Monday, April 30, 2012

Nope, not yet; the report from week 7.

I was in an overly optimistic mood this morning as I drove over for my appointment and hopeful of getting my cast replaced by a removable brace.  But although he was pleased with my progress my bone man said I need another two weeks in the green monster.  So, no sneaking over to the rink to squeeze one last public session before the ice goes away for two months.  I'll be glad to get rid of the cast before hot weather truly arrives.  This coming week features 70 and 80 degree days, which it a tad warm for early May.  So far I've been spared the dreaded impossible-to-scratch-inside-of-the-cast itchiness that everyone gleefully keeps telling me is part of the program.  One thing I am noticing is that my right arm now noticeably stinks--be sure to sit up wind if we meet!

Ah, come on.  You're over reacting!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Beer consumption and bone mass

While trolling through literature on PubMed relating to bone metabolism I found an entry with an eye catching title--one which will cause some of my readers to roll their eyes while others will say "Yeah baby! Finally some goods news for a change!"  Anyway, here's the abstract of the article (I love the last phase of the conclusion):

Effect of beer drinking on ultrasound bone mass in women.


Department of Nursing, University of Extremadura, Caceres, Spain.



To study the effect of beer consumption on bone mass in a group of healthy women, by using phalangeal bone ultrasound to evaluate the amplitude-dependent speed of sound.


This was a cross-sectional study of 1697 healthy women (mean age 48.4 y, body mass index (BMI) 19.0-32.0 kg/m(2)), recruited in a clinical convenience sample and screened for the existence of disease and/or medication that would affect calcium metabolism. Of this total, 710 were premenopausal, 176 were perimenopausal, and 811 were postmenopausal. The women recruited completed a questionnaire that contained detailed sections on current cigarette, alcohol, caffeine, and nutrient consumption. In terms of current alcohol intake, the subjects were classified as moderate drinkers, light drinkers, and nondrinkers. Drinkers were also analyzed according to the kind of alcohol consumed: wine or beer.


Quantitative bone ultrasound values were greater in the beer drinkers compared with the no beer and/or wine drinkers. Taking the amplitude-dependent speed of sound as a dependent variable, and age, BMI, gonadal status, intake of beer and wine, and number of cigarettes per day as independent variables, we found age (beta = -1.52), BMI (beta = -3.86), gonadal status (beta = -27.47), and beer intake (beta = 1.06) to be significant.


The greater bone density found in women beer drinkers might be a result of the phytoestrogen content of this alcoholic drink; this requires further investigation.

Those interested in reading the entire paper can find it at this link:

Enjoy!  (Remember to skate and drink responsibly...)

Friday, April 20, 2012

Reflections at week five.

No x-rays to share this week, just a few comments for others who may have broken an arm since I did and are reading these posts in an attempt to gauge the healing process.  Keep in mind that while my progress can probably be extrapolated to a general population, it is still somewhat unique to me.  To review my particulars: I'm male, Caucasian, 65 and am in relatively good health.  Your gender, age, genetic make up, plus the presence of diseases, such as type two diabetes for example, may influence your rate of repair.  As they say by way of disclaimer in automobile ads "your mileage may vary".

So, let's get to it: although my arm is still tender when I attempt certain tasks such as twisting jar lids, I've noticed that other things like tying my shoes are becoming much less painful.  Also, my elbow joint has returned to full range of motion without stiffness.  I no longer bother with an arm sling.  My shorty cast limits how much I can flex my fingers either up or down or side to side and that's probably a good thing since some of those motions are still stingy.

I find myself increasingly wondering if I can pull on and lace up my skates yet.  While I'm tempted to say no, I may have to test that little assumption this weekend.  Bowie Ice Arena melts the ice for annual maintenance at the end of this month.  The rink will be off line until July.  I next see my doctor on the morning of the 30th. The last public session is that afternoon.  Will I be out of the short cast and into a removable brace in time for one last skate before the compressors are switched off?  We shall see...

Friday, April 13, 2012

The report from week four.

This past Tuesday was four weeks to the day when I broke my arm.  Four weeks of not being able to move my elbow.  Four weeks of awkward, restless sleeping.  The original prediction was that a guy my age might be able to move to a short cast by the six week mark, but not to get my hopes up as it might be longer.  However I'm fairly active and for the most part I've avoided taking NSAIDs for pain (opinions are divided over whether or not that class of pain relievers inhibits bone metabolism but I decided to not take a chance and just toughed it out) so hope springs eternal. After four weeks of lugging around a heavy cast which continually made my neck ache due to the constantly sagging arm sling, I was ready for a change.  I drove over for my appointment knowing that at the very least , my old long, plaster splint would be removed for the x-ray and that I'd get a chance to wash my shriveled, smelly arm.

In the x-ray on the far right one can see the shadowy area towards the distal end (end closest to the wrist) of the radius bone where the fracture is mending.  The radius is no longer displaced in an upward direction.
My orthopedic surgeon was pleased enough with my progress that he ordered a short fiberglass cast which allows me to flex my elbow for the first time in a month. Sprung from my plaster prison in four weeks--not bad for a geezer! After attempting to sleep with an awkwardly immobilized arm this was a big deal!

Slim,trim, sleek and racy:  my new fiberglass short cast.  I was sorely tempted to choose the girly ROAR fluorescent pink color scheme--there didn't seem to be a sexy, black carbon fiber option.  In the end I settled for the classic British Racing Green look.  Unlike my former plaster cast, which was covered with soft "ace" bandaging, this cast is made of water activated "pre-preg" fiberglass. I was impressed with how quick it set up once the tech had dropped the roll into a basin of water--he had to work quickly--this stuff could be useful around boats... You can see one end of the wrap towards my elbow.  This is just one of several a hard, abrasive, raised edges which make pulling sleeves on and off a chore.  The rough edges also gnaw at my skin here and there and I need to be mindful around the good furniture so as not to scratch the wood .  I'm thinking about getting out my orbital sander and seeing if I can knock those ridges down a touch.
So, what else can I report at the four week mark?  For one thing, my right hand fingers are still swollen and tasks such as twisting the tops off of jars and beer bottles, tying shoes, etc. are still painfully challenging.  And I now know how the tin man felt after being left out in the rain--my right elbow was initially very stiff and achy after being being locked down for a month. Having the freedom to move that joint does improve sleeping and I also can once more use scissors to trim my fingernails (just in time).  I'm still writing and shaving with my left hand. And although the ability to flex my right elbow now permits exercise in the form of right-handed "Budweiser curls", the geometry of the cast at my hand makes grasping and aiming the bottle so that the contents are delivered to my mouth and not down the front of my shirt, a bit of an adventure.  I'm sticking with cheap twist-off beers until better control is achieved--this is a real quality of life issue...

How long will I be in the shorty cast? Good question.  I assume at some point in early May I'll be healed enough to get this one sawed off and have my arm in a removable brace.  At that point I'll start physical therapy to regain strength in my withered arm.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

An incremental improvement

Dear constant reader:  by now you've probably cottoned on to the notion that it doesn't take much to get me excited.  Of course you're right--especially when that small improvement gets me that tiny bit closer to normalcy in terms of my daily routine.  Earlier I posted about my struggles with keeping my cast dry during showers. At first I put my arm in a kitchen sized trash bag and had diaristwoman help tape it around my arm.  That was OK so long as she was around to help.  The next iteration was to wrap my arm with kitchen cling wrap and tape the ends shut with packing tape.  This was better because I could do it myself.  However there were days when I'd drop the roll of cling wrap mid way through the job.  This provoked language unsuitable for a civilized household.  What to do?  At about that time I was devoting most of my brain energy into the development of my now famous CAST SHIELD and just didn't have any good ideas to advance on the shower protector front.

Fortunately one of my readers, TNT, supplied the necessary direction:  her basic bit of wisdom was "lookit dummy, you're not the first apple-knocker who's busted an arm--show a little initiative and do a Google search on cast protector."  And so I did.  Lo and behold there's a goodly selection of purpose-made plastic, slip on cast protectors fighting for one's attention in the market place.  They ranged from ones with velcro closures to others with straps and still others with elastic closures--who knew?  Armed with this info I went to my local Rite-Aid pharmacy.  I asked the young kassörska to direct me to the cast protector department but drew only a blank stare.  She repeated my question to middle management who said "if we have 'em they'll be over in aisle eleven."  Unfortunately aisle eleven yielded nothing which remotely resembled what I was looking for.  Indeed there wasn't even an empty slot on the shelf where cast protectors might have once a upona been placed.  Now this was towards the back of the store close to the pharmacy.  The Pharmacist watched me pacing up and down the aisle and finally asked what I was looking for. After showing her my arm and explaining my mission she whispered one word in my ear: "Walgreens."

"Easy One-handed Application; No need for Tape or Straps".  Sounds like my kinda product.

The sleeves come two per package and live up to the promise of being strong enough to reuse.  I've used this one for the better part of a week and it's still snug and leak free.  The sleeve is sealed all the way around except for an incredibly small elasticized opening in the back (you can see where the passage of my cast has stretched it a bit--but it's still good and snug).  At first I didn't think I'd be able to feed my arm into such a small opening but the elastic stretched and stretched as the sleeve swallowed my arm cast and all.

Now I'm sure that all the broken bone experts in the audience are probably cluck-clucking that all this is terribly obvious and hardly worth posting but for broken bone newbs, such as myself, this info isn't all that apparent, and so I post it in the hope that the info makes some other skater's life just that little tad easier.  Thanks again to TNT for the tip!  Oh, one final point:  Walgreens has these for the foot/lower leg as well.  I do hope I never need to explore that aisle again!