Thursday, September 11, 2008

How I nearly lost an arm at the gym

(Warning: Not for the faint-hearted.)

Four Thursdays ago, I nearly lost an arm. I'm not exaggerating. I was at the gym, in the middle of a standard pullover routine (you know, lie on bench, grasp dumbbell with both hands, position it above chest, move toward and slowly lower beyond head, then back to chest position) when my left arm got wrenched out of its shoulder socket.

I know--you can squeal now. The backgrounder to this was, I had completely forgotten that I had only four hours of sleep earlier, which tended to make me less energetic and sturdy during workout. I went about it at full strength; the accident came an hour and a half after I had started. On my third swing of the dumbbell, I felt my left arm dislocate. By force of adrenaline, I suppose, I still managed to bring the heavy dumbbell down with my right hand.

I stood up, looked in the mirror, and saw my arm askew, a bump already evident on my left shoulder. Here's the strange part: There wasn't much pain--at least, not that I remember. Perhaps because I was too horrified to feel anything. And perhaps because, even at that acute moment, I desperately wanted to keep my poise and avoid causing a commotion among the other guys working out.

I covered my distorted shoulder, ran to the fitness trainer, asked him to pull my arm forcefully and braced myself for the excruciating pain. When he pulled at it, my arm slipped back into its socket. Just like that. A second later and everything went into a blur. I didn't pass out, but I had to steady myself as things swam before my eyes and I broke into a cold sweat.

I lifted my arm. There was pain, but tolerable, and I could still bring it up or down, move it sideways and back. I grasped my energy drink; I fiddled with my iPod; I felt that area where my shoulder joined the left arm. Everything seemed fine.

When I got home, while drained and still quite freaked out, I applied Ben-Gay on my arm and shoulder and went to sleep, taking care not to lean on my left side for the meantime. Then I reported for work as if I hadn't seen one of my arms flapping freely like a scarecrow's just three hours earlier. I did constantly check if something was amiss--Was my arm getting numb? Was the pain getting worse?--but nothing seemed out of the ordinary.

A day later, I told myself I now had the perfect excuse to drop by our company clinic and have our unbelievably cute resident physical therapist, who's only in on Fridays, to look me over. Yey.

He made me do exercises with very light dumbbells to see if anything was particularly painful or difficult. He also poked my shoulder and arm, and that's how I saw he had the the brownest brown eyes. Where was I? Then he grilled me. No swelling? Nope. No bruising? Nope. You didn't put ice on it? Nope. He looked amazed. You're all right, sir, he said, nabugbog lang ang muscles and tendons mo. (Aww, quit the Sir.) He sent me off with the advice to see an orthopedic doctor if the pain persisted beyond two weeks.

It did--though only faintly. Last week, I went to the doctor to find out if I had sustained any long-term damage--hairline bone cracks, for instance. Could I still do serious workouts? Should I start popping pills? Do I have to say goodbye to being left-handed and start doing stuff with my right arm?

The doctor, as a first exercise, asked me to push at my thumb and see if it could touch my arm. It could. Then he felt my shoulder socket, bent and moved my arm, asked me which movement induced pain.

His verdict? It was an unfortunate accident, but “You have loose limbs; you are born that way.” Come again? Some people are born with snug joints. I'm one of a smaller class of people with loose sockets and a more flexible frame, hence the tendency for my arm, say, to be pushed out rather easily under strong duress. But nothing to worry about, he said, it's normal and can, in fact, be strengthened by special, targeted exercises.

Really. So how come I'm such a lousy dancer? How come my photographer friends think I'm the stiffest camera subject there is? Hearing this now, I really should have gone for my childhood dream of becoming a gymnast or a carnival acrobat. Hey, at 37 years old (38 very soon), my thumb can still reach my arm. Watch out, Bea Lucero. What--she's retired?

Better yet, the next time somebody calls me a limpwrist, I've got medical support for my riposte: Dear, it's genetic.

I'm back at the gym now, doing things that the doctor has ordered. I have special exercises to strengthen my rotator cuff, an area that he explained even bodybuilders neglect, given that no visible improvements like bigger muscles can be seen there. The pain, just tiny pinpricks at this point, will last a couple more weeks, he said--just muscles put under severe stress.

I still get the shivers sometimes whenever I think of how close I got to breaking an arm. Good thing I remembered poise over panic, or those buffed guys would have rushed me to the hospital in full panic mode themselves. Tama lang ang ginawa mo, said the doctor--right down to the Ben-Gay.

Besides, wearing a cast is so... ostentatious--not my idea of attracting second glances in the mall. And I'd hate to repeat the story every time to inquiring friends, who even now invariably swing from laughing at my absurd accident to squirming like hell whenever I go into the vivid, bone-crunching detail.

Let's see if they can even finish this post. The wuzzes.

P.S. Got my invite? Follow me!


jher said...

wow bilib nga ako sa iyong poise. I could imagine kung gano kadami ang titili sa loob ng gym pag nakita ang dislocated shoulder mo. :-)

Jon Limjap said...


Isn't this the trick that Mel Gibson did in his Lethal Weapon movies? The punch-dislocate-punch back routine?

Baka kamag-anak mo siya (LOL!).

muddynights said...

oh wow. now you can train to be Houdini! :)

White said...

it's a good thing that you did not break any bones. :) having said that, what happened to the hungarian weightlifter in the 2008 olympics was just horrible.

gibbs cadiz said...

JHER, haha, salamat! titili talaga? pero tama ka. :)

JON, exactly! mel gibson came to mind right after the arm slid back into its socket. so ganun pala yun! :)

MUDDYNIGHTS, er, too old? :)

WHITE, yep, am very thankful, indeed. teka, sorry clueless ako, what happened ba to the hungarian weightlifter? :)

R-yo said...

Talaga to, muntik ng maging penguin, nakapag-landi pa rin he he. Well, at least we know you're ok. Teka, mukhang pwede mong gawing pick-up line ah ... "Pare, pakitulak naman ng shoulder ko. Nadislocate eh". Bwahahaha

joelmcvie said...

Gibbs, that was your chance to play damsel-in-distress with all those gym bunnies. =)

TheBachelorGirl said...

I am shocked that you asked the fitness trainer to put your dislocated shoulder back in its socket and that you didn't go to the ER or a sports doctor immediately. Loka ako! (This is coming from a person who runs to the doctor for the smallest thing.)

Andy Briones said...

I think I'm in love with your company doctor. Can I get a date? lol. :p

JCP said...

Glad you are safe, out of harm's way, and landed for some time in the arms of a cute doc :)


ian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ian said...

aw, gibbs, sorry to hear that. that was really scary! good to know you're alright...

on another note, at least you got to be with your "unbelievably cute" PT... :D

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