Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Arms, and Other Inconsequential Ramblings of a Condemned Man

Let’s try an experiment. Trust me, I know what I’m doing. I write a blog.
Take 30-pound weight and hold it in one hand, using only the tips of your fingers. With your arm hanging by the side, your fingers are curled slightly, unable to fully extend (or you will drop the weight), yet you can’t quite curl them into a fist.
The test here is not to accomplish this feat, although it is tricky, but rather what can you do with your encumbered limb.
Try to live. Take a shot that getting out of bed, donning your slippers, walking the dog (heck, clip the leash to her collar), taking a shower, washing your hair, brushing your teeth, combing your hair, dressing (including buttoning your pants and zipping your zipper), putting on socks, tying your shoes. Do this all with your dominant arm, the one you have feeling and sensation in, not the arm you can move easily but have limited sense and control with.
This is the best experiment I have found to replicate my dilemma. The size of the added weight is a bit cumbersome, I’ll admit. A bulky weight can make tasks more difficult and dangerous; I bonked myself in the head trying to comb my hair…
Aside from the awkwardness introduced, this is the level of function, and difficulty, I have with my left arm. The eyesore hangs limp most of the time; my fingers can’t ball up but will not extend fully; everything I attempt feels as if I am fighting a 30-pound weight hanging by my fingertips; it is weak all the time, tires quickly, and continues to worsen. Because my nerves to not ‘fire’ in my arm, I cannot move it well; because I cannot move my arm well, I don’t use it as much; because I didn’t use my arm as much, it continues to weaken; because my arm continues to weaken, I cannot move it well; and so on.
No, I don’t get ‘credit’ for build the muscle with the extra weight, my arm just gets weaker with no weight at all.
Well, that just sucks.
I try my best to use my arm in normal activities as much as possible. Just today, I picked up a piece of paper from the floor all by myself, although I needed my right arm to pat myself on the back afterward.
My options are fairly limited right now. It’s bad, getting worse by the day as atrophy sets in. Best I can hope for is to maintain as much of the muscle tone and overall flexibility.
Use it or lose it…
My physical therapist shared an exercise regimen with that specific goal in mind, upper-body exercises using resistance bands or cable pulling machines in the gym. It’s a pretty good workout for my right side, pushing limits of my strength and range of motion. With the left, my body whimpers with the slightest amount of weight, down to and including zero. The looks I get are interesting. Sometimes, while standing in front of the exercise machine, performing a ‘split-stance single-arm cable chest press’ without any cable or weight, I just want to yell out, “What’s the matter? Have you never seen a man pumping air before?”
Nevertheless, my workouts continue, trying to reduce the rate of decay on my left side while strengthening my core and right side. I notice big changes for both. My dwindling, 12.5-inch left bicep versus my uncontrollable gorilla strength 15-inch right.
I need my left arm, I just wouldn’t feel right without it.

Weakness in MS, which results from deconditioning of unused muscles or damage to nerves that stimulate muscles, can be managed with rehabilitation strategies and the use of mobility aids and other assistive devices. (To this statement, I will add: sometimes the damage cannot be managed, and therefore must be compensated for with alternative options.)

The fight is not over and it won’t be over until a cure is found.
It will never stop…nor will we
It will never quit…nor will we
This is why we fight!

Never Stop… Never Quit…®
Kevin Byrne
Portland, OR

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