My Healing Process

Two weeks ago I posted a blog about my auto accident in which I promised to write a little more about my treatment and progress, hoping that you’ll find it interesting, and perhaps helpful, if you or someone you know gets in an accident. Just to recap, I was rear-ended two days before Christmas, 2012.

Until that last post, I hadn’t said much to anyone about being hurt, other than to my therapists. I’m sure that I mentioned it in passing to a few people, but, even then, I brushed it off. I pretended it was nothing, while, in truth, I was a mess. It’s only been lately that I’ve been wondering why I did that.

I’m not sure I know, other than that I didn’t want to lose business. As a massage therapist, I didn’t want people canceling their sessions with me in order to somehow protect me, or because they didn’t think their treatment would be up to snuff. And, oddly, I needed them to come in for my own sake. Giving to them gave me something outside of my injuries and pain to focus on. I rarely felt pain while I worked. After so many years, giving a massage is second nature. I check my troubles and concerns at the door and turn my attention on the person under my hands, with some focus on my body mechanics.

working girl on ball

A nice picture of a straight spine and pretty good posture: one of the goals of my therapy was to return my back to balance, with left and right sides level like this.
Thanks to EdwinP on Stock.Xchng for this photo of a woman’s back.

However, it wasn’t just my clients: I didn’t even tell many of my friends about my pain and mental confusion. Perhaps that’s my nature, to underplay my difficulties, to be brave, and to pretend everything is alright. I’m not sure. Perhaps I just needed to pretend to myself that my healing was on track, that every day was better than the last, but, again, I don’t know. Maybe I didn’t want people gushing over me and worrying.

Do you do that? Downplay or even hide your problems? Isn’t it human nature? Can you think of times when you’ve hidden your problems, or made them seem minor? Maybe it’s poverty, or an abusive spouse, and you worry people will think badly of you for your choices. Or, I don’t know, a drug issue, or something minor, even, such as an errand you forgot to run.

This is a little long for a blog post, but here are the details on my treatment and recovery:

First week

The day after the accident, I went to the chiropractor. Luckily, he was working Christmas Eve. At that point, I wanted to be checked, since I hadn’t gone to emergency. I still didn’t know how badly I was hurt. I had more pain than the previous evening, but still not a lot. Since I do massage from time to time on people who’ve been in accidents, I can attest that that isn’t unusual. Pain often doesn’t appear for days, if not weeks.

Anyway, he noted that my left shoulder was swollen, and my skeleton was twisted so that my ribs angled up on the right. I still thought the accident had been no big deal. I was shaken and tired, but I’d be better in a few weeks. If I’d only realized how badly I was injured, I wouldn’t have felt so optimistic! I know from treating clients that it’s really difficult to predict how much pain someone will experience, or how long it will take them to recover. I’ve seen people get better in six weeks after a bad accident while others are in pain a year later after a mild one. Still, I was in excellent physical condition. Surely, I’d be one of the ones who heal fast.

By Christmas Day, I was a mess: tired and disoriented, with increasing pain. I barely got out of bed long enough to finish the meal I’d started cooking the day before, open presents, and eat. I had to lay down, even though I didn’t sleep. Reading was out. I just laid there, feeling awful, while my friends went skiing.

Next two months

I had loads of Chiropractic care for the next few months. Massage and Acupuncture entered the picture after three weeks. Acupuncture was lovely, but boy were those first massage treatments painful! She claimed to be barely touching me, but I didn’t believe her. At that point, she was just trying to help decrease inflammation and get some circulation going, but I almost grew to hate her before things calmed down. She found painful spots in places I had no idea had been affected by the accident, like my left quad. Okay, so I had some knee pain, but it didn’t seem enough to justify the fire that shot through me when she worked on my thigh.

Once the pain settled in, it was all on my left side, mainly lower ribs in the back and shoulder plus neck, an aggravating 6-7 out of 10, where ten is like being basted with burning oil. Ten is what I felt when I tried to play my flute. Forget skiing or bicycling! And absolutely forget taking a modern dance class, one of my great loves. No Vance Stance, either.

Unusual symptoms developed and what I did for them – March and April

After maybe two months, I realized that I couldn’t close my mouth properly. It’s impossible to recall the exact sequence of events now, but I had difficulty chewing, and developed a lisp because my teeth hit each other when I tried to speak. The chiropractic care, while it helped with my pain, and gradually moved my skeleton back into alignment, didn’t help with this weird issue. Oh, and I also had double vision and tinnitus, possibly from the concussion, but who knows. Anyway, I added a Cranial Osteopath to my care regime. I could hardly get anything done, because I was always running from one appointment to another!

Slowly, I improved. My bite went back to normal. I apparently stopped acting like I was wandering around in a fog sometime in April, at least according to people who weren’t me (I hadn’t realized that I was acting weird, but, hey, that’s the way it goes). My energy picked back up, and the pain decreased. The chiropractor slowly spaced all of my appointments out, from three times a week, to two, then one, then every two weeks. I started doing Vance Stance again and added Physical Therapy every two weeks. This is a pretty typical progression for post-accident, by the way.

Six months out and finally feeling better

It wasn’t until June or July that I had my first pain-free day (about six months after the accident). I didn’t realize how much pain I’d been in until it was gone (which is pretty normal—lots of people tell me that). I was able to extend my flute playing time, first from five minutes to ten and then twenty. I  tried bicycling, gave it up when it hurt too much, then tried it again with better luck. More and more pain-free days ensued.DIGITAL CAMERA

Long term

By September, when I’d used up my auto insurance, I felt good, although I still have a flare-up about once a week (at a low pain level). That’s one thing about whiplash – it tends to leave behind some scar tissue. I seem to still be getting better, though, so hopefully the tissue is still healing. As a massage devotee and fervent believer in its benefits, I continue with regular massages.

Oh, and I have a stretching sequence that I started doing every day as soon as I could, which gives me great relief.

Gratitude

Thanks to my therapists for all of their great work. I don’t know where I would be without them, but I doubt I’d be able to ski this winter, or dance, bicycle, etc. I’ve seen too many people who didn’t get such good treatment, coming in for massage years later and complaining that they’ve lived with pain ever since their accident.

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  1. #1 by lavariverwriter on January 23, 2014 - 1:07 pm

    I had no idea of all the pain you went through after your accident, Ann. I’d always assumed you were reticent, but this is off the chart for keeping things to yourself. Glad you’re better.

    • #2 by annstanleywriting on January 23, 2014 - 1:27 pm

      Reticent. I like that word. Yes, I suppose that I am. Well, you’ve had your own troubles this past year and more. No need to bother you with my little issue.
      I tend to prefer to let others speak first. We have so little time at meetings for socialization, and I already know what’s going on with me, so I’d rather find out what’s going on with everyone else.

      • #3 by lavariverwriter on January 24, 2014 - 10:58 am

        Being interested in others is supposed to be the key to building relationships. You seem to have mastered it.

      • #4 by annstanleywriting on January 25, 2014 - 12:28 pm

        Thanks. I hope so.

  2. #5 by Katie Hamer on January 21, 2014 - 3:26 am

    Ann, this is very inspiring. To see how you have persevered in building back your physical strength. It must have been very scary when you found out how much damage your accident had caused. Thanks for sharing your story.

    I love the stock picture of the woman on the swiss ball. I have one of these at home. It’s a very good idea to use them as an alternative to an office chair, especially if you know that you will be sitting down at a desk for long periods of time.

    I think I will do some stretching exercises before I start my shift this afternoon!

    • #6 by annstanleywriting on January 21, 2014 - 9:01 am

      Thanks, Katie! You’re right, it was a little scary, especially the head injury stuff. I still have a little double-vision when I look at lights at night, but it’s getting better.

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