The Rockwood Files: Out of place

rockwood files colorBy Gwen Rockwood, newspaper columnist and mama of 3

It happened again. It started out as an occasional twinge of discomfort between my shoulder blades, just a little to the right of my spine.

I felt it when I turned a certain way or looked over my shoulder to back out of the garage. After a day or so, the annoyance became more insistent, like a door-to-door salesman who won’t quit knocking. After hearing me grumble about it, Tom reminded me I still had a spa gift card I’d received for Christmas last year. So I scheduled an appointment, certain a massage therapist could work out the muscle spasm.

As amazing as an hour on the massage table was, it only temporarily soothed that angry area of my back. Two days later, it was back and felt like someone was sticking a broom handle into my back and leaning into it. No matter which way I turned, I couldn’t escape it.

As I picked up the kids from school that day, I squirmed in the driver’s seat to find a more comfortable position. I arched my back and tried to stretch it, but the sticking pain made me feel like I couldn’t take a deep breath. (Ironically, the exact moment when you feel like you can’t get a deep breath is also the moment you feel like you desperately need one.) That panicky feeling was accompanied by a strong surge of déjà vu, and I finally recognized the pain in my back for what it was – a slipped rib.

I’d felt it once before about this same time last year, and it took a visit to my chiropractor to pop it back into place. I called and made an appointment for the next day. In the meantime, I Googled “how to pop a rib back into place” and found some questionable methods on the Internet that my better judgement told me not to try at home.

The next day I arrived at the chiropractor’s office, eager to get my rib and my daily routine back in place. When the doctor came in and asked if I’d had an injury that could have caused the rib to slip out of joint, I had nothing interesting to offer. There was no extreme workout to report. No rock-climbing adventure. Not even a session of brisk jogging. I had no choice but to go with the truth. “I think I may have slept on it funny.”

The doctor nodded her head sympathetically and jotted down a few words in her notes. I’m guessing it was something like “Whiny middle-aged woman injured while napping.”

She ran her hand up my spine and then went to work, turning me every which way and applying just enough pressure to snap, crackle and pop my rib back into its proper place. I stretched my back and took in a nice, deep breath that felt incredible.

I asked the doctor if she thought my wayward rib would be an ongoing problem, popping out without provocation. She said it was possible. “Sometimes we have a weak spot and this might be yours,” she explained.

I wanted to tell her I have many weaknesses – cheese dip, sweet tea, fudgy brownies – and that a rebel rib isn’t something I’d like to add to the list. But I knew there was no point grouching about something I can’t change. The rib, just like people and our life circumstances, can get out of whack from time to time.

Whether it’s a wayward rib or a bad habit or a difficult situation, perhaps the best we can do is to call it what it is, find help when we need it, and get what’s out of place put back in line.

gwen-headshot-2014Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.