range of motion

This is not a good test for me.  It’s ok if it’s “how much can you move before it hurts?” although even that can be problematic since often, the hurting starts later, and by then it’s too late.  By the time it hurts, the provocation is long over and all I’m left with is the pain.

It came up at the doc’s office last week, although it’s a good analogy for the entire scenario of work right now. Last week, I got hurt at work.  The nitty gritty details make for a long story.   The upshot is that if I’d had accommodations in place, it would likely not have happened.  It involved doing something stupid, but something that everyone was expected to do.  An inconvenience for others, for me it was dangerous.  I had already suffered social judgement for my initial reaction to this set up from a coworker.  After that, on top of not having the formal support of my employer for things like this, I felt stuck, trapped, and like I had to try to put on a good face and just put up with this situation, like everyone else.

I really want to be like everyone else, at least when it comes to things like this.  This involved bounding over bags left in an unnecessarily narrow walkway in a poorly laid out room, executing various “silly walks” to get around the poorly laid out room, or scrunching up myself and my chair so that people could silly walk their behind me, while leaping over said bags.  But I am not, like everyone else.

It’s clear that part of this equation of injury is me.  Not the part where the set up was chosen for the room I worked in that day. But the part where I moved myself in and around this space.  I was constrained by the set up, but I was in charge of my own body – one could argue.  Unfortunately for that argument and for me, I have piss-poor proprioception.  I suspect that many hyperflexible/hypermobile people do.  You combine a physical environment that necessitates contortion with joints that move too far (or move in planes and at angles where they shouldn’t) and you have a recipe for injury.  So why didn’t I refuse?  Why not say “eff this, I’m sitting somewhere else or I’m leaving”?  Well, like I said, I had already gotten some shit for just being me (“you can’t sit there” a young man told me when I put my bag down on a chair while I took my coat off…hadn’t planned to sit in it, just had to put my bag down since I can’t hold the bag while extending the arms unless I’m looking for an ER visit.  This was only the start of a really unpleasant interaction.)  I’m under extra scrutiny at work on account of sick time, and that scrutiny has been extended by someone to things like whether or not I attend work social events so you can imagine how it would go over if it was reported that I walked out of an actual working (not socializing) event.  And lastly, while I have a general sense of  what I can’t do, for some things, I don’t know until I do them just how bad an idea they are.  I’ve been working on living by the motto of “just because you can doesn’t mean you SHOULD” when it comes to movements…like sitting on the couch with legs crossed up under me and reaching all the way down to the floor to retrieve something that fell and rolled under the coffee table.  Can do?  Yep.  Should do?  No.  Why not?

Here’s a little story, from way back before my autonomic nervous system decided to just check out (i.e. back when I was still relatively ok).

In college, in my psych of women class, we had a final exam in one of those big hall lectures.  The TA walked up and down the rows passing out the test.  My test got hit by a gust or something, and floated up off my little chair desk, settling down under the chair in the bleacher style seating in front of and below me.  Rather than get out of my chair and kneel down on the floor to retrieve it, or even get out and walk around to the next row down from me, what do I do?  If you guessed bent forward and reached way down with my go-go-gadget arm to get it, you are correct.  I did it though.  Range of motion.  And something went “PING!” in my shoulder.  I sat back up.  I thought “uh oh.  That hurt.  Hurts.  It’ll pass….nope.  Still hurts.  Hurts more actually.” and then the “no don’t pass out” mantra started.  It didn’t help.  I got up, because that’s a good thing to do when you feel faint and in pain.  And walked, hugging the wall, down to the front of the classroom, where I told the teacher and TA that I didn’t feel good.  I made it to the hall, then hit the floor.  All the way out.  Woke up wondering what my face was pressed on that was so nice and cold (linoleum).

The hurt at work last week was not as bad as the initial and relatively short lived pain from the college exam episode, oh thank god.  I think mostly because this time, when I felt the “PING” I stayed seated.  I stopped moving.  I held my iced coffee on my head and neck, oh cold cloth is not a myth btw.  Always makes me feel better to have something cold on my head and neck when I’m feeling faint.  And it passed, the faint.  The pain, unfortunately, stayed around a LOT longer this time.  I’m chalking that up to nearly 20 years of my body slowing going down the shitter.  I do not bounce back from a bad movement now.  I used to.  Used to run on my ankles, pop my hip in and out with ease, no problem, it was like a party game when I was a little bendy kid.  Now?  Definite problem.  Definite hurt.  And definite disability after.

I saw my doctor the day after hurting myself at work last week.  Sitting on the exam bed, I am asked to turn, first left then right “as far as you can….” “Um, yes, but I’m going to do this slowly and I’m stopping when I think it might hurt later if not now” I tell him.  So I start turning.  And turning.  And turning.  I’m about to stop on the left when he says.  “Ok, stop, stop stop….Jeeez, you still could work for Cirque du Soleil, couldn’t you?”  Yeah, and this is why range of motion is not a good test for me, I say.

This is extra crappy because since my gut has decided to launch an all out jihad on me, I am very reluctant to take narcotics or anti-spasmotics.  So it’s ice pack, tylenol, NSAIDs, and lido-patches.  Yes, lido-patches are not the best for us, I know.  I do respond to topical anesthetics, just not strongly.  So I put a whole patch on and while I can still feel pain, it’s not as bad.  It’s enough for me to get to sleep if I am very still and stay off the left side.  I am lucky.  The pain itself is not horrible.  It’s there, it’s like a little warning beacon not to bend or stretch or turn too quickly right now, and god help me if I carry something.  I put it at about a 7 at its worst, and it’s like a toothache.  Very concentrated.  I know I am lucky for that.  I am not lucky for having done it, and I’ve spent the days since getting hurt feeling very let down and screwed with by my employer.  To the point where I am making a formal statement to them this week that I am NOT ok with how they’re handling the accommodation request I made, and then starting the official state/fed complaint process.  I hate doing this – it’s a lot of work, a lot of paper, a lot of calling, and I worry for the effects on workplace harmony, but I think I have to because workplace harmony isn’t going to be helped by my hurting myself for their poor planning and negligence (or, if I’m feeling uncharitable, their intolerance and obfuscation).  But let me be clear here.  The stupid thing I did was complying with the demands of my employer.  I did it because without accommodations in place, I worry that I will be judged and evaluated negatively (and possibly penalized, socially or more formally) for failing to comply with demands or expectations.  It’s already happened once, so I’m not imagining that this threat is real.  But I need to learn to not care as much about that as I do about my body.  I wish they wouldn’t make it so hard for me to work WITH them on preserving my health and safety.  My old boss used to say, while perpetrating some truly horrible workplace behaviors on her employees, “You have to be flexible.”  And I’m starting to get that at this new job as well, although admittedly not (yet) to the same blood curdling degree of my former workplace.   And if this week taught me anything about being flexible for people who are refusing to budge for me, its that the range of motion and flexibility of my body is matched only by my will, and I need to firm it up a bit if I’d like to continue working or even living without incurring severe injury.

So that was my weekend.  And week, since that happened on Tuesday.  I spent Wednesday doing some work from home, then at the doc’s and radiology.  Thursday and Friday were rest days.  Yesterday, I cooked.  Have to, or I’ll have no food for the week.  I’m still not done.  Still have to make pudding.  God damn I’m sick of this.  Seeing the nutritionist on Monday.  I do not have high hopes – I want to, but I am trying not to get my hopes up too much since that disappointment is just too much.  Then Wednesday I am seeing a counselor to try to get a referral for mental health.  Boy do I need it right now!  Not in a good place.

I thought I’d post some lovely pictures of my arms and a movement that I can but probably shouldn’t do.  This elbow and hand hyperflexion does not hurt.  And I think it counts only as a little hypermobile because I’ve seen pictures of worse.  Note the pinky in the top picture.  I didn’t even know it did that.

Woman's hyperextended elbow.

Go go gadget arm…

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  1. I had to blow up your photos to figure out which direction your arm was at, but I can do the same, although I’m NOT that hypermobile (except shoulders down). At least you don’t have nasty, venous, spider monkey arms like me! Lol. They look like skeleton arms and are so fugly. This disease is so odd as I never had an acute injury until the tendinosis in my rotator cuff, but that’s not really acute as it slowly degenerates. I also do that test every month at PT w/no issues aside from my shoulder that I can’t move much. Type II vs. Type III I guess.

    The work accommodation process is just ridiculous. I never filed anything as I usually quit or got fired before then and I’ll stress again this was due to not painting the bldg., etc. I got another degree here yrs ago (don’t now how) and was interning and had to move carpet samples all day. The owner was trying to group them and I kept having to start over, so it was hours of being bent over (and standing on a concrete floor) with my awful back and lifting heavy, wool, carpet samples over and over and over. I saw my doc the next day for a follow-up and that’s when he told me I needed to go on SSDI. In my case, I really don’t think they could have done anything (aside from not making me do those ridiculous things!) as I was just in too much pain to work–my pain has always been 24/7.

    Per you work, It seems that having bags of crap all over the floor is more of hazard in general and would involve OSHA. I just remember the job I was at when I got sick (in the sick bldg.) and trying to get every dept./agency in the world to help get me into a different location due to the nasty environment and I got nowhere and it was just adding to the stress. I wasn’t making it up–I did get risk management for the city to come out (govt. job) and he walked in and smelled the place and told me to leave until further notice! Well, the city couldn’t tell the PD what to do apparently, so I was ordered to go back Mon. morning by the Chief. This is where it all started to go bad for me with my health, working, seeing how people don’t give a shit, etc. I did amazing things at that job despite being in so much pain and newly sick and actually quit w/o giving notice as I just had it one day (scary for me money-wise). I left a well-written note on the Lt.’s desk with my keys, ID, and pass cards at the central precinct and just walked out–and there went those nice city benefits and I was sick–very sick.

    If you want my 2 cents, I think you have to decide if this is really worth it. It’s like how you know you can do something (like reach that paper), but shouldn’t. I never knew I could quit, and I think I maybe wouldn’t be in such horrid pain 24/7 and on the verge of a breakdown if I hadn’t kept working for years (even p/t) after it first hit. Life is awful now, but I’m all alone and the pain just gets worse every year, I can’t even imagine doing anything but using the computer a bit (super torture, hence not blogging right now) and doing a load of laundry and calling it a day. Well, feel like the voice of doom, but that’s my take on your post. I seriously think trying to go up against the system is like trying to sue city hall, and that’s no fun even for the healthy people.
    A (sorry for lots of typos I’m sure–it’s actually daylight and I can’t see the screen well)

    • Not making you do those ridiculous things can be an accommodation. Accommodations can involve reassigning or removing ancillary job functions. Like carpet swatches. Or going to social events. Essential job functions do not have to be reassigned, but the employer is obliged to at least consider whether they can be performed in another way.

      I’ve quit plenty of times. Quit one grad program for sexual harassment, quit another for disability discrimination, quit my last job for disability discrimination set against a toxic work environment. Quit loads of doctors who were not helping me or even hurting. Done plenty of quitting. And I’m bitter about it. I think I’d like to try to fight for my rights here. I do take your warning seriously about working too long doing things that were (it sounds like unnecessarily) injurious – this is what I mean about my will. I want to get better at saying “no” to those things. If I am negatively evaluated for refusing to do something that I can’t do after my employer refused to even consider accommodation requests, then that right there is, I think, a pretty clear cut case of discrimination.

      We’ll see how I feel about this in a couple of months. May be singing a totally different tune. But I feel like I at least want to try to hold them accountable.

  2. I got you. I never quit anything before I got sick, so it’s super depressing. Getting fired for ridiculous things is even worse when I was always such a hard worker. I presume you can relate. I just never knew I could I guess. My problem was that with time, I stopped disclosing my illness b/c I thought it would cause less problems (and the stupid questions would dissipate if I hid it). So, in the case of the damn carpet samples, I had nothing to go on as I was just an intern and never filled out an application disclosing my limitations. Screwed either way. You should go for it! I just felt that since I was sick everyday from just standing and thinking, there wasn’t anything they really could do to accommodate me–aside from the aforementioned crap. Well, probably going in circles here as I’m not feeling my best and my brain tends to not function.

    • The disability laws are a little bit stacked in favor of the employer, that is definitely for sure. For example, while they have to post signs at least at HR about certain labor laws, I don’t think there is a law requiring that they post the disability stuff. I’m probably going to get fired here, but I will not do it without a fight.

      • Ohhhh, didn’t know it was that dire. Terrible. Go for it then! The more people who fight for this the better–that’s how the ADA came about from my understanding. It has to start with one person–start a revolution! I have your back. I wonder if the EDNF could be of any help here? I sent them an e-mail once as I couldn’t find a geneticist here and no reply! Fingers crossed…

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