work. So, shortly after beginning my high school experience, I had to come to terms with the fact that this was the end of it. This was all that I was going to get.

Eventually, after pushing for every kind of test possible and being told by many pediatricians and specialists that teenagers just don’t suffer from chronic pain – which would mean that I was a faker – we finally got an answer and a diagnosis. I was told that I had a connective tissue disorder, most likely to be and most similar to Marfan Syndrome, and that excruciating rib pain was certainly not unheard of when placed with the disorder, no matter the age. Placing my symptoms with my disorder, I was told that I was suffering from costochondritis, basically, inflammation of the cartilage of the ribs. I was also told that some of my rib pain may also be from actual tearing of the cartilage and tissue due to the faulty and weak connective tissue seen in Marfan Syndrome.

I am not a doctor and the medical definitions and descriptions do not and should not replace those of a medical professional. They are merely there to help give an idea of my situation and experiences. If you are experiencing any health issues seek proffesional medical care.