Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Squeak, Crackle, POP!

In my last couple posts, I've written about post-stroke spasms and spasticity, and about the treatments my A-team and I are using to overcome them. So much of my recovery has been filled with the anxiety of not knowing how much I'll improve, when I'm going to improve, or how I know if I’m improving. I hope this description of my healing sensations gives other survivors assurance or a target to aim for.

I am an ice floe heading into the spring break-up. Muscles frozen for close to two years have started to crack and move. Much like the ice, my thaw starts in each muscle with a subtle squeaking so quiet it's hard to distinguish whether I'm hearing or feeling it. The muscle layers begin to separate; blood works its way into the fissures, bringing warmth and nutrients. Crackling begins as nerves start to fire. Crackling goes on for weeks until finally, the muscle melts enough for the underlying tendon to extend with a pronounced POP!

The sensations start in the big muscles and, for the most part, work their way downward. I experience the squeaking first in my bicep, then in my pecs. Crackling spreads through my forearm, wrist, palm and fingers. Everything loosens. My leg follows a similar pattern, starting in the big muscle of my calf and moving to the many tendons of my foot, ankle and toes.

Most often I experience the squeaking and crackling while lying in bed, and the big POPs while being stretched during therapy sessions. The summer heat is good for muscles and my team is working hard to break my remaining spasms by the end of this August – two years, five months post-stroke.