A variation on a joke we’ve all heard:
Me: Doctor, it hurts when I do this. (waggle arm)
Doctor: Yeah, it hurts when I do that, too! I know just the specialist.
Me (to specialist): It hurts when I do this.
Specialist: Then don’t do that.
The advice pounded into me over a few weeks of physical therapy: don’t do things that hurt. At first I thought the advice was laughable, until I realized just how many times each day I performed through the pain. Little things that put a twinge through my elbow were not things to gut out, they were things to avoid. More pain = more harm.
The other thing I learned: ice doesn’t just feel good, it helps healing at a structural level. I love the cold. I’ve had a knee bothering me for years, and now I work it harder than ever but always I ice it afterwards, with a donut-shaped product called ‘peas’ from CVS. My knee doesn’t bother me at all anymore. Maybe it’s the peas, maybe it’s better workout form, or maybe it’s just natural healing. I don’t care, I’m strapping the chilly donut onto my knee every day. My knee is doing just fine, now, thankyouverymuch.
Then came the elbow pain, and the above dialog. The professionals did a fine job getting me up and running, but the best thing they did for me was to say, “don’t do that.” The second best thing they said was, “put ice on it.” A tantalizing phrase from one of the therapists: “Ice massage.”
My elbow is feeling much better now. Better than I thought it ever would again. The knee’s all right, too. Now it’s my shoulder that’s bringing me down. It’s always something. Happily I live in one of the few countries on Earth that values the overhand throw. Have you ever seen a European throw a ball? Yeah, so you know what I’m talking about.
I live in a country where shoulder injuries are common. When my shoulder got sore, I resolved two things: I would avoid pain, and I would ice. No need to go back to the specialists. Onto Amazon I went, and I found the right icepack for the job. In this nation, options abound when it comes to icing shoulders.
My mornings go like this, now. The alarm clock starts shouting, and my sweetie slaps her hand on a button that shuts it up for a while. I take this moment of wakefulness and snuggle up with the one I love. Sleepiness returns, and I doze deeply enough that when the next alarm comes I jerk almost hard enough to knock my sweetie out of bed. I don’t awaken gracefully. “One more time.” I usually say, and we repeat the cycle.
Then I drag my sorry ass out of bed, weigh myself, and climb onto the exercise machine. When that’s done with, I shuffle to the kitchen and collect the frosty-cold items waiting to make me happy. Knee donut, elbow cooler, and my new shoulder freezer. I can imagine a time when I just dive into an ice bath, I have so many joints complaining.
It could be that I’d heal just as quickly without the ice. I’m not offering science, here. Just an anecdote. But man, I loves me some chill.