Thursday, 9 February 2017

The cost to arms

I used to think that I was developing bat wings. You know what I mean, those flaps of skin that appear on the backs of women's arms as they age? I was especially conscious of it while writing on the chalkboard and wearing something sleeveless. We can all picture our elementary school teacher conducting the school band/choir with a little extra "beat" in her arms? Right. Well if/when I do get back to teaching (not that I'll even be able to reach my chalkboard) I won't need to worry about saggy triceps because they are gone! The other day I was rubbing my arms (because they were sore) and I felt for myself the strength that lies beneath the skin.

You see the thing about having legs that don't work is that everything that your legs would have done now has to be done by your arms. Pardon me while I roll back onto my "Educating about Paralysis" soapbox.

Many, many people have commented on how buff my arms must be getting from wheeling myself everywhere. This is true, my arms are stronger from pushing my chair. But when I am in my chair I have the power of physics to help move me. (Right, Mark?) It's when I am not in my chair (or trying to get out of it) that the real strength comes from - lifting. Lifting my whole body weight to be exact. All 140 (ahemish) pounds. Every time I move from one surface to another I lift. From wheelchair to bed, wheelchair to car, wheelchair to toilet (and back - which is uphill). That is where the real strength is needed and comes from.

And exercise? You guessed it, all arms. Can't do legs only in the pool. Front crawl, back crawl, pseudo-breaststroke and almost-butterfly. All arms. No skiing without poles - skiing can only happen with poles. Hand bike - you get the picture.

So alas, my arms are tired but strong. It's my shoulders that I worry about. Without them I am pooched. I will not be able to transfer at all. So I have to protect them and make them strong too. No sloppy transfers or reaching too far. It also means being as lightweight as I can be. Someone (who will remain nameless) may have said something about a "cruise butt". Well, Barry, we'll just have to walk that off, won't we?

I wanted to take a picture of my buff arms but that will have to wait for a time when it is warm enough to be wearing less clothing.


  1. Sense of hearing became much more acute for the blind folks we worked with in Congo. Wonderful how the body adjusts and compensates as abilities shift. Glad you are appreciating some positives about your condition. (Impressive!)

  2. You are right on, Julie! When I broke my tibia plateau, I couldn't bear any weight on my leg. My sewing room was in the basement so I "bummed" my way up and down the steps. One day I remember thinking, "Geez, my arms are tired." And like you, I ran my hand along my arms. I could feel the muscle! And by the time I was allowed to start walking, my triceps were the strongest and most defined that they've been in my adult life! And just think how perky your boobs will look with all that upper body work!! They were on this morning on the radio about 63 yr old Kristie Brinkley posing in a bikini. You'll be "model ready", just like Kristie (but younger...MUCH younger)!!

  3. This is a crazy bright-side post, but pretty important for all women. I remember when my mom injured herself twice during her brain cancer treatment--broken leg and then broken hip requiring a hip replacement--and she was completely immobile since she had ZERO arm strength. Looking forward to seeing a picture of your buff arms!