Some days I wake up feeling as if I’d spent the night bouncing down a long drop, only to finish up at the bottom just as dawn breaks, battered and bruised but still alive.
I’m sure I’m not alone. The human frame is wonderfully robust, of course. Our muscles have all the resilience of elastic bands, stretching and rebounding countless times without complaint. But sometimes—and here I’m borrowing one of Phil Liggett’s signature lines—the elastic suddenly snaps, often without warning.
The result? Pain. Stiffness. And the unwelcome discovery that formerly simple tasks have now become impossible. In a word, misery. Among canoeists and kayakers, strenuous paddling and killer portages are probably the likeliest culprits, though they’re far from being the only offenders. Heaving heavy boats on and off racks at home or on the road can also leave us in agony, and the rigors of amphibious expeditions can lay all but athletes low, especially if the planned route involves mile after mile of “rough stuff,” towing a heavily loaded bike trailer up unmaintained jeep tracks and fire roads in search of some remote and little-frequented put-in. Occasionally, even a lazy stretch on first awakening can prove our undoing.
Youngsters and young adults usually bounce back fast. But those of us with more miles on the clock aren’t so quick to mend, and old injuries sometimes get a sort of second wind, coming back to plague us long after we thought they’d healed. This happened to me not long ago, when an ancient neck strain flared up. The original damage was done on a rain-slick portage trail, when I stumbled while carrying our 110-pound Old Town XL Tripper. The yoke slipped off my shoulders and the big boat landed squarely on my head, leaving me with a (very) stiff neck and a mighty sore noggin. In a few days, though, I was back to normal. Or so I thought. Then, years later, I lunged to grab a bag of flour that I’d knocked off a high shelf in the kitchen, only to I feel an agonizingly familiar stab of pain in my neck. The sleeping dragon had been roused.
During the following week I lurched around like Richard III, head cocked to one side, muttering curses. Then I did what I should have done immediately—made an appointment with an orthopedist. Happily, he found nothing seriously amiss, but since the pain wasn’t going away, he advised a six-week course of physical therapy. I wasn’t sure I liked the idea, to be honest. In my mind’s eye, physical therapists were muscle-bound sadists with the souls of inquisitors, who practiced their dark arts in cheerless cells filled with instruments of torture. Still, summer was fast approaching, and I was getting anxious to shake off the winter of my discontent. So I figured I’d give the doc’s prescription a try. And I’m mighty glad I did. The Terminator Therapist of my bleak imaginings turned out to be a genial triathlete whose professional skills produced almost immediate improvement. I was soon walking upright again, and by the time my six-week course of treatment had ended, my neck was its old self once more, pain-free and fully mobile. No more Richard III.
My dread of encountering a modern-day inquisitor’s rack was groundless, obviously. Instead, the time-honored, hands-on arts of massage and manual traction were the linchpins of my recovery. This got me thinking about the benefits of massage… Read more…
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