I went to the doctor today. Not just any doctor, but a doctor at the university’s Sports Medicine Clinic. The clinic is located in the school’s gymnasium complex, a building that has, until now, remained as mysterious to me as the Great Pyramid, or the inside of a church. No more.
I was dispatched to the clinic to investigate how it is that my shoulders came to be replaced by two jagged rocks, the dimensions of which have grown steadily larger over the last year. As I explained to the doctor, the rocks hurt like a motherfucker, and I’d really like them to stop.
After some exceptionally painful prodding, the doctor pronounced that I am afflicted with costovertebral joint dysfunction: T 3/4 R, T 2/3/4 L. She then wheeled a life-sized model skeleton into the examining room and cheerily explained my condition. She must get paid very well.
“See that?” she said, pointing to the back of the skeleton. “That’s where the ribs connect to the spine. The problem is that your ribs aren’t connected properly anymore. They’re twisting upward,” she continued, jerking a rib upward for effect, “which causes the surrounding muscle tissue to protect itself by going into spasm.”
“Oh,” I said tonelessly. “So, what causes this?”
“You probably injured yourself at some point, and the problem has become worse over time,” she explained. “Do you play sports?”
I looked at her like she had just asked me to join the Raelians. “Um, no. I don’t play sports.”
She frowned, a little disapprovingly, I thought. “Okay, have you been in any accidents?” I shook my head, no. “Or strained yourself?”
I thought about it. As a graduate student, I engage in virtually no physical activity of any kind, so it wouldn’t be anything obvious. Could it have been the time I carried seventeen books home from the library to read for my synthesis paper? Or was it that day a few months back when I flipped my mattress all by myself, despite the fact that the tag clearly states “DO NOT FLIP ALONE”? The only other possibility I could come up with was that I had carelessly lifted an especially heavy bottle of beer some night at the Café, but was already too drunk to notice.
By this time, the sports doctor had written me a referral for physiotherapy and was ushering me out of the examining room. As I waited to book an appointment with the receptionist (who was so healthy and blond he was practically Danish), I realized that I have lived with constant pain for months, thinking all the while that it was perfectly normal. Apparently, it isn’t. It will also, apparently, cost me $42 per session to find out what life is like without it. Screed to follow.