I Can Teach Through Injury

Mortons Neuroma Feels Like This

For a long time when an injury was taken to medical care, the prescription was to stop doing whatever caused the injury.

Makes sense. Like the hammer thing.

Then we shifted to the idea that we might continue to do what we want, but at a different level. To stop moving at all isn’t a solution either.

In another realm of our social existence came the proclamation that to admit to pain is bad enough, to modify our activity stood us on the precipice of public humiliation, but  to stop to rest – turn in your jock strap ’cause it’s over. Unless you want to lose your social standing or even be shunned you’d better suck it up and play through it, run through it, dance through it – get through it. So what if you have debilitating pain for the rest of your life? That’s what aging is, isn’t it?

I’m currently teaching injured. A skeleton schedule, but still teaching nonetheless. I’m also considering the wisdom here.

With Morton’s neuroma, I am unable to put weight onto the ball of my right foot without pain that literally stops me. On carpet in 2 pairs of socks and a pair of thick, fuzzy knee-high booties I can walk with relative comfort. On hardwood, nothing is comfortable.

In class, I’m still experimenting with what I can wear to protect my foot without disturbing my alignment. So far, nothing.

What is fascinating to me is how I have been impacted by the compensatory movements I choose in order to avoid pain.

In a simple clock step, stepping to 12 and 6 is a fluid and continuous motion – on my left. On my right, the momentum into 6 o’clock stops rather abruptly so that I don’t

1. put the ball of my foot down

2. fall down.

My low back does not like the abruptness and is confused by the imbalance. My ability to co-create movement with other parts of my body has been compromised. First, the change shifts my natural rhythm and my other body parts don’t know when they’re supposed to do their thing. Second, I am distracted by creating compensatory movements, hoping to avoid pain, and I forget to use the rest of me.

In a cross behind cha-cha-cha, my left knee is unaccustomed to the stress when I don’t put my right foot on the floor in a certain way. If I decide not to put my foot down at all, my knee actually growls at me. With my knee receiving more weight to manage than is usual, shifting my weight to go into the cha-cha-cha is heavy and slow.

What I also find interesting are the moves that my foot will tolerate as long as they’re not specific to the ball of my foot. I can shuffle laterally – to the side – as long as it is to the side. Since there is far less rolling of my foot onto the ball , it works for a while. After that my body begins to realize that there is a laying down and peeling up of the foot from heel to toe, even in lateral stepping or shuffling. Huh! Imagine that.

Like I said before, my back doesn’t really appreciate the choices I’ve been making. My choices result in my back moving quickly in unusual ways, stopping sharply and also in tightening and holding where it would like to be free to move.

When movement cannot occur where it is designed to occur, the body will find another route. I know this too well. The human body is remarkably adaptable. But there is always a price. What moves should be able to move. Our bodies are built to manage stress. We have built in shock absorbers (the discs between each vertebrae and the synovial fluid in certain joints are just two examples), but when they can’t do the job the way design intended damage can be the result. My left knee is reminding me of this fact. My back is reminding me of this fact.

So, what now?

I can design the fast clocks and the cross behinds out. Squish walk out. Bow stance out. Releve’ out. Stepping onto the ball of the foot, out. Rock around the clock, out. Slow clock out. Traveling in Directions – turns – mostly out.

Or, I can do it all on one side only. That’s actually more complicated than it sounds – just ask my students who’ve watched me teach a complete move on one side, only to appear to lose coordination in the modification on the other side. I forgot the direction change I cued 2 minutes ago. Oh, yea, and there were core and arm movements that went along with the feet…

I can teach through this.

Should I?

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