deep thoughts on… reflexes.

05Sep16

So… I’ve been wondering about my spinal reflexes. (Which has me thinking about new disease activity. I guess it’s time for yet another doctor’s appointment…)

Just over a week ago, I was unloading band equipment from our truck, the electric piano teetered in a way I didn’t expect, and… well, I caught it, and the piano didn’t get hurt. But I got bruised badly in a few places (namely, my right hand, which affects… many, many daily activities, being my dominant side).

Thinking back, while I was falling, it took a split second before my brain realized what was going on. It was as though the action started happening, and then I took action to try catching myself — but it was too late.

And I’m realizing, over the past year, I’ve had a few similar situations that have been weird, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it: I trip over something minor while walking, and while others (with a normal nervous system) would immediately catch themselves and keep going, I sometimes fail to do so. Again, it’s like the split second of realization: “hey, brain, we’re falling! Let’s do something about that, body, why don’t we?”

I’m also realizing that I often subconsciously remove falling/trip hazards from paths I walk in the house a lot… I hadn’t known I was doing that, until I put this whole pattern together.

It’s instinctive, right, when we start to fall, to brace ourselves, whether with hands, through core muscles, or whatever. I was wondering if my otherwise-strong core had gotten weaker. But no… I’m thinking that it’s another victim of MS, where the muscles just aren’t getting the message quickly enough.

Reflexes are so instantaneous that most of them don’t even have to travel through the brain; many of them are processed in the spinal cord gray and white matter instead. (It saves precious nanoseconds, which matter, here!) But those of us with MS, who have damage in our brain and/or spinal cord, may have weakening reflexes.

I already knew my patellar reflex was weak — that’s the one where they hit below your knee with the little hammer. But that’s a function of the weakness of my quadriceps muscles, which has been one of the first to go, for me. And I work hard to maintain at least average strength — this is within my control.

But the general spinal reflexes going — this is scary as hell. You may have gathered that they serve as protective mechanisms. So, that I’m noticing a functional loss there… how much more am I going to lose?

Contacting my specialist soon. I’ve never had a thoracic MRI (which is where I think this loss of function is); on the other hand, what would they tell me other than “yes, you have regions of damage”?

Sigh. Keep on keeping on!

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