Southern Health

I’ve been a little bit under the weather lately. No, that’s not really true—I’ve been on the injured reserve list. I have a kitchen injury.

We’re all familiar with the normal kitchen injuries: burns and cuts. When we work with fire and knives we expect a little blister or cut from time to time. Sometimes we even have something more dramatic, like the time I sliced the tip off my little finger while preparing dinner for some friends. It bled significantly for a couple of hours. When I say ‘significantly’ I mean that I had blood dripping off my elbow as I held my tightly wrapped hand above my head (why hold it above my head? I don’t really know—it seemed like a good idea at the time).

When our friends arrived for dinner I opened the door with my hand in the air wrapped in a bloody towel—as if I were surrendering. “Are you squeamish?” I asked. Luckily, they weren’t, and luckily they weren’t too hungry either. Philippe had to finish cooking the meal. We ate late and well, and now we both have a great story to tell. But Philippe doesn’t have a scar on the tip of his finger.

My current problem isn’t due to sharp things. It’s not due to hot things either. I blame it on the wire whisk. You probably never thought of whisks as dangerous, did you? Hah! Neither did I. They look so innocent, don’t they? They’re not at all. They’re actually very dangerous. Especially if you like to do things by hand and you get a wild hair one January day to make meringue. Lots of meringue. AND whipped cream. On the same day. With only a wire whisk.

So when my forearm and elbow started to hurt I didn’t think much about it. When they continued to hurt I bought one of those little band thingies that you see on the forearms of muscley guys. You know what I mean—the things that are supposed to help tennis elbow.

They look so effective in the photos. And maybe they are if you’re a guy with heavily muscled forearms. If you’re me, though, they just slide off your forearm and make you feel silly. Sigh. My doctor here in Belgium prescribed a series of sessions with a kinésthérapeut, or kiné (kee-nay) for short. A kiné is a physical therapist, and they’re supposed to be kind and gentle people. And maybe they are if you’re a muscley guy with huge forearms.

The first time I went to my kiné he explained that it’s the inflammation in the tendons that causes the pain, and the way to treat it might hurt a little bit. “On va faire du mal pour faire du bien”, he explained, “we’re going to make it hurt a little more to make it feel better”. Ok. Then he took an instrument that is very much like a small jackhammer and proceeded to hammer away at my elbow for a while.

I would never make a good spy. I would have told him the location of each and every missile I knew about (and some that I didn’t) if only he would stop. Oh, man, that hurt. And the next day I couldn’t bend my arm. I was beginning to think that this therapy was one of those things that are designed to make you realize that your piddly little problems could be worse. MUCH worse. “Ok, it’s better now. No, really. Of course I can bend it, I just don’t want to. No, one treatment was enough. Really. It’s better. Nope, doesn’t hurt at all. Really.”

I couldn’t believe that this was what you do for tennis elbow. So I explained to him that we were going to do something else. And so we tried ultrasound for a while. Three times a week I went and had my elbow ultrasounded. It didn’t get better. It seemed to be getting worse. Maybe he knew something I didn’t?

So last week we began the hammer therapy again, but this time the ‘sissy’ version. He ‘explained that he could do a ‘light’ version, but it would take more sessions. OK. ‘Cause I really need to move my elbow. I’ve been trying to do stuff with my left arm and now I’m starting to worry that it will become inflamed as well. After six only relatively painful sessions, my arm is better, on the way back to normal. Which unfortunately is not muscley and strong, but is good enough for me.

The only residual problems that I have now are nightmares about jackhammers and a bad case of whisk-o-phobia. But I’ll be back…


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Kate McNally

Kate McNally

Born and raised in Atlanta, with degrees from UGA and UT Knoxville, Kate never lived above the Mason-Dixon line. That is, until she moved to Belgium. She now lives in the Belgian Ardennes, near Germany and The Netherlands, in an area where three cultures clash and co-exist. She used to have a stress-filled life, living in Washington DC and working as a management consultant all over the US and Canada. About 9 years ago, Kate and her husband Dan quit their jobs and moved to Europe. Now they teach English as a second language to business people there. They went there for two or three years. They're still here. Kate loves to cook, to travel, to paint and to write. She tries to do all of those as often as she can, and she shares tales of her life there in her blog. Kate says, "My blog is called 'Serendipity'. That pretty much sums up our life here in Belgium: serene with a little ‘dipity’ added. You’ll find here tales of our life as we sometimes struggle with other languages and other ways. You'll also find some paintings. And more than a few recipes, because I love to cook. My husband loves to eat. Perfect!" You can find her blog at http://serendipity-kate.blogspot.com/