Skinny Jean Disease

As I mentioned sometime this week, I am really enjoying Corey’s blog about adopting Emma. They are now officially her parents. Woo-hoo! BUT… I must say that I enjoyed JC’s blog entry today. He shared his thoughts about the culture in St. Pete’s. It sent my mind spinning with so many different stories that I want to share.

First, the whole European skinny jean thing reminds me of my first trip to Spain. Alex was studying abroad and we met up with a group of his friends. This one guy approaches me and starts speaking to me in Spanish. Finally, I looked at him and said, “I’m Alex’s sister.” He stopped short and said, “Oh… I’m from Cary.” Later I told Alex about what happened. He instantly pointed out that he would never confuse me with a Spaniard. My jeans aren’t tight enough.

Second, there is a disease that you can get from wearing tight jeans. Disease might not be the right word for it. But it is probably not what you are thinking. It is actually a pinched nerve causing numbness down the exterior of your thigh. Why do I know this? Because I have it. Not from trying to stuff myself back into my pre-pregnancy wear. I’m still enjoying the ease of not using a zipper, at least part-time. (Reason to buy those below the waist maternity jeans, moms-to-be!)

For some reason, I have meralgia paresthetica, which is triggered by pregnancy, obesity, diabetes, and the recent fashion phenomenon of extremely skinny jeans. One person complained of the issue after leaving her laptop on the same position of her lap for too long. Another gave up wearing their wallet in the front pocket. Is this the opposite of George Costanza’s fat wallet, which included some hard candy in his back pocket? I am willing to bet that my wallet is in the top ten percent of smallest wallets out there. And I rarely, if ever, carry it in a pocket, causing any additional clothing constraint against my body.

At one point during my labor, a new nurse appeared around my right foot. When a contraction hit, she pushed my leg up to my shoulder. Okay maybe not, but I remember thinking wow! She can help me pop this baby out. She must have been delivering a message to another nurse, because after that she was gone. But I often wonder if her super strong resistance is the source of the pinched nerve in my hip.

Later in the hospital, I tried to get out of the bed. I left my right leg in place and dropped my left leg to the floor. This sounds totally normal. But instead I received an electric jolt down the exterior of my thigh. I kept asking the anesthesiologists about it, but they swore it had nothing to do with the epidural. Neither did my numb top digit of my left hand middle finger. I’ll give that one up to a psychosomatic injury after how I felt about my delivering chief resident. My OB said that things loosen up and get pinched and it should eventually go away. It hasn’t, but it has improved.

I seem to notice it flare up as I rub my feet together. Brendan informed me that it is called “the fly” when I rub my feet against one another. It drives Henry nuts. While I was pregnant, he threatened to tie our child’s feet apart if they picked up the trait from me. I promised that he would want them to have some sort of self-soothing mechanism like sucking their thumb or rubbing their feet. I pulled out a specially curved pillow to place between your knees to help with hip pain. And that seems to help.

The first week after Lucy’s delivery, I had Peter, Dr. Wu’s son, come over to do a little acupuncture. This helped me recover tremendously. Before my first treatment, I would have electric shocks rip through my legs, especially when I laughed. How awful is that! But that has seriously subsided. Now my leg mainly bothers me when I am sitting in certain positions. In some situations, I don’t even notice that the outside muscle of my leg is completely numb. At other times, it is tingly. When it bothers me the most, it feels like an itch that can’t fully be scratched. Tickling or light touch really bothers it.

I did receive one treatment from the chiropractor when I took Lucy for her breastfeeding issues. It miraculously worked for her. But my treatment seemed to help me carry her comfortably in her carrier more so than heal my outer thigh. But instead of continuing treatment from the chiropractor, I have had my primary care physician, who is a DO, stretch me out. It is great. I always feel so tall after my visits.

I even ordered another two Miracle Balls in attempt to find a miracle. These are grapefruit-sized exercise balls that you lay on to stretch out tight muscles. I took them with me to my delivery. I couldn’t find a helpful position for them and one never found it’s way back into my bag. So now I have three different sized Miracle Balls. But the larger five inch seems to help when I rest on it just above my hip while resting on my side.

I have tried acupuncture a couple of more times. But each time my right leg would completely drop down so that it looked like my big toe was at about two minutes down to about 11 minutes. My hip was certainly relaxing, but I think that part of the problem was my hip is too loose to begin with. Then when you get pregnant, everything loosens up to let the baby out. Good thing I have skin and muscles to help hold everything together.

When I took Dr. Wu the article about the woman lactating after a mastectomy, he read it after he applied the needles on my front. At that time I didn’t know where the point was located. But based on his reaction, I wasn’t sure that he did either. He told me that I should eat fish soup and pig’s feet. I know. I remember Peter told me the same thing. Mrs. Wu gave me a bag of herbs, which are at my studio for a future art project.

As a final request, I told him that my shoulders were very sore. He asked me which one and I said both. So he put needles around my right shoulder. I was so tired that I didn’t ask for him to do my left. When I returned home, my milk actually improved on the right side. Even if I didn’t know where the point was, Making More Milk suggests getting an upper back massage and loosening up your shoulders. So I thought, I definitely need to have my shoulders treated. I waited until I was almost too old to have a baby.

As college football season made it’s debut in #22, I left Henry and Lucy over at Rocky’s. (Yes, I do let that baby out of my sight.) I sat down and made a wish list for acupuncture. Since I was having low milk supply issues again, I was determined to make sure Dr. Wu hit the right spot. I spent a good hour going through this acupuncture web site, picking out problems that I am having. I googled points along with terms like “meralgia paresthetica” and compiled them in a word document.

I finally honed in on a point (BL40 Wei Zhong) that was mentioned in a Korean academic article. Of course, I couldn’t read the article, but with the magic of Google, there was a brief English statement that gave me enough evidence to try the point. It couldn’t hurt (besides being stuck with needles). Seriously, in some extreme cases of meralgia paresthetica, Western medicine suggestions you kill the nerve… or place something against your spine. Are you crazy? I would rather just have someone stick needles all over my body and sleep under a heat lamp for 45 minutes. Once you get past the needles, it is really relaxing. And it is like multi-tasking! Plus Dr. Wu throws in another 25-30 for good measure, for issues like stress and balance. According to the following descriptions, GB30 will heal me from Malaria, Mental Disorders and Tinnitus. You have to love that. I don’t even have Malaria. The other two, well, maybe a touch of both. But they are not why I picked it.

These were my requested points:

SI11 • Tian Zong • Small Intestine 11 Celestial Gathering (for low milk supply)
BL57 • Cheng Shan • Bladder 57 Mountain Support
BL40 • Wei Zhong • Bladder 40 Bend Middle
SI3 • Hou Xi • Small Intestine 3 Back Ravine
GB30 • Huan Tiao • Gall Bladder 30 Jumping Round

Coincidentally, they were all on my back. So I wanted to make sure that he knew which ones I wanted. I printed each of these descriptions out, highlighted the name of the spot, the location in the picture, and the disorder I was hoping to correct.

That was my most restful visit to the acupuncturist ever. I had creases from the sheets on the front of my body. Plus acupuncture is like meditating a little. This phrase kept popping up “rest assured.” I finally felt rest assured that I will be able to breastfeed Lucy. But besides that, my thigh feels better. It is still numb, but not quite so electric. I am hoping a couple of more visits will help it spontaneously heal.

Until then, I try to be careful with sitting and how I stand, which is good anyway. I have a tendency to pop my knees back and hips forward, which is an awful, unattractive habit I inherited and further aggravates the pinched nerve. Plus I’ll continue to reexamine other bad habits with things like clothing or accessories. Just like George.

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  1. Fiona

    I found your blog while googling meralgia paresthetica. I have it too and it is soooo annoying. Not severe like some I have read of on the internet, but it makes me want to scream and punch someone with the tension I am experiencing down the side of my legs. Tingling a little, and numb, and sensitive. Sounds like you have had an extra rough time though. Interesting to hear about your acupuncture experience, thanks for that.
    All the best!

  2. Caroline Armijo

    Thanks, Fiona! I hope that it helps. You will have to let me know if you try. Do you know what triggered it for you? I need to go back and work on the same points. I have returned to physical therapy and I am trying to improve my posture, which is helping, as well.

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