A few weeks ago, I woke up with a knot in my back, next to the right shoulder blade. Not anything unusual–I’ve had back muscle problems since my mid-20s. My posture isn’t great and I carry a lot of tension and anxiety in my shoulders and back, so sudden muscle pain is an old companion of mine and I didn’t think much of it besides “OW!”
In the following days, I waited for the muscles to unknot themselves, but they didn’t. Rude! A week went by and the muscle pain spread to my upper right arm like an expansionist empire. It got bad enough that I couldn’t sleep through the night. Okay, I rarely sleep through the night, my brain just doesn’t work that way. But being woken up and kept awake by back and arm pain is not my usual uneven sleep. Being stubborn, I waited another week, hoping the pain would go away, but it didn’t. It got worse. Much worse. Much, much worse. It got so bad, I barely slept at all. I was crying and yelling at my body “Stop hurting! Just stop it!” (Surprisingly, that didn’t work.) The next morning, luck was with me: my doctor had an open spot before I had to be at work. I nabbed it and headed off to her office. My arm strength and hand strength were fine, I could turn my head fine, but she was sure something not-good was up with my neck. She wrote me prescriptions for a steroid and an anti-inflammatory, then she sent me off to get my neck x-rayed.
I got an email from her the next day: “You have osteoarthritis in the cervical spine.” Considering my mother has arthritis, My jaw didn’t exactly drop at the news. I did a little research (not on WebMD because that’s a rabbit hole I avoid at all costs) and what I read wasn’t really all that scary. Something to be taken seriously, but it could have been a much worse diagnosis.
The steroid and anti-inflammatory did a bang-up job of driving out the conquering Empire of Muscle Pain. And now that I have a diagnosis, when I have felt pain in my back or arms, I’ve thought, “Okay, this is a thing I have to live with, a thing I have a name for.” Accepting it and working with it seems a lot easier in the long run than raging against it and cursing my life. Human bodies can be so squishy and breakable, it was unlikely I’d live as long as I have without something breaking down or going awry. And since I like being alive, living with arthritis is better than the alternative. You know, not living.
I’m here to keep going.