Accepting the challenges of any disability seems difficult for us all. It could be easier to simply give in to whatever the disability presents. Attempting to make life simpler. However, allowing any condition to dictate functionality is probably counterproductive. Some illnesses or disabilities may pose unsurmountable obstacles. They could be degenerative, becoming worse as time goes on. No matter how much work is put into improvement, the body continues its decline. These would be the most disheartening situations. It would seem overwhelming to handle a situation, with the knowledge that without a cure, life most likely won’t improve. The physical aspects of cerebral palsy don’t seem to fall into this category. I would never label myself an expert on CP, nor have I done extensive research. But, living with the disability seems to have taught me many things. Cerebral palsy teaches something new each day. One of the most valuable blessings of CP is things don’t seem to get worse. In fact, cerebral palsy seems open to improvement. With hard work, things don’t just stabilize, they get better.
Though cerebral palsy doesn’t get worse over time, we still feel frustration from the disability. The frustration that CP to this point, won’t fully become healed. It provides a lifetime of challenges. Making situations in life more complicated. Effort is required each day for situations to improve. Otherwise, cerebral palsy may appear to have common traits with other degenerative illnesses. Letting cerebral palsy run its course, seems to be allowing it to tighten the body. As muscles are allowed to tighten of their own accord, flexibility can lessen. With flexibility being sacrificed, mobility would seemingly follow. Our physical objective of stretching and strengthening to improve cerebral palsy is opposing the disabilities objectives.
Working with a chiropractor helps the cerebral palsy process. It helps loosen tighten muscles from another perspective. As my muscles tighten over time they seem to get stuck. Especially if something has happened to alter the alignment of my body. The body getting stuck in an awkward position, causing one leg to become shorter than the other, often causes inflammation. That inflammation brings on pain throughout the body. The resulting pain making it difficult to effectively go through a workout. When my body becomes, tight and inflamed, the muscles don’t seem to be strengthened in the most productive manner. Being adjusted seems to serve a couple purposes. It helps keep my body in better alignment, ensuring the muscles grow in the most productive way to strengthen my frame. Hoping the strength begins improving susceptibility to small injuries. Making it more difficult for the body to lose alignment.
Another key factor in working with Dana seems to be relaxation and comfort. When my hips become out of alignment, pain ensues. With that pain comes tension and discomfort throughout the body. It can be more challenging to do just about everything. The only form of relief during these times is exercise. Even with unleveled hips, various cardio exercises, followed by stretching tends to relieve the pain. However, it’s just a temporary fix until my weekly appointment with the chiropractor. Once, positioned face down on Dana’s table, relief becomes moments away. He cracks my back and hips, placing the tension filled body back into its proper position. Sometimes the release is so comforting, you almost feel euphoric, as positive chemicals rush back into my brain. Suddenly, the pain that has been fought for days disappears and comfortable relief sets back into my body. This is simply the first step of Dana’s process.
From there, the chiropractor moves to adjusting my neck. Using what might be referred to as a thumper. Dana holds a piece to the vertebra and pushes on a handle to create gentle impact. The tool reacts, pushing the vertebra back into place. After performing this task in a few locations along my neck, it’s back into alignment. Moving forward with the appointment, his next task might be the most crucial. With cerebral palsy having its strongest impact on my wrists and hands, Dana works on my forearms. Every week he does deep tissue work on the length of each forearm. The purpose is to relax the forearm muscles, hopefully giving relief and flexibility to my hands. It’s also meant to lengthen the muscle, as cerebral palsy wants to tighten my forearm muscles, folding the wrists inward in the direction of my forearms. We have been working this process for years. My wrists and hands have made great strides in becoming stronger and more stable. Which, brought about surprise, when he asked me to attempt something counterproductive to the work we had been putting into my wrists and hands.
We have always discussed ways to hold a glass of water or wine glass. These are the two most challenging things in my life. An idea came about to attempt letting my wrist fold inward toward by forearm. It would be the position cerebral palsy wants my wrist to be fixed in, folded toward the center of my body. The idea was the position might cause wrist stability, allowing me to pick up a glass without trembling in my wrist. So, we tried the maneuver by holding a glass of water. It was difficult to hold my wrist in the folded position and hold the glass. The theory was understood because it would keep my wrist in a locked position, using my elbow to raise and lower the glass. We found the movement to be painful. It was challenging to keep my wrist in that folded position and began causing tension in other muscles. The idea made sense, because it’s the natural wrist position when the wrists are affected by cerebral palsy. However, it was in direct contrast of the improvements we want to make.
Holding a glass seems to involve the wrist being locked in an extended position from the wrist. The movement locks the wrist in position to provide stability. It feels like using all muscles in the forearm and wrist to stabilize a cup or glass. When Dana works on my forearms, this seems to be the position we are attempting to achieve. We are extending the forearm muscle through the wrist, then strengthening those muscles through strength training. If the forearm and wrist are strengthened, the natural locked position can occur. It would make handling a glass much easier. This method also would have us fighting against cerebral palsy. CP wants me to fold the wrist inward to find a locked position. But, working with the chiropractor is helping the wrist into a more positive position. The effort put in now to combat the negative habit, will seem to make things better in the long run.
Attempting to make things easier doesn’t always translate to making them better. Often times looking at long term consequences helps bring things into perspective. Letting cerebral palsy dictate muscle movements doesn’t seem advantageous. If we can fight against the tightening of those muscles, long term life gets better. Allowing our bodies to tighten will only decrease flexibility and in turn take away mobility. With cerebral palsy, there truly is no reason to give up hope. Our disability isn’t getting worse over time. If we don’t make an effort to improve our symptoms they will begin taking a toll. Our battle with old age will be accelerated as compared to those around us who aren’t disabled. However, becoming persistent in the battle against the war CP wants to wage against our bodies, we improve our quality of life. Maybe all of that effort finds us exceeding the quality of life found in others. Cerebral palsy can turn into a blessing in our lives.