I woke up Saturday morning with an incredible burning sensation in my right forearm. It throbbed from the middle knuckle on my pinky finger, all the way down the bottom side of my arm, along my ulna, to just above my elbow. The burning was significant because I do not yet have great temperature sensation on that side of my arm, so I knew it had to be an internal sensation. I have learned to pay close attention to those, and most sensations, because I know what it is like not to experience any in a large portion of my body.
I realized that, of course, the heat was a result of my time spent in the pool the day prior, on Friday. In addition to swimming back and forth and recruiting my mother to hold my feet while I swam for what we call “endless pool,” I also spent a good 20 minutes straddling a foam noodle doing arm exercises. I wore webbed gloves for increased resistance, and with Mother standing on my feet on the bottom for sensory input, I put my arms out to my sides to make a cross with my trunk, and move my hands out in front of me and then back around to my sides. My focus was on the back-swing (like a reverse-fly) in order to tense the muscles in my shoulders, all the way down my back and into my gluteals and hamstrings, if possible. I did my best to keep my elbows, wrists and fingers straight and, without realizing it, I was evidently giving my finger extensor muscles an incredible workout by doing my best to keep the fingers straight. The area of burning sensation I was feeling directly corresponds to the main finger-extensor muscle, from one tendon insertion point to the other.
Skip ahead two days to Monday where, in the course of doing my newly established hand regimen with my therapist, we simultaneously remarked on how much more fluid the extension movement was, as she brought each finger through a range that I did my best to complete myself. Sure enough, when we slowed the exercise down slightly to allow the muscle to catch up, we could see a barely-visible movement in the muscle belly each time my therapist helped me complete the full motion.
I’m excited. These are two of those infrequent yet celebrated instances where one of the off-the-wall activity ideas I’ve come up with, or collaborated with a therapist to create, really shows results. They happen when the exercise leads to something more than, “I think I feel that something is happening….” As I said, those subtler sensations are absolutely worth recognizing and listening to, but the tangible muscle burn or fatigue that comes out of nowhere, and that newly visible contraction, really get me fired-up about doing new exercises that maybe, just maybe, get through to my body in a way that other forms of stimulation have not.
While I am not yet able to complete the finger-straightening motion on my own, I have renewed confidence that with continued focus and repetition – whether it takes another 50,000 or 5 million reps. (they are fairly fast-paced) – the return of that function is on its way.
Now, about that left side….