Alternate Tagalog title: “Mga pinagagagawa ko

Aside from having rapidly discovered all the trivial things I can now do without a neck brace (RIP Aspen collar – you will NOT be missed!), here’s the scoop on my first week with a mobile head.

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Neck issues (pain, headaches, weird sounds, rest, etc.)

The first four days

As you may have seen in my video here, I felt very lightheaded when I first got my neck brace off. I honestly felt like throwing up. My dad insisted that I kept the trash can near me while we were still in the examination room with my neurosurgeon. I had to lie down during the rest of my appointment.

Although I still needed to lie in a reclined position during the car ride home (plastic bag in hand), I felt much better as the day went on. I felt pain only when I moved my neck to its maximum range of motion. It was a tender, aching, stretching kind of pain: nothing a normal person can’t handle. No sharp or shooting sensations, thankfully.

Waking up on the second day was interesting. I felt like my head was being sawn off from the sharp (but luckily, short-lived) pain across my neck. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating.

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The rest of the day was fine. Just that same aching pain when I move my neck when I do my exercises.

On Day 3, I tagged along with my parents to a Christmas party with their church group. Although I had fun seeing all their friends (and thanking them for praying for me!), I felt dizzy and tired being around so many people. My dad had to drive me home early so I could lie down and rest.

At times I found it tiring just to hold my head up. Solution: lying on my bed!

I RARELY heard some crackling sounds from the back or one side of my neck – not a cause for concern, my neurosurgeon reassured me. (It was NOT my metal plate popping off!) These were just coming from my damaged ligaments. When I was still in my Aspen collar, I would hear these sounds once a week lying on bed.

It basically took me four days to adjust to a moving head (with respect to equilibrium, balance, perspective, etc.).

In general

The entire week I always napped in the afternoon and early evening to rest. I just felt so tired! I listened to my body every time it needed rest.

There was always soreness in my neck and shoulder area every time I woke up in the morning.

I was in some sort of neck pain 20% of the day. Not much pain in my shoulder area during the day, except in my right upper trapezius muscle (which has been a problem for a while now… and not getting better).

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See this stretch to alleviate this area

Physical therapy and rehabilitation

I went for PT three times that week and received a new set of exercises which involved not only my neck, but also my shoulders and core. It took me about 30 minutes to do one set and I was to do two sets per day.

Here are some examples of my exercises:

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Of these, the Cervical Isometrics were the MOST BORING and TIME-CONSUMING. My PT told me I could do just five reps instead of ten.

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Doing the Cervical Isometrics exercises at the physical therapy clinic

Really, my new physical therapy clinic is 100 times better than my old one. I’m so glad I changed clinics.

I also went for an hour-long upper body massage (no neck manipulation) with my friend Deb! It was great.

Exercise

Hard as it was to resist going back to the heart-pounding exercise I yearned for, I had to heed my neurosurgeon’s and physical therapist’s advice to TAKE IT SLOW.

Repeat after me: TAKE IT SLOW.

I wanted to do everything now that I had my collar off.

But ugh, I needed to TAKE IT SLOW.

Okay, fine… I’ll take it slow

At my first physio appointment, I was told I had only two cardio options for now: walking or (stationary) biking. Lame.

I wanted to join a gym but it just wasn’t worth it if I was to use only the stationary bike. (I can still walk outdoors as it hasn’t snowed, despite it being DECEMBER IN *CANADA*) I couldn’t even avail of group classes because they would be too intense at this stage in my recovery (think Power Lifting, Zumba, Total Body Toning, etc.). Needless to say, it was pretty frustrating. But it’s okay, The Time will come.

My mother-in-law generously lent me her recumbent bike but my parents’ home doesn’t have any space for it at the moment. So for the entire week, I just stuck to walking as I did when I had my neck braceS. But I could do it alone now 😄 Even on my very first brace-free walk, I walked 4.22 km in an hour instead of my usual 3.6 km in a neck brace! It was easy to incorporate walking to my days because I walked to my physical therapy appointments (20 to 25 minutes one-way). I loved looking around me with my new, mobile neck as I walked. However, in my mind I always thought, Okay, I have still have a broken neck, be carefuuuuuul!!!

Once I crossed the street on the pedestrian signal with (get this) a family with little kids AND a baby stroller, plus a little old lady with a walker. I didn’t think I would get run over.

Therapeutic Yoga

On Day 7, I went ahead with my first non-walking exercise IN SEVEN AND A HALF MONTHS (ugh)… Therapeutic Yoga.

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I initially planned to hire a private yoga instructor but 1) they’re expensive ($30 to $60 per hour); 2) there’s no space at my parents’ home right now; and 3) few agreed to work with me given my “condition.” For example, I found THE PERFECT HOME YOGA STUDIO which was literally a five-minute walk from my house and was only $14 per group class, $45 per private class. I emailed the instructor about how I am recovering from a neck injury and all, and her response was:

… I may not be the best person to meet your needs. For recovery of such a significant injury, you may want to consider an instructor who is specifically trained in restorative or therapeutic yoga. I am concerned that I am not qualified and would not want to jeopardize your recovery process.

Okay, at least she was honest.

This Therapeutic Yoga class is, in fact, part of the Therapeutic Exercise Programs offered by the City of Mississauga. I didn’t even know about it until I began my exhaustive search of gentle/low-impact fitness opportunities around in my area.

In recreation we believe that everyone should have the opportunity to be active in a way that suits their abilities and comfort levels. This is why we have expanded our program options to include therapeutic programming. Therapeutic recreation programming differs from traditional recreation with specifically designed programs for those who may be:

  • Living with a chronic disease
  • Recovering from an injury/surgery
  • Instructed to be physically active by a medical professional

As I browsed through the different offerings at my local community centre-slash-gym, I dutifully ignored all the other classes I used to take. My favourite ones were Hi-Low Muscle Conditioning and Step and Tone. Huuuuuu. I had to settle for Therapeutic Yoga. The class description:

This class is most beneficial for those recovering from or are living with an injury or illness. It blends gentle seated and standing yoga postures with breath work and guided meditation. Focus will be on healing and putting the body back into balance.

One AWESOME thing about the City of Mississauga Fitness Centres is that you actually choose your membership based on your lifestyle – monthly, yearly, pay-as-you-go/drop-in. Because I have only ever worked fly-in, fly-out jobs in my field, it was cost-effective and convenient for me to just take the pay-as-you-go/drop-in option, which is around $12 per visit. No contracts or monthly fees, nothing!

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The only downside is that my local gym is mainly for older folks (read: seniors and bored housewives). In the past I’m usually the only young person in the fitness classes. (I always got comments about how I could jump around so much in the class, LOL.) It’s fine, I hate the douchey atmosphere of your run-of-the-mill gyms and prefer to exercise at home or outdoors anyway.

Before I get carried away promoting the City of Mississauga Fitness Centres (seriously, check it out!), back to this Therapeutic Yoga class I took. There were a grand total of three participants in the class that Friday morning. Two older ladies (around 50 to 60) had back problems, and me – a petite, 26-who-could-pass-for-21-year-old with a (healing) broken neck.

Granted, it was the most boring yoga class ever. Ever, ever. But it was also my first week moving my neck around… so I had to take it easy on myself. I explained my neck injury to our instructor before the class started and she literally said, “Be careful with your neck,” 50 times during the class. (No Downward Dogs for this fragile neck! I was scared my head would fall off, I don’t know…) We did many easy stretches over the hour, but the neck exercises were a challenge with the stiffness in my neck.

Upon leaving the gym, I (obviously) took a brochure for the city’s Therapeutic Programs. WHY ARE THERE NO YOUNG PEOPLE IN IT?! YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE PHYSICAL RESTRICTIONS TOO!

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Stay tuned for Week 2 when I tried the Therapeutic Water classes!

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