My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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health update

First, thanks to all of you who’ve written nice things asking me about my health. Since I bitched here, I feel compelled to send an update too. The good news is that it’s relatively simple and I’m going to be fine. The bad news is that it’s going to take a little bit.

For those who don’t know the backstory, I fractured C2/C3 when I was 16 playing ultimate frisbee. I’ve had various problems over the years as a result, but it’s been a while so I was rather shocked to see old symptoms reappear. After finding a doctor who didn’t think I was crazy, we set about to test things and figure out what might be causing it. Blood work, CT scans, physical evaluation, etc. Everything with my blood work and CT scans came back clear. There are still old scars on my neck, but that’s nothing to worry about. Nothing new. But, here’s the funny part – my alignment has gone to shit in all sorts of funny ways.

My body’s alignment issues are funny because they’re the result of trying to exercise. ::groan:: So, I knew that the various injuries that I’ve acquired over the last few years in an attempt to get into shape – golfer’s elbow, strained shoulder, knee issues – were most likely caused by my attempts to compensate for my neck and wrists. Well, annoyingly, it seems as though my body has decided to additionally compensate for those injuries, further setting my body off kilter. The result? Dreadful alignment, pinched nerves, trapezius spasms, etc.

Doctor’s guess is that this, combined with dissertation stress and the allergies and cough I managed to develop in Beijing, set my body into especially high freak out mode. It was a matter of time and, well, time hit this summer. As in the past, the problems with my vision are stemming from trapezius spasms. Only this time it’s not due to too much exercise, but to improper exercise. Even working with a personal trainer wasn’t the best of ideas because my injuries are too complex for that to work out well so that probably made things worse. But it’s all fixable.

The good news is that no one is suggesting surgery or medicine. Instead, physical therapy. Directed, targeted, measured exercise with constant assessment. Get the body back into alignment without causing new injuries. Do exercises that don’t let me compensate in stupid ways. Very precise and careful development of muscles. No additional exercising “for fun.” The doc guesses it’ll be a few months until I feel right again, but that if I work with a therapist to put my body back into shape, I should feel ten bazillion times better shortly. If not, we reassess.

Personally, I’m relieved. This all makes sense and the “solution” is something that I can live with. Or at least try without reservations. The only downside is that this stupid sneezing is probably not going to go away so long as I live in environments with pollutants. Hrmfpt.

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9 comments to health update

  • Hi! I just wanted to share my own experience with this… and give you some hope about the relief that is sure to come…

    I suffered migraines for several years through high school, university, and starting work. I tried all sorts of relief… pain killers never really helped (except in zombifying me) generally the only relief was to try and fall asleep.

    Diagnosis was different depending who you asked… TMJ, wisdom teeth, etc etc… I tried physio, acupuncture, chiropractor and these seemed to give limited relief…

    Anyway long story short, I’m exercising (and stretching) daily for the last 6 months or so and the migraines have almost disappeared… (and wow I feel so fit now!)

    I found Bikram yoga pretty similar to relief as chiropractor, and relief is much longer lasting.

    Best of luck!

  • doug

    matt says bikram, i say ashtanga. hope the pt does its wonders. i’m looking forward to reading your dissertation and would hate for you to have to write in more pain than should be called for.

    -doug

  • Actually, absolutely no yoga. Yoga caused the shoulder and elbow injury. That’s the issue – I cannot do any uncontrolled exercise. One muscle at a time.

  • Hopefully useful unsolicited advice: You might want to investigate Alexander Technique.

    I have spondylosis problems in my neck (around C4) which cause back pain, headaches, and transferred pain in my forearms etc. due to pressure on the brachial nerve.

    Alex Tech has really helped – it’s about learning to be aware of the bad habits and compensation ticks that you get in to when you’re guarding previous damage. It helps you make adjustments to posture by working on very subtle changes to movements you do without being concious of them – sitting and standing, for instance.

    It’s one of those slightly bonkers turn-of-the-century therapies; I’m SO not a new age therapies person, but despite my skepticism it’s been very helpful.

    Anyway, pitch over. Worth a look from what you said in your penultimate paragraph.

    http://www.alexandertech.org/

  • Glad to read good news!
    re: Alexander Tech – it’s great and I’ve seen a few wonders coming out of it. On the other hand, I guess the “take no initiative / one muscle at the time” advice is still the wisest one. Good look and read you soon.

  • anon

    Methinks you need WiiFit

  • I’ve never heard such a sad outcome of an Ultimate Frisbee injury. Glad you got it all worked out, good luck with the recovery.

  • kelly

    on the alexander technique tip, another similar thing that would be good to explore would be feldenkrais, which is all about alignment. i don’t know the differences between alexander and feldenkrais (the description above of alexander is pretty much the same i would give of feldenkrais), but wanda just got her feldenkrais certification so you should ask her for more info.

    love,
    kelly

  • Don’t underestimate the power of dissertation stress! The week after I turned mine in, my body decided to shut down, and confined me forcibly to bedrest for a week. In the middle of the summer. It was really weird.

    Feel better!