It was rough sex, sure (wait - bear with me, this is not a post about sex. Promise.) It was nothing out of the ordinary, I was just a little twisted up is all. It seemed like some harmless fun at the time, satisfying and brilliant. Afterwards I was sore, which I expected. There were finger imprints on my skin, but nothing that wouldn't fade. What I was less impressed with was this new pain along the left side of my ribs. My arm felt heavy, and my shoulder particularly painful. No matter how I held my arm (and I was doing my best contortionist attempt to relieve the pain) it hurt. It hurt a silly amount. It hurt to stand, to sit. It hurt arm up, or arm down, or arm held in front, or behind, straight or curved or whatever. It HURT. What was worse was the breathing, and how I couldn't. I was taking tiny, shallow breaths because every time I inhaled there was stabbing pain down my side. I couldn't figure it out, nothing we'd done should be causing me this amount of pain. We were on our way to a BBQ (where I must've looked like a twat on the tube, as I did my best to figure out how to hurt less. Answer: there was no way to hurt less), and once there I used a delightful amount of jager and tequila to numb the pain. I was sure that if I just gave it some time it would be fine.
How very wrong I was. I woke up with an epic hangover and sore ribs. My entire left side was now swollen, too. When I finally got up, my flatmate Duke suggested that I call the NHS hotline. When I pulled a face, he ended up calling it for me. After answering a few questions, I was bumped to the top of the priority queue and was soon talking to a nurse. There were more ridiculous questions. What I wanted to know was whether I should be getting in an ambulance or not. If not, then I was happy to wait it out till it healed itself. Sure enough, while apparently I wasn't quite bad enough for an ambulance (I was still breathing, you see, just not very well) she was quite insistent that I go to an A&E clinic and get myself checked out.
I found out later that the reason for this was because the symptoms I had are the same as someone who has a blood clot, which is apparently quite dangerous. I didn't have a blood clot, I was sure that I'd either bruised or fractured my ribs, the former being the more likely. And it was Sunday. I could either spend the next 4-6 hours in an A&E Clinic, or I could go to the lovely well established dinner plans I had with the girls from home, and then visit a Jimmy. You can imagine which option I took. Yeah, not the A&E Clinic.
I spent the next few days trying to breathe and clutching my left side in the hope that if I supported it, perhaps it would hurt less. It didn't, not even a little bit. I had a dramatic day when I took pain medication that wasn't mine (I had a horrible come down but before then I was positively flying! I could breathe! I'd forgotten what it was like to take a decent breath) and spent a few more days taking it easy before finally going to the doctor.
Who told me, dear friends, that I'd torn my intercostal muscles in two places. Intercostal muscles, the muscles between your ribs that help you breathe. She basically told me think of eating spare ribs, and then said "imagine eating all the meat from the bone, yeah? You're basically eating intercostal muscles". Here, imagery always helps:
She also told me that it would be 6-10 weeks before they healed themselves. She gave me pain medication to help me breathe, and sent me on my way. That was last week. Week Number One. This week (Week Number Three) I still can't breathe, even with the medication. I tried walking fast with friends around Cambridge, and ended up seriously lagging behind (keeping up meant a faster pace, which got my heart up, which meant that my body wanted more oxegen than I could give it). I ended up lagging behind, and The Fourth Quarter accused me of sulking, but truth was that I just plain couldn't keep up. A few days later I (stupidly) tried to go running, and I got half way down the block before I was clutching my chest frustrated and angry at my inability to breathe. I can ride a boris bike, if I'm careful and slow. Except that careful and slow aren't the right adjectives for riding a bike on London roads. I'm annoyed that no running means I can't play netball for the third week in a row, that I can't play touch, that I can't run with the boys anymore. I fear what will happen when I do finally get back into it. It's going to be sore and painful.
The other less fun part was having to explain why I was clutching my ribs, and struggling to breathe. And then having to explain to my bosses, to my mother, and to the people at work exactly what I'd done to tear said intercostal muscles. I fumbled, and possibly should have anticipated this and thought up something, anything to say. Instead I stammered, and furiously thought 'Don't say sex, DON'T SAY SEX!' It was ridiculous. I think I rather lamely said 'I'm not sure, exactly . . . *insert conversation change*"
I've got a few more weeks to go before things are all healed up and I can be breathing proper again. I hope it passes quickly. Have any of you ever done anything to your intercostal muscles??