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Some people say that aches and pains (sore muscles and minor injuries) are part of life when you are an athlete. As an aikidoist, I train four days a week religiously. I have had this training schedule for well over a year and it has been working for me. Sure, there are times I am sore from a good work out or end up with bruises from one to many yonkyo's, but lately, it seems that my body has been rebelling against me. Just a few weeks ago, I had some sort of shoulder strain. I was upstairs folding laundry when all of the sudden, my shoulder was just killing me. It took me by surprise and I dropped the shirt I was folding and just held my shoulder. After determining that the pain wasn't a momentary thing, I picked up my husbands shirt and finished folding the laundry with much caution and awareness of my movement. ]
At work the next day, I was hardly moving my arm at all. Any movement in my shoulder was quite painful. Someone I work with (who is a massage therapist) took a look at it and told me that it seemed like one of my tendons in my shoulder was tight and showed me what I could do to help with it. Tuesday came and like usual, I headed to the dojo. This injury was not going to keep me off the mat (unless sensei tells me to). I talked to my sensei (also a massage therapist) and he told me to first ice it for about 20 minutes and then massage the area quite vigorously and with pressure for as long as I could take it. He told me that it wouldn't be pleasant, but that it would help.
In some ways, the injury was a learning experience. I certainly was more aware of when I lifted my shoulders! I took things nice and slow and listened to my body when it screamed out for relief. The odd part was, people could manipulate my shoulder and it was fine. Any tension on my part would cause pain, but if I remained relaxed it was no problem at all. After aikido was tai chi. Aikido was a breeze compared to tai chi. That class was pure torture (especially when it came to doing "repulse the monkey"). At the end of class, sensei once again told me what to do and let him know if that made a difference.
Once I got home, I thought I would take sensei's advice (more or less). Because I hate using ice (it's cold!), I skipped that part and went straight to the massage; that may have been a mistake. The massage was quite painful and I frequently had to stop to get a momentary reprieve. After massaging my shoulder for quite some time, I grudgingly went to the fridge to get the ice pack I had wanted to skip. I put it on there for a few minutes before saying "Darn with the whole thing" and put the pack back in the freezer. I went upstairs to shower and went to bed.
The next morning, I woke up and assessed my shoulder. It still hurt and was tender to the touch from my abusive massaging, but it actually felt better then it did the day before. Huh. How about that. I went to class and it wasn't quite as bad. I felt like my shoulder was a little looser and had more range of motion, but I still took it easy. I wasn't quite ready to take my training wheels off my bike just yet. After aikido, I told sensei that I was going to go home and ice my shoulder. I told him that I thought iaido would be too much for my shoulder (I tried cuts with a bokken earlier and it was just too painful). He told me to ice and massage it when I got home. While I was downstairs waiting for my husband, sensei reached in the freezer and took out a bag of frozen peas, smashed them on the floor a few times and tossed me the bag. He told me to ice it until I left. As soon as I got home, I actually womaned up and put the ice on my shoulder for 20 minutes! Once the time was up, I began my torture massage session. The ice did a good job at numbing the pain because it wasn't quite as painful as it was yesterday!
Thursday morning I wake up and I didn't feel any immediate pain in my shoulder. If I sat there and manipulated it a certain way, the pain would come back, but the constant pain had went away. That night when I showed up to class, I was optimistic… until he said "Get a bokken." I looked at sensei with a hopeless look and he quickly said "Oh, your shoulder. Hold on a second." and then he walked into his little room. He came out with what I call a mini-me bokken. It is the length of a bokken, but it is twice as thin and about half as light. He gave that to me and told me to take it easy. A little bit of pain was involved, but it wasn't a sharp pain. It was more of a dull achy pain. I just had to make sure that I didn't get overzealous with my cuts.
He had us working on kumitachi. Every so often, I would stop and shake my shoulder out or stretch it. Sensei told me to dangle my arm by my side and make small circles. I quickly realized that this did NOT help and made it hurt worse. He walked over and got a five pound weight and came back and asked me to do a few things (raise my arm over head, raise it up shoulder level and had me dangle my arm by my side and try to push forward against tension). He told me that the strain was not in the front of my shoulder, but in the back of my shoulder (odd because the pain is in the front). He told me that the treatment is still the same though and to continue with ice. Well, by the next day the pain in the front of my shoulder had pretty much disappeared… only to migrate to the back of my shoulder. This pain wasn't as bad though and ice and a day off from aikido seemed to help.
My shoulder is more or less all better. Every now and then I still get this fatigued feeling in it and I shake it out. Iaido is what seems to cause the most pain. Whenever I draw or return the blade, I have to pull the saya back and that motion seems to bug it a little. As time goes by, it seems to be less and less, so I am optimistic. Now that my shoulder is healed another area of my body has decided to bother me. This one is in the back of my right leg in the knee bend area. I notice it most when I am sitting in seiza. I have always been comfortable when sitting in seiza, but this isn't the case anymore. When I stand up out of seiza, I have this weird feeling and I stumble sometimes. It is like lacking control when you have a leg that went asleep, except in my case I have feeling.
I have no idea what I have done to cause this, because it seems to have just come up out of the blue as well. I try stretching my hamstring and calf, but neither seem to help that well. It is kind of hard to really stretch that area. I have done some self massage and though painful, it seems to be helping. Like my shoulder muscle, it seems to be where a muscle, tendon, ligament or something or other attaches to the bone. Last night I even tried putting some icy-hot on there. I really wanted tiger balm, but that was in the other bathroom with the dog and I didn't want to wake her up to go in there. Needless to say, the icy-hot didn't really help. Icy-hot never works for me. I only get the icy feeling.
With the sudden influx of "injuries" I can't help but step back and re-evaluate my training and lifestyle. Am I doing something different all the sudden? Am I compensating for something else and that is what is causing me my pain? I honestly have no idea. I could be doing both. So, what is an achy aikidoist to do? I can't stop training. Well, I could, but that isn't an option. I could see a massage therapist, but that takes money that I just don't have. Am I eating properly? I could eat healthier, but my eating habits are the same as they have been. Am I hydrating properly? Still drinking mainly water. Am I taking my vitamins? Yup. Am I taking my thyroid medication? Uhm…. I please to the fifth there. That wouldn't really affect my muscles though. When I don't take my meds, it just makes me plain empty on energy.
So, that still leaves me lost and confused. What am I doing that is putting more strain on my body? Is it just coincidence that these two injuries happened one right after the other? Sensei said that my shoulder injury most likely occurred over time. As far as my knee pain, I haven't discussed it with anyone. I don't want to harass my co-worker for free advice all the time and I wouldn't want to do the same thing to my sensei either (not to mention he is away for a bit anyways). I guess the only thing I can do is try to be more aware of my body. Learn to listen better. Actually rest when it is called for instead of being so stubborn. ::sigh:: That last one is going to be REALLY hard to do.
When I first started aikido, I didn't really care for it that much. I went just to get my husband to go. Before I knew it though, I was addicted to it. It has only been a year and a half, but my love for the art hasn't wavered. I hope my passion for it continues to grow, but I also need to realize that I won't be able to train if I run my body into the ground. I need to give it rest, time to heal and continue to exercise and eat properly. I need to take care of me first…. ::gag::