Saturday, February 23, 2013

Malady Soup, Part 3

You'll know you've hit middle age when the medical maladies just keep coming. My latest bout, so soon after presbyopia and the signs of alopecia, is cervical spondylosis with radiculopathy. Now that's a mouthful, isn't it?

Cervical spondylosis, despite its ominous name, isn't as life threatening as it sounds, but when it strikes it's rather painful, and sometimes cripplingly so. My particular flavor manifests itself as tingling sensation down my right arm, followed by what feels like needles stabbing down to the bone.

The source of the pain is a pinched nerve. As the doctor tells it, my neck verterbrae have suffered some compression, squeezing the gel-like discs between them. The discs, like balloons, bulge out, in turn impinging on the nerves leading down to my arm. And so while there's nothing really wrong with my bones, muscles, or skin, I'm getting all sorts of sensations in that region.

So now I can't hold a computer mouse in my right hand anymore. After a few minutes, the tingling begins, followed by the stabbing. Then it's like my hand has been electrocuted, and I have to let my arm drop to get some relief.

Work has become difficult. Until this ailment struck, the mouse has become an extension of my hand -- I use the mouse to program, to design, to read, and yes, also to play. All of a sudden, I'm forced to cut down on all of that.

I've tried to shift the mouse to my left hand, but it seems that the right senses the betrayal and starts radiating pains anyway. Really, the only way to relieve the pain is to stop and take breaks frequently.

Fortunately, some spondylosis is manageable through physical therapy. Three times a week, I have to go to a clinic where a therapist takes me through some exercises and puts me on a traction.

Ah, traction! What fun! The therapist loops a strap down my chin and for fifteen minutes, a machine pulls my head up. At the very least, I hope I'll be taller for this experience.

Still, I shouldn't be complaining much. I can imagine several dozen ways that this could all be worse, and I'm happy that it isn't. Spondylosis can also be fun -- if I turn my neck so many degrees, the tingling starts; and if I turne it the other way by so many degrees, the tingling goes away. It's like having a push button for sensation.

And besides, it's Lent. Having a malady like this gives me something more to offer by way of sacrifice.