Healing is exhausting and weird sensations

By | Thu January 3, 2019

I am surprised by how tired I am. Then I remember myself, my body is healing. It is working overtime to try to compensate for the broken rib. Also, pain is tiring. You add those two things together and I find myself sleeping longer and wanting afternoon naps.

I am struck by the oddness associated with feeling the area around my broken rib. I can feel the pain in my sternum and under my breast. When I roll my shoulders back I can feel a tightness in the muscle that runs under my breast. But I have no feeling in the breast tissue (note that my breasts are not breasts, but rather fat that has been relocated from my stomach). For the first time in four years I have feeling in that area. It is like the nerves under the fat have awoken. The sensation is really odd.

One thing that the numbness makes easier, but is also worrisome, is that I don’t feel the chill of the icepack when I am icing the rib. I can feel it a little below my breasts, but the part that is touching the breast has no sensation. I say worrisome, in that I don’t know if I am overcooling it.

When I first injured myself, I found myself worrying. I was paranoid that the injury might do something to cause my flap to tie (that is the relocated tissue). With the pain I really expected bruising. I was afraid that I would see a big bruise and that it would turn into fat necrosis. Now, I don’t even know if that is something that could happen. I know there are lots of worries early on when the blood flow is still establishing and things are healing, but I’m four years out and well healed from the surgery. I was surprised that I did not see any bruising given the amount of pain I was in.

I did ice when we got back to the van (riding my bike for another 30 minutes after falling!). I also iced the next day after hiking for 4-miles. I thought things were starting to heal, but then we had to pack the van up, and when I went to move something, I felt something move in an odd way – kind of like a knot in a muscle can be moves when you push on it – only I wasn’t pushing, I was bending over. It didn’t immediately bring pain, but shortly afterwards the pain increased.

I wasn’t sure if the increase in pain was related to altitude changes – we had been up at 8000 feet and drove over a 10000 ft pass, and were gradually descending down to 3000 feet at our overnight campsite. We stopped in town to get some instant ice (I hate disposable things, but in the van in the middle of no where the instant ice is handy). I iced throughout the day when I wasn’t the one driving. The pain didn’t get any better – and was not better the next day either. I booked an apt to see my doctor – which led to the x-ray and diagnosis of a fracture on my sixth rib. I went onto the internet to figure out where the 6th rib was – right under my breast at the bra line … hmmm… things started to make sense. The weird sensation that I felt on the 26th was right about where the break is. Knowing the location also helps me know where I should be concentrating my icing efforts.

I’m now wearing a rib brace when I’m awake. It helps a little. The doc said to wear it only if it helps relieve the pain. Since rib 6 is in the middle, the alignment and stability is mostly done by the ribs around it. As the soreness of the surrounding area subsides (with the break, there was also straining of the costal cartilage where the ribs attach to the sternum), the brace will become unnecessary.

But I go back to the title of the post. I am surprised by just how tired it is making me, but also how weird it feels to have sensation in an area under my breast tissue – an area that I had thought of as completely numb.

Feature image CC-BY via OpenStax College [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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