United Healthcare waited until I had to resign (or was fired from) every cello position before approving the Botox injections. I now know it’s a common tactic- an insurance company will try to wait and obfuscate until someone who needs an expensive treatment just goes away. For very sick people, it means insurers would rather someone die than receive treatment, simply because it doesn’t fit into the tidy collusion model with drug makers and hospitals. Capitalism might be good at creating a few dozen billionaires, but it seems like it’s not good for the soul. Living, dying, and quality of life should not be controlled by cartels but here we are. </rant>

Nonetheless, I had the first series of injections into my scalenes, and, because we had some left over, Dr. Brown put the remaining units of Botox into a knot in my scapula, and another in my upper trapezius. Dr. Soriano (the one who did the more delicate work in my neck) had a hard time getting the needle into position. My scalenes are so overgrown and permanently tight that they actually pushed back on the syringe. For 24 hours, my neck was incredibly tender, and my body felt like it was put together all wrong.

Before Saturday, I hadn’t played any cello for a few weeks. I’d experienced a spasm that left my fingering hand completely useless and my left arm weak and throbbing. The doctor I saw gave me muscle relaxants, which definitely helped with the pain, but I was wrecked for a good long while there.

So, on Saturday, my wonderful Skype student got to hear the shaggy strains of my return to playing. It was rough around the edges, but for the first time in years, I didn’t have shooting pains down my arms or a particularly sore back. I have to say particularly because it always hurts. Chronic pain is such a beast- I can’t imagine what no pain even feels like. This has been going on since I was a teenager. It’s part of my daily life, the asterisk after every pleasurable experience, my invisible dance partner, with me every step of the way.

The Botox should take maximum effect in a few weeks. It takes time for the muscle to truly surrender and then the surrounding structures should start feeling different (could be better or worse, but all change is a sign of progress, says Dr. Brown) after then.

I’m chronicling this here for a few reasons.

  1. I know there are, like 7 people who are interested. (hi guys!)
  2. There is so little support and documentation for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome patients.
  3. I don’t want to disappear from the cello world altogether.

More soon.

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4 Responses

  1. I’ve got my fingers crossed for you. I’ve always believed that uncontrollable muscle tensions – sometimes even at a micro level – are the root of many of our physical problems, and I’m encouraged by the recent increased use of Botox to treat things completely unrelated to wrinkles in the face.
    It’s been several years since I reluctantly abandoned by cello. I just couldn’t justify the constant pain in my hands, arms and shoulders. Those pains are gone, now, but I still sometimes dream that I am playing it once again.

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