Thursday, July 26, 2012

Seeking Balance

About a year ago, I woke up to find my left shoulder was in flames. Somehow, I had managed to experience a rotator cuff injury in my sleep (likely building upon an injury tenyears ago in a bicycle fall).

It took a whole year for my shoulder to become almost fully functional and pain free. The slowness of the healing was hard for me; I am definitely not healing is quickly as I used to, in general.

Yes, there is no doubt about it: I am getting older with each passing day. I don't like this, but I guess I will have to live with it.

Anyway, that's not what this post is about. As you can imagine, the muscles on my left side - from shoulder down to hand - shrunk over the past year.

And as I exercised and stretched through my recovery, I noticed more than every before how out of balance my upper body was. I am right-handed and my right side was/is dominant. As you can see to the right.

Well, OK, that's not really me. It's not that bad. But still, I like symmetry. And I want my left side to be strong, used often, not easily injured.  And what if I break my right arm or hand? It would be good to have my left better prepared to take over.

So I've decided to start using my left hand to do things normally taken care of by my right - some things, anyway. I'm not going to start writing with my left hand.

Shaving with my electric razor, for example. I don't need to use my right hand for that. And I can do it pretty well with my left, almost as well or easily as my right.

And then there's brushing teeth. I have started forcing myself to use my left hand to brush my teeth. The "forcing" part is necessary. I was surprised at how difficult it was for my left hand to perform the fine-grained movements needed to brush teeth. I was very uncoordinated, felt very clumsy, scrubbing my teeth from the other side. After a few days, though, it is feeling a little more natural.

My left wrist is also noticeably skinnier than my right. So when I donate platelets and plasma through apheresis at Chicago's Lifesource blood donor centers, I always squeeze with my left hand. In other words, the blood comes out of my left arm, is spun, and key "products" removed, and then the blood goes back in my right arm. Squeezing every five seconds for an hour is a nice workout.

As long as I am on this topic, if you do not have a phobia about getting stuck with a needle and are in good health, please PLEASE PLEASE consider donating whole blood or platelets. It is one of the very few ways that each and every one of us can be a life-saver, a HERO!

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