Ten days ago, there was a windstorm whipping the rotten mountain ash to and fro: it was threatening to bring it down and wreck our fence. So, with possibly more valor than discretion, we determined to take it down: we leashed it so it would fall, hopefully, in the direction we wanted, and sawed it and wedged it and hacked it and hauled on it till it finally came down; or anyway, settled itself securely in the arms of the neighboring pine and silk trees.
The weather was icy cold (for the marine Northwest) and as I was sawing I could feel the various muscles of my abdomen and low back looking at me dubiously. It was so much fun, though, that I ignored them. And when the tree finally did come down, as Martha and I were both hauling on it, and a gust of wind was helping it, I fell down too. Not a troubling fall.
But the next day all my lower back and abdominals were jacked and unhappy: not an honest soreness, but the sort of jolty pain that makes you think about kidneys and gall bladders and makes you want not to bend at the middle, not for anything.
For four days it stayed just like that. I cancelled some of my massages, taking myself down to one per day. (Doing massage actually seemed to help; I felt better after doing one; but I was pretty sure that doing more would be a bad idea.)
The first two days I was not worried. No matter how weird it felt, it was just over-use, and it would go away. I did my back exercises in the morning, though it took twice as long as usual, getting down to the floor and cautiously exploring which moves I could still make. But day three and four, I didn't like at all. What was the deal? It should be getting better.
The cold snap continued, and the cold felt like it was getting into my bones: I felt old and useless. Turning over in bed was something I had to plan and execute carefully, and getting out of it was an ordeal. And the whole thing was humiliating, in a dentist-with-cavities way. Muscle pain was supposed to be something I knew how to deal with!
On the morning of the fifth day, I took a hot bath.
The transformation was extraordinary. Everything knotted loosened, everything crooked straightened. I could breathe freely. The soreness dwindled to ordinary muscle soreness. I was human again. The generalized pain ebbed away, and I could tell that the remaining unhappy muscle -- possibly the only one that had ever really been tweaked -- was my left iliopsoas. I could work it judiciously, making it contract and relax. This stuff I knew how to work with.
From the time of that bath, the recovery that had stalled out resumed. The next day I was better, and the next better yet. This morning I could do all of my back exercises in ordinary way -- no hacks, no workarounds, and at most a tiny reduction in range of movement. Martha found heating pad at the girls' house, and I have used it a lot. Heat. It's a grand thing.
I wish I knew a) if the heat was really the agent -- maybe I was just due to get better anyway -- and b) if it was the heat -- what did it do? Is there a mechanical explanation, or is it purely a nervous response?
Always an adventure, inhabiting a body.