Welcome to the Misadventures of Widowhood blog!

In January of 2012 my soul mate of 42 years passed away after nearly 12 years of living with severe disabilities due to a stroke. I survived the first year after Don’s death doing what most widows do---trying to make sense of my world turned upside down. The pain and heartache of loss, my dark humor, my sweetest memories and, yes, even my pity parties are well documented in this blog.

Now that I’m a "seasoned widow" the focus of my writing has changed. I’m still a widow looking through that lens but I’m also a woman searching for contentment, friends and a voice in my restless world. Some people say I have a quirky sense of humor that shows up from time to time in this blog. Others say I make some keen observations about life and growing older. I say I just write about whatever passes through my days---the good, bad and the ugly. Comments welcome and encouraged. Let's get a dialogue going! Jean

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Humpbacks, Cold Fingers and Roller Coasters



You might say that I’m in Health Care Central this week. Saturday I went to a free screening for PAD (peripheral artery disease) and Monday I went to a lecture on old people with humped backs (technically known as Hyperkyphosis) and later this week I have a dentist appointment. I like to get the lion’s share of my medical junk out of the way in April so any follow-up stuff can happen before summer gets into full swing…like my upcoming appointment in early May to get my breasts pressed out flat like pancakes and don’t we all know how much fun that is.

I passed the test for PAD with flying colors. (I’ve used the phrase all my life and I’m just now getting around to googling its origin. It comes from nautical history and has to do with ships flying their colored flags as they neared their home ports to communicate if they’d been victorious in battle or with their trading endeavors. And as soon as I read that nugget of history I realized that once upon a time I knew that. I hate when that happens! But I suppose our brains can only hold so much so why should it surprise me when things fall out?)

Back on topic: The vascular doctor at the screening gave me some interesting---at least to me---information regarding why my fingers are always icy cold and often turn white, even in warm weather. Can you believe it, it’s a condition with a name: Raynaud’s Phenomenon. Who knew? It’s caused by blood vessels in smaller arteries in the skin narrowing which reduces the oxygen to fingers, toes and/or earlobes. In my case it’s probably connected to my hypothyroidism and it’s not a sign of a serious vascular disease about to rear its ugly head in the future. The “prescription”---and this cracks me up---is to carry chemical hand warmers. He also said if I’m going to be outside in the winter for extended periods I can take a niacin (vitamin B3) an hour beforehand. I love it when the quirks and weird stuff going on in our bodies is explained.

Humpbacks---and not the whales. Our senior hall doesn’t offer a lot of lectures on health topics--the director puts the accent on Life Enrichment instead---and the upper body alignment lecture is the first health related one I’ve attended. I’m starting to develop a humpback and I wanted to know if it’s common to get electrical shock-like pain with them, which I often get across the top of my shoulders at the base of my neck. The doctor who gave the lecture was a young blonde in a short neon-orange dress who looked more like a Sport’s Illustrated model than a doctor. She talked about good and bad upper body alignment so wearing a dress that looked like it was spray-painted on actually did help her illustrate those alignments. (We need to keep our ears over our shoulders, ladies!) I did learn a few interesting things like a lifetime of habitual bad posture is just as likely as osteoporosis to be the cause of the humpback so common in my peer age bracket and it’s more than just about body aesthetics. The rounded shoulders puts pressure on all our organs causing a bunch organs related health issues that I didn’t bother to write down and can’t remember now.

We learned how to ‘knead’ the lymph nodes in our armpits, our carotid arteries and the thyroid gland. We were told to spend 15 to 20 minutes a day lying face up on a pillow placed lengthwise from the base of neck to small of the back. (I tried it last night and it felt good!) We were told if we already have the early stage of a humpback to not do sit-ups, crunches or bend over to touch our toes. Reading in bed and sleeping in a fetal position also contributes to humpback development. The doctor also stressed the importance of doing certain stretching exercises that opens up our chest area and retrains the muscles, and to get enough of the minerals boron and magnesium in addition to the vitamins most us already know about that help keep our bones healthy. Probably the most pragmatic thing I learned, though, was that there’s a place near-by where I live that does therapeutic massages to deal with humpbacks. In May when my schedule isn’t so full I’m going to give it a try. Hand-ons manipulation and transcutanous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) can help.

I did do something in recent days that was more fun than listening to doctors who were young enough to be my grandchildren. (I still can’t believe that bleached-blonde was a doctor and the vascular doctor was hot enough to play one on TV.) I went to a senior hall lecture on a now defunct amusement park that was in town when I was young---a HUGE park on a lake with a roller coaster, dance pavilion and a roller rink. I like history even if I don’t always remember it with flying colors. As I sat there I realized I'd been to the same lecture three-four years ago at the Historical Society. It didn't matter because the speaker has a dry sense of humor and she had us all laughing frequently. Combined with lunch at the Guy-Land Cafeteria afterward, I had a great afternoon. ©

24 comments:

  1. Let me see if I got this straight. You can get humped back from flying colored flags to communicate from a ship. Those with it need to stop reading in bed and avoid sleeping in a fetal position. Humpback and vascular narrowing may also be caused, as in your case, because you rode a roller coaster, danced and went to a roller rink at a now defunct lake park when you were young. You learned that every three to four years you need to go to a lecture you've heard before so you can have some healing laughter after consulting with a couple young doctors. Afterward, you need to eat at a nearby cafeteria to contemplate getting electrified in the future. I hope I got that all right. I'm really good at gleaning pertinent facts from what I read even if I don't always remember them later. Seriously, I do empathize with how your day went. Was anything mentioned about leaning over a computer keyboard as a body posture contributing factor? I hope you keep the blood flowing and get straightened up.

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    1. LOL I think you got it all except for maybe lying on a pillow while using a chemical hand warmer.

      Computers was mentioned at all regarding back issues but I'm guessing it contributors a lot to my back pain.

      Love your sense of humor.

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  2. Maybe your brain is already full. My blog post on that;
    Older Brains Actually Become ‘Full’
    http://oc1dean.blogspot.com/2013/01/older-brains-actually-become-full.html

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  3. Thanks for the link, Dean. I just skim read the articles link to your post. Interesting. If my forgetfulness was something recent I can see a young doctor labeling it as MCD (mild cognitive disorder)as one of the articles says, but I've never had a good memory my entire life...as if they would make any difference now that I think about it.

    I once asked one of my husband's neurologists what would happen in my brain if I had a stoke since I'm left-handed and dyslexia. I was hoping for an answer along the lines that my wiring would straighten itself out when it made new pathways afterward. He answered: "I don't know. That would be a really interesting case study but I think it would just get more tangled up." LOL

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  4. All my life, until I was 18 and left home, I was reminded to stand tall--my Mother liked to jab her finger into my spine between my shoulders, my Daddy like to pull the hair on the top of my head straight up. I was told to be glad I was so tall and that the Queen was tall. I found out years later, the Queen is actually really quite short. Consequently, my posture has always been great and than goodness, I do not have osteoporosis. However, being at a computer for hours had caused a slight hump at the base of my neck--causing my head to jut forward a bit. I have to remind myself to keep my "ears over my shoulders".

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    1. I wish my parents had given me that lecture more often. I do remember walking around with a book on my head, though, when I was in my teens. They say using one of those big balls to sit on at the computer improves your posture but I'd be afraid I'd fall off and once I'm on the floor I can't get up with my fake knees and elbow.

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  5. Raynauds Syndrome makes my husband's life miserable. We've tried everything, even saw an immunologist I think it was. He told us there is a nitroglycerin cream you can use but you have to be very careful or it will give you a severe headache. I think you put just a tiny amount at the base of each finger. We decided to pass. Husband has light weight gloves he wears a lot that were sold professing to be good for Raynauds. One pair allows him to still use his phone. There are two kinds of hand warmers I would use if I was the patient rather than husband. He doesn't always do what I suggest! I purchased a hand warmer from Amazon that plugs in and charges like a phone. It's maybe a little smaller than a phone. Right size for pockets. The one I found most intriguing and works well but is more trouble is made by Zippo that makes cigarette lighters. You add some lighter fluid, light it and you're good to go for several hours. Really neat. I always thought you'd need two rather than one but that's just me.

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    1. Great information, Linda. Thanks for sharing!! I'll trust you on the nitroglycerin cream, it makes no sense to cause a problem to treat another problem. I will look for the gloves and hand warmers on Amazon. When I'm sitting at home I use one of those bean bags you heat up in the microwave but you can't take that big think with you shopping, etc. My husband used to have one of those Zipper hand warmers in his hunting gear. I looked for one at the sporting goods store just yesterday but it's the wrong season, I guess.

      Thanks again!

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  6. The program about posture and kyphosis sounds very interesting. When I was in physical therapy last summer for lower back and leg pain and this winter for neck pain, the message from the physical therapist was that it was all about posture. I've been using the Gokhale method to try to improve my posture and it is helping. The exercise you were taught for lying on your back sounds very similar to her stretch-lying exercise. -Jean

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    1. It was interesting and worth the hour and a half it took. I just checked some videos online of Gokhale shoulder rolls and they were similar to what we learned in class. When I'm sitting at the computer I'm trying, now to do some of the exercises in my chair every half hour or so. It's good to know that your exercise is helping...gives me a goal.

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  7. Thank you yet again for an informative post! Good gravy we have a lot to do to just be normal. I'm exercising my shoulder in between typing. Keeping my shoulders back and thrusting my too large bosom out. Feels kinda good!.

    My sister has the cold extremities thing. She always has the chemical handwarmers at the ready. In the car, in her purse, at home. And really not much else you can do about it!??? Sheesh. And she went to Antartica in January ....

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    1. It's a good thing we're retired because we wouldn't have ti me to work and keep up with all the stuff we have to do to keep our bodies and minds together as we age.

      I just ordered one of the rechargeable hand warmers mentioned above and will keep looking for the chemical warmers. I'm just glad to know it's not a sign that I'm developing a major vascular disease.

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  8. No criticism of you or your writing - I struggled mightily to read to the end - that's how much I like pragmatic health tips. Reminds me I haven't gotten my bone scan in three years or been to my gyn in two.

    LOL... AW, thrusting my bosom out and keeping my shoulders back...I'm trying to remember to do this, and yes, it does feel like there's more room inside for everything. Reminds me...how much I hated the oglers and cat callers in NYC... OK, guys, here they come! Thank goodness...Nowadays, guys who forget their manners have far better (younger) eye candy to drool over.

    I've had Raynaud's Syndrome my whole life. Never heard of taking niacin before going out in winter. Now, will I remember when winter rolls around again?

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    1. I was just thinking the other day that I should work towards shorting my blogs by 100 words. This one is 906 words. 800 would make it a page long if it were on page.

      Love your NYC story.

      I've never known anyone but my mother who had hands as cold as mind and in two replies to this post I find two others.

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  9. Well, I'm round shouldered (further aggravated by long sittings at computer), sleep in foetal position, and loved to read in bed (now less so, as am trying to look after my eyesight), so well positioned to be a hunchback. When I try to sit straight, I feel like I'm thrusting my bosom out obscenely - well, it defn looks odd - and can't keep it up. I like the comment: ears over shoulders, and as I type am trying to follow that. Thanks for your tip re pillow from neck base to small of back, which I will also try to adopt.

    I understand your feelings about the young doctor. I swear the Drs, lawyers etc that I meet are getting younger by the day, with some looking like they just walked out of a schoolroom. My thick head fails to understand that its ME getting older. I just dyed my hair darkest brown (well, it livens up my dull face!) but it must look so odd to bystanders, just as I find others whose hair is very obviously dyed. Note to self: tone down hair dye to mousy brown. ~ Libby

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    1. I have bad habits to break, too. Sitting and walking straight makes me feel the same way as you but then I try to remember that's the way I used to walk around most of my life. LOL I've been doing the exercises I learned that day which I can do sitting at my computer when I need a break and it is helping...less pain.

      I only dyed my hair (actually low-lighted it to be technical) for about a year and a half after my husband died and when back to all gray. Way too much maintenance for me. We all have our little vanities. Mine is eye brows and lip gloss. I won't leave the house without my painted on.

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  10. PS - am also sufferer of ice cold hands (and feet). I'd been told it was due to poor blood circulation. Also that cold hands, warm heart and vice versa!! ~ Libby

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    1. When I commented to the vascular doctor that I was worried that my cold fingers (not my whole hands) was a sign of circulation problems he said, "Well, it is but it isn't." Figure that one out. He went on to explain how this differs from the vascular circulation from serious diseases. but I can't explain it back. Something about how it coming from the skin and not the heart(?)

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  11. My husband has Raynaud's. So weird to see his fingers turn completely dead white! A Rheumatologist can evaluate if there is something more serious going on, but it's basically a constriction of peripheral blood vessels in response to being cold, which is normal. The body constricts the blood to "outlying" appendages to conserve heat at the core in response to coldness. Keeps us alive. Raynaud's is an overreaction to that normal response. As for humpback -- yes posture plays a role and I hear about it all the time in Yoga class (especially seeking to overcome the hunched computer, cell phone postures!). We do LOTS of poses to increase height, open the chest, pull shoulders back. My posture has improved dramatically as I have become more comfortable standing up straight, pulling in my abs, and sticking out my chest. LOL That lying down on a pillow thing is another we do in yoga -- we take a bolster to the floor lengthwise from head to low back and lie over it with arms splayed wide -- really opens the chest and feels relaxing -- it's called a "restorative" pose. A bone density scan is the only way to really tell if humpback is caused by osteoporosis and it's important to know. And that's my medical advice for the day. (Perils of being married to a doctor is that I think I know stuff. Don't sue me.) LOL

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    1. I've been so surprised that this condition has a name and that so many people seem to have it. It doesn't surprise that you say it's an overreaction to a normal response. I have so many allergies and hives, the latter was evaluated by a rheumatologist in recent years after a life time of having them.


      I love all your yoga and "medical" stuff that you share. I am getting another bone density test in June and I plan on asking my bone guy to include a scan of my shoulders. Something is going on up there with the little electric shocks. Sounds more nerve than bones but maybe something is getting pitch is my theory.

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  12. Well, that was a lot of good info. We have rounded shoulders in my family, and I have a niece with scoliosis. I found myself sitting straighter as I read this. My organs are probably squished all the time. My posture is terrible. I think it would help if I strengthened my core. I'll try to remember: ears over shoulders, ears over shoulders, ears over shoulders.

    My feet and hands get cold, too. I guess it's one more aspect of aging. As always, your lectures are fascinating to me.

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    1. I'm going to make myself a sign about sitting up straight when I'm at the computer. (My printer is off line now.) It does make me feel better. We have too much to remember!

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  13. My mom had that cold hands syndrome. She had some circulatory problems, too, but luckily had a doc who sorted it all out for us. It is interesting to see what was old coming new again. My dad had those Zippo hand warmers for hunting in -- oh, the 1950s and 1960s. I gather there are newer techniques, now. I know there are some sort of chemical warmers, too. I once read about some battery powered socks, and I thought about that for work, but I decided I'd probably short myself out, and gave up on the idea.

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    1. I remember seeing those battery powered socks (still in the original box) in an antique store, also from the '50s. They caught my eye because my dad once had a pair. I imagine the new versions have smaller batteries. I never thought about them giving out shocks or shorts! But with Zippos having fire inside I couldn't get myself to want one but I do remember using one for ice skating in the '50s. I just ordered the re-chargable style.

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