Friday, April 20, 2012

Coffee Therapy

I'm always looking for clues.

I'm always trying to figure out to get my body to move the way it used to move. The way it should move.

For instance, every day my long-suffering husband, Neal, brings my coffee to me in bed. I sit up, turn, and arrange myself so I can sit cross-legged facing the mirror that we (Neal) hung to help me do my exercises. Then I sip my coffee from my coffee canister. To the uninitiated, it looks like, well, I'm just drinking coffee very slowly, mostly with my affected (right) arm.

In fact, I'm hard at work. These days I'm concentrating on my neck muscles. As I use my right hand to bring coffee canister to my lips, I examine my right shoulder and my neck in the mirror. Every time I bring the coffee up with my right, my right neck muscles bulge. On the left, the neck muscles don't move. Aha: my neck muscles shouldn't be "helping." Each inch my right arm travels, I try to adjust my arm just enough that so that my arm and shoulder muscles are doing most of the work, instead of the neck muscles. Then I try to really feel the right shoulder muscles, my back muscles, my arm muscles--the ones that should be doing the bulk of the work.

Then sip more. Then do it again. And again. And again...

(Read Rebecca's excellent blog, Home After a Stroke, for more information about synergistic  movements, which I'm trying to lessen in this phase of my recovery. I'm not sure if I've really got it right about with what's going on with my neck/shoulder/arm muscles, but this is my guess.)


  1. As an OT I was oblious to the neck and shoulderr pain a synergy can cause. Practicing to keep my shoulder down when I reach with my hemiplegic hand has meant a release from suffering I didn't know I had gotten used to. Keep trying Grace. I thinks it's worth it.

  2. Keep at it Grace, I'm usually flummoxed when someone asks what I'm doing for therapy. I should answer like you did. Just sitting here talking to you I'm working on my hamstring pulling my leg under me, tapping my left foot, curling my left toes and willing my left arm to hang straight by my side. But none of that is functional which is what questioners are really after.
    Diane from Pink House had a good frustration blog on that.

  3. For good or bad, I don't have much pain--good that I'm not suffering, but bad that it's so hard to correct bad movement patterns. And bad movement patterns mean that if I'm ever going play piano again...

  4. Oh....those shoulder muscles!! Isolating the proper movement is so hard. I can and have been able to move pretty well compared to others, but I fear my movements are not "correct in form". I think your practice with the mirror is an excellent form of therapy. I'm going to try it too and see what happens. I bet my neck is "helping" too. Thank you for pointing this out!

  5. 'An important topic, Grace. Thanks...

  6. The weirdest part of overusing my shoulder is that I didn't know my shoulder had a painful knot until my OT masssaged the knot away. With the return of sensation came pain. To keep that pain from coming back I did the shoulder exercises my OT showed me. If I skip these exercises more than two days in a row I feel stiffness return so I know the knot isn't far behind. Avoiding pain is a big source of motivation.

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