The relation between our minds and bodies is a funny thing. If you pick up a painful knock, you tend to be overprotective of the injury, and inevitably end up getting another knock on the same aching spot. Like if you bite your lip, you become extra careful while eating and that very caution causes you to painfully bite your lip at the same place again. Ouch!
Around six months ago, I was playing tennis one morning and pulled a ligament in my left arm, where it connects to my left shoulder. I play tennis right-handed, single hand so I have no idea why my left arm was injured but that’s another story! Anyway, it didn’t seriously affect my game. But at other times it was literally a pain. Like I couldn’t sleep on my left side.
My initial optimism that I would soon be fine quickly disappeared. The injury just refused to go away as I constantly kept aggravating it. Taking a break from tennis didn’t help. I’d be on the stairs, slip, grasp at the bannister and feel a sharp twinge of pain. Or I’d try to open a bottle and boom. Sometimes even a sudden twist to my left was enough to tweak the joint.
So I got back to tennis and hoped for the best. Six months later, I was still carrying the injury. One morning, I was playing tennis doubles, and at the net. My opponent on the other side of the net was a tennis coach with a reputation for being able to generate considerable power in his shots.
As fate would have it, he smashed a backhand volley straight into my body. The ball rocketed right onto an exposed bone - a rib on my right side. I laughed it off, and continued playing. But soon to my dismay, I realised the sharp pain wasn’t going away.
I knew what I was up against as I had been kicked in the same spot in my school days. A hairline fracture was what the doctor called it back then. There wasn’t any treatment as such except rest, and it sort of cures itself.
Prolonged rest make me restless. We fitness addicts need our fix of exercise everyday. So I continued playing tennis even though any action that moved my tender rib too much was quite painful. Serving, for instance, was a bit of a drag.
Our minds tend to focus on the pain which hurts more, and the pain in my ribs hurt more than the ache in my shoulder. So I began playing, sleeping, and moving, and generally carrying myself, in a way that minimised the pain in my rib. With all my attention on that rib, I more or less forgot about my shoulder except when I did something that stretched that ligament.
A week later, my rib hurt more or less the same. But my shoulder injury had benefitted from my lack of attention, and was beginning to ache a lot less. Hopefully, in another week or two, it will be completely gone.
Then all I will need is something to get my attention off my painful rib. Come to think of it, my 13 year old daughter just confessed she has been dreaming of punching me in my face.
Maybe I should let her have her wish.