So I don’t know exactly what I did, but yesterday I had something funky going on with the second toe on my right foot. It’s not easy to walk without putting weight on your toes, just try it for a second. But I had to get Westley some exercise (remember him – the dog who ate the dental floss?) or there would be no living with him, so I strapped on my most supportive boots and the two of us headed out – him bounding, and me doing this weird pronated roll that probably looked a little drunk. It was an unseasonable 60 degrees in Boston, and the trails in the wooded dog park where we walk were a patchwork of indistinguishable ice-caked mud and mud-caked ice.
After about forty minutes of slipping, slogging and Marty Feldman-like lurching to protect my sore toe, my back was starting to feel weird. My entire skeleton was tipped to the left with a countering torque to the right like some kind of teetering Tinkertoy contraption. But what me, worry? I am a Fitness Professional, after all, so I was fairly confident that my body could handle this tweaked gait for as long as it would take my toe pain to ease. Or at least until I got home for a cup of tea. In a moment of true calendar serendipity, I just happened to have both my monthly massage and weekly chiropractic visit scheduled for that afternoon. So I wasn’t too concerned, for someone with a toe thing, a back whatever, and a dog marinated in mud.
Indeed, things seemed better after Beth worked her magic on my traps and Nina gave me a good crack. (They are both master practitioners. Send me an email if you live in Metrowest Boston and want their contact info.)
And then Westley ate the dental floss, and the vet nervously asked over the phone “Can you bring him in NOW?”, and he didn’t want to get in the car because it was 5:30 and dark outside and he is no dummy: he knows we are not going for a walk. So I had to give him a kind of a one-footed-half-shove-half-lift into the backseat of my fucking Volkswagen TDI that spews nitrous oxide when it was supposed to be good for the environment, and something in my lower back went twang. Or maybe more like twaaaang. And then we got to the vet and Westley lunged out of the car and dragged me across the parking lot to the door because he LOVES the vet and he LOVES the vet techs Holly, Lauren, and Brooke who give him treats and pat him and there are other dogs there and he just couldn’t wait to get inside, and my back went TWAAAANNNG.
So go back and read yesterday’s post if you’re worried about the dog, but the bottom line is that when we got home, he was all sunshine and good times and I was doubled over in discomfort. Neither Advil nor Arnica nor white wine brought much relief. I Igor-ed up to bed with my heating pad, bracing for one of those nights when you strategize for five minutes about how you are going to roll over without gasping. Still, I was hopeful that a good’s night sleep would sort me out.
The night’s rest wasn’t so good, apparently. This morning, the twang had bored deeper into my lower back and a sharp pain shot through my core when I stood up. Oy. I messaged an SOS to some of my teaching colleagues seeing if someone could sub my 9 a.m. class. Thank goodness Amy saluted. Otherwise, we’d have all been treated to a class of rolling around on our backs while groaning.
I curled up gingerly in my favorite armchair to do some writing instead. I hate to miss teaching a class (or taking a class) because dancing has become the central joy of my body’s life, and because no matter how logey or achy I might feel beforehand, I always, always feel better afterwards, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. But my common sense mind was telling me to rest.
It took only about 40 minutes of sitting in the chair for my body to overturn this decision. I was worse after resting overnight and stiffer still after resting this morning. Earlier, I had noticed feeling better coming down the stairs when I really paid attention to the sensation of pushing down with my feet, instead of moving from my hips. Likewise, I squatted Sumo-style to feed Westley, and the leg action of sinking down to rise up almost entirely relieved the pain.
I mean, I felt a little silly, squatting like a weightlifter to put down the dog bowl. But: Huh.
So let’s test this:
I shuffled creakily over to my laptop and pulled up the playlist for a new Nia routine I’ve been meaning to learn. The very first thing the teacher does in this particular body of work is to have you take a gentle inventory of your joints, waking up first ankles, then knees, hips, wrists, and so on. My initial intent was simply to bob around a little, like a buoy on a pond. That’s about all I could manage in my disabled state this morning, I thought. But just a little gentle movement unlocked a myriad of tight spaces where I was dug-in against discomfort, irritation, and the anxiety of not knowing when I would feel better.
Forty minutes of dancing is all it took. At the end of the routine, I felt loose and juicy enough that a triangle pose felt like a good idea. Reaching out to the right, I heard a tell-tale “pop” – my femur clicking back into alignment with my right hip, restored after yesterday’s sailor’s gait. When I shifted my triangle over to the left, I sensed a ripple of little clicks as my Tinkertoy spine realigned itself. And just like that: no pain. I mean none. Seriously.
Thank you, body.