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Life is better upside down (or 'Handstands, oh how I've missed you')

I haven’t written a post for months and months! I drafted many but then opted not to publish them as they were mainly about my recovery from a shoulder dislocation and all that entails, but I always felt that it wasn’t quite a complete piece as I was stumbling through recovery, so now more than 6 months on, I feel ready to reflect and share a few of my thoughts on the whole thing!

Firstly, cleaning is not good for you. I slipped while hanging up the shower attachment. My body fell in the bath, my arm did not and that is where it all began.

My hospital care was mixed. I was sent home with a fabric sling, only to re-dislocate 36 hours later. The next visit was more positive, I was strapped up properly and given more guidelines as to what to do.

The physiotherapy at our local hospital was minimal - unfortunately, once she found out I was a Pilates instructor, it almost seemed she figured she wouldn’t have to do much. I was barely touched or assessed (apart from declaring on one visit that she thought I was developing frozen shoulder which I knew I wasn’t!) and simply given a couple of exercises. I went straight to the Pilates exercises I apply with clients with shoulder issues and just got on with it. It did concern me that someone else that has no awareness or particular interest in the human body would possibly have received the same minimal treatment and laid themselves open to long term problems.

In my case, the problem with this lack of ‘eyes’ on me, my shoulder and its recovery, apart from my own, is that over the past 6 months or so, I have regained at least 95% mobility and function which I thought was pretty good…but I am still apprehensive about how I use my shoulder. I have ended up with issues elsewhere from incorrect movement patterns caused by this apprehension and it was only last week that I went to my NHS physio through my GP surgery who has known me for years and she challenged me on the apprehension. She quite rightly said if I continue this way, I’m opening myself up to a further dislocation because the time will come when I have no option to be apprehensive, my shoulder won’t be used to doing a movement normally because of the months of apprehension, the support won’t truly be there and hey presto, I’ll have done it again.

That was the wake up call I needed. Not only did it make me realise how I was avoiding getting back to full function ‘just in case’, I think I’d also assumed that maybe handstands, bridging (back bends) etc were just not part of my life now I was in my 40s. But she quite rightly said if I was doing it before, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t still be doing it. The only reason my shoulder dislocated the first time was from a trauma that no shoulder would have managed. So really, I’m not being unrealistic to be aiming to do all the things I used to do pre-dislocation.

So what have I done since last week? I have done handstands three times a day for 20 seconds each time and already I'm feeling more even between sides. I have planked (or adopted the leg pull front position) and tapped my shoulder with the opposite hand ten times to each side. I have done back bends…not only does my shoulder have a teeny way to go with matching the other side in flexibility, my wrist has become tighter on that side too, but I'm on my way. I have done Star on the Reformer – which is like a moving side plank. Obviously I’m not just throwing myself around, but I’m getting back to it mindfully and safely and setting my path back to how I was pre-Dicky Shoulder. You could argue that surely I’ve done this with clients so I should know what to do with myself…but most of my shoulder clients never did and never will do any of the above - they have absolutely no interest in being upside down. Their goals are significantly different, so it was easy for me to mirror what I do with them while I figured I was still in the early-ish stages of recovery.

So, it is a funny one - as if you say to someone that doesn’t do handstands that you’ve not quite got back to them regularly, they wonder why you’d bother at my age. But if you don’t use it you lose it and as my physio said…my shoulder could be kicking around for another 40 years or so, so I really should get it back to as normal as possible to help it along the way. For me, functional shoulder health does include things such as hand stands and side planks as I have to demo from time to time, so she has given permission to my shoulder to get back to doing what it does best and reminded me that I have to think what ‘functional’ means for me as an individual. I can hold a press up position for a very long time…that’s not really what I need though…I need to be able to quickly demo a side bend on both sides without having to think too much about it, moving in and out of position safely with no risk of injury.

So there endeth my reflection…I’m rather glad I ended up with the other issues that led me back to my regular Physio. It also highlighted how we do need to take charge of our recovery, not put it off and if we feel that we’ve not got what we need from the system, seek out ways to sort it out.

And never, ever believe that cleaning the bathroom is a sensible idea.

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