May 16, 2007

Burdening the Shoulders

Some of you may already know that, since moving to London, I've been having a lot of problems in my wrists and forearms. I don't know if it's because of being in front of a computer for eight hours a day or all the capoeira I've been doing, but it got bad enough in February that I went to see my GP about it and was referred to a physiotherapist.

Today was my first session (it's covered by the NHS so there's a long waiting list), and I have to say, it was nothing like I had expected.

First of all, it was in an old building with some stone stairs out front and no ramp up to the door, which, honestly, seems like an exceptionally poor design choice for a place where people with physical disabilities go on a regular basis.

Second of all, the staff. Now, normally at NHS facilities, the staff look haggard, hassled and pasty; in short, they look publicly funded. Not these people. They were all so trim and healthy-looking, it was like being treated by the cast of The O.C.. I suppose that isn't so surprising considering they obviously give a great deal of thought to physical fitness, but still, yowza, if you have a tendency to compare your physique unfavourably to those around you, I would recommend you avoid going to any physiotherapist conventions.

Third of all, the treatment. I figured the woman would ask me a couple of questions about my physical activities, my desk set-up at work, etc., and then fiddle with my arms and hands for a while and send me on my way. Instead, she told me to take my shirt off. I was pretty uncomfortable with this, considering I don't normally take my shirt off in front of girls unless they are dating me or drunk, but thankfully I managed to resist the urge to defuse the tension by making a crass joke (that's what the blog is for, after all).

She then proceeded to put me in all sorts of weird positions and subject me to a battery of tests to see what my muscles were doing. There were props, there was latex, there was touching; it was (sadly) the most action I've had all year. Indeed, the biggest difference between all the tests she did and a casual sexual encounter was that I came out of it with fewer health problems.

Actually, though, I don't want to seriously characterise it like that, because she was extremely professional and her bedside manner was so good it was inspirational; I left thinking, "Gee, maybe I should become a physiotherapist."

The last part of the appointment consisted of me being given a double-sided sheet of paper on which were listed probably about fifty ethnic groups. I was asked me to pick which category best described me, so that the local NHS trust could ensure it was not discriminating against anyone (except, obviously, the illiterate and/or impatient). After looking through it I said, "Uh, I guess Scottish," which was met with a dubious look and the response, "What? With that accent?" I explained my complicated background and we decided that the best category for me was, in fact, 'White Other' (which makes very little sense from the perspective of postcolonial theory, but I suppose is pretty accurate).

The diagnosis, by the way, is weak shoulders (form a line, ladies), and not, as my GP had feared, carpal tunnel syndrome– so I can continue to blog away to my heart's content without fear of permanent physical disfigurement. Huzzah!


Unknown said...

That diagnosis has made me laugh out loud.

Ken said...

Well, at least its not carpal tunnel, that is bad stuff. And now you won't have the weight of that worry bearing down on your weak, weak shoulders.

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