I broke a bone in my hand at the start of August. I was out jogging during my lunch break at work, and I tripped somehow; I’m not actually sure what happened, maybe there was some uneven sidewalk pavement, or something? At any rate, my toe got caught and my whole body pivoted around it, converting my forward momentum into downward momentum. I stuck out my hands to brace the fall; probably a good idea, given that, even with my arm absorbing some of the momentum, I still face planted pretty hard.

At the time, I honestly wasn’t sure what state I was in. My face and arms were scraped up; my legs weren’t in too bad a shape, fortunately. My glasses were holding together but they had a fair amount of blood on them, so I took them off. I was still able to walk and there wasn’t anything causing me to scream in pain, so I decided to walk back to the office and do a more thorough evaluation there.

I must have looked like I was in pretty bad shape (no surprise, given that I already knew I had blood on my face and arms), given my coworkers’ reactions; I wish I’d thought to take a picture of myself before cleaning it off, but, well, I was distracted. At any rate, with the help of coworkers, I got the blood cleaned off and got bandaids on some of the worst bits.


I still wasn’t completely sure what shape I was in. At first I was afraid that I might have broken my nose, my hand, and/or my glasses; but actually my glasses were surprisingly usable, and I didn’t feel any bones moving in weird ways in my nose and my hand, so maybe they were okay? (I looked at my glasses more carefully later, and there were a few small scratches, but nothing that interfered with my vision in a really noticeable way; yay Warby Parker, I guess their glasses are pretty solid! Also my Apple Watch was quite visibly scratched up; totally usable, but it made me glad that I was already planning to replace it this year.)

But, on the other hand, maybe my hand and/or nose weren’t okay; I’d gone through enough that I figured I should get things checked out. It didn’t seem serious enough to go to the emergency room, so I called Liesl and asked her to pick me up and take me to the urgent care center at my doctor’s office.


I was still feeling not horrible, so once I was checked in, I was pretty confident that she didn’t need to wait for me. It took maybe an hour for them to see me; by then, the adrenaline had definitely worn off. And, with the adrenaline wearing off, my nose still didn’t feel too bad, but I was starting to get a little more suspicious about my hand.

They cleaned things up, took a look, and bandaged me. And the doctor agreed that my nose seemed fine, but he also thought that my hand needed more looking at, so he had x-rays taken. The x-rays confirmed that there was a broken bone; it was in the bone that’s on the outside of my left palm (basically the part of my pinky that’s inside my palm), and was a clean break. So he put on a splint, wrapping my hand and immobilizing my hand and fingers.

And then Liesl came to pick me up, and we went to the drug store to pick up a whole bunch of bandages, so I could replace them regularly. (Or rather, so Liesl could replace them regularly! I was very glad to have her looking after me.)


I went to an actual hand doctor four days later; he took a look and agreed with the diagnosis. Clean break, shouldn’t actually take too long to heal. The splint got replaced with something a little less intrusive, only immobilizing the pinky and ring finger, and that second splint was possible to remove when showering. (For the first splint, I left it on and wrapped it in a plastic bag when showering.)

By then, the rest of the abrasions had almost completely healed; there had been a quite noticeble amount of blood initially but it seems like it all came from a bunch of relatively shallow surface scratches. And Liesl was great about helping me deal with wrapping things back up every morning, of course.

Having three fingers free with the smaller splint was nice, too: it made typing and driving easier. Or at least mostly made them easier: the splint on the outside two fingers was decently long, and it was curved just enough to be annoying: when typing, I had to tilt my hand a bit to avoid having the splint hit keys, and if I put my hand on its normal position when driving then the splint would activate my turn signal. Still, totally workable.

I didn’t think Tai Chi was workable at this point, though. And most of my Nei Gong exercises weren’t workable either, because they had me move my fingers / hand / wrist in ways that aren’t particularly compatible with the splint, and that in some cases might put undesired stress on my hand. But some of them were totally fine (e.g. exercises that focus solely on breathing or concentration); and, honestly, I hadn’t been spending as much time on that sort of exercise as I’d like, so I kind of appreciated having an excuse to focus on those for a month!


Two and a half weeks later, I went back for a follow-up appointment. I got a clean bill of health; and they switched me to a brace that left all of my fingers free. It’s actually not 100% obvious to me exactly what the role of that brace was: it did cover the place where the bone broke, but it’s not like there was tons of padding right there or anything. It had a piece of metal which prevented me from moving my wrist very much; I guess that was its main purpose?

Certainly that was a big improvement: it made typing and driving easier, partly because I could move all of my fingers and partly because the splint wasn’t hitting random things. And I started doing Tai Chi again, at least in part; I couldn’t do all of the silk reeling exercises, and there were bits of our main form that I either couldn’t quite do or had to do with quite a bit less force than normal. But ultimately, that form was still doable, as were some (but not all) of the weapons forms. Nei Gong was still about as restricted as before, though: not being able to bend my wrist really restricted the set of exercises I could do there.

I took off the brace a couple of times a day to do stretching exercises. I could definitely tell that my wrist was less mobile than it had been; in particular, I couldn’t rotate my left hand side to side (on the plane of my palm) nearly as far as I could rotate my right palm, and it hurt when I tried to push it. I’m still not entirely sure what was causing the restrictions there – the place that hurt wasn’t right where the broken bone was, I don’t think anything was shifting there – but there was a clear effect.


Four weeks later, I went back again; I got another set of x-rays, they were clean, so I was okayed to have the brace off most of the time. They warned me that the break still wasn’t completely healed, and in particular that I’d be at greater risk of re-breaking the bone at that location for another four weeks or so, but it also wasn’t so fragile that it needed to be coddled all the time. I decided to wear the brace while walking Velvet, in case I got tugged in a weird way, but other than that I left it off.

The nurse also made some comment like “you’ve probably already been leaving it off some of the time already”, and honestly, I wish I had; the restricted range of motion was kind of annoying, in a way that felt like I’d gone too far in terms of immobilizing it and having bits of my hand seize up in bad ways? Having said that, it had only been a couple of months, so presumably I could undo the effects by stretching it regularly.

And I increased my activities still more. I tried out push hands in my Tai Chi class; that was a mistake the first week, but a couple of weeks later it felt okay for me to do that, at least for a few minutes. And I started getting a little more forceful in the movements that I’d toned down. I was also able to basically go back to doing my normal set of Nei Gong exercises.

I also started practicing piano for the first time since breaking my hand. And I will say: before going through this, I didn’t realize how much playing piano involves rotating your hands along the plane of your palms. It makes total sense in retrospect – if both hands are playing keys near the center of your body, then they’ll both have to rotate, after all – but it’s just never something I’d thought about.

That definitely hurt some, as did the contortions that my fingers had to go through to play various phrases. But, ultimately, that’s actually an example of the kind of range of motion that I really want to recover, and it didn’t feel like I was re-injuring myself; so I tried to practice piano every day, but with a mindset of doing it in order to regain mobility, instead of doing it in order to actually improve my ability to play pieces musically. And I think it helped.


Now it’s a little over two months since I got the brace off, and things are pretty much back to normal. Not entirely: if I push my hands to the limit, I still feel like my left hand isn’t the way it was before. (But the flip side is that I don’t actually know what its range of motion was before!) And if I do single hand push hands with my left hand, it aches a bit; nothing that’s strongly dissuading me or anything, but it’s still there.

Honestly, though: if you’re going to break a bone in your body, this is about as easy as it can be. I broke a non-critical bone in my non-dominant hand, but my hand was usable enough that I could work by the next week, I could use all of my fingers a couple of weeks after that, and I didn’t even have a brace less than two months after breaking things. And that seems fine: in terms of potential and actual road blocks in my life, this was a pretty small road block.

One change is that it’s made me gun-shy enough about jogging that I’ve stopped doing that. And part of me is glad, because I didn’t actually enjoy jogging, but my lungs (and heart too, I guess?) really did benefit from the exercise, I think, it’s a different form of exercise than any other that I do.

Most of me says that this is silly and that I should get back to jogging: it was a fluke, I shouldn’t let that throw me. But there’s also a part of me that says that maybe it wasn’t entirely a fluke; bad luck, sure, but not that bad? The possible issues there might have been that I just wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing, or that I actually was stumbling a little more than is comfortable.

If so, part of the reason for not paying attention is that maybe I get too distracted by devices; I definitely wasn’t checking my phone when I fell, but still, maybe my phone or watch distracted me? (I was listening to a podcast, but that should be okay.) But also my pants were fitting badly (I’ve lost twenty five pounds over the last year, and I was waiting until my weight stabilized before replacing my panst), and that actually was distracting me at that time. (Since then, I’ve bought pants that fit better.) So, hopefully if I can just be present a little more when jogging, including actively paying attention to pavement irregularities, then I shouldn’t get too distracted.

Then there’s potential clumsiness. I feel like I might actually have been stumbling more than I historically had been? If that’s true and I had to guess as to why, my first guess would be tiredness; I’ve been noticeably more tired than I would like over the last few years, and while that’s been improving, I still have work to do. And in particular over the summer we got a puppy, and while she’s a great puppy, that definitely interfered noticeably with my sleep for several months.

So I’ll keep on monitoring the situation; and maybe I’ll get back to jogging at some point? Or maybe I’ll find another way to get similar health benefits; swimming would probably be an even idea, but that would require actively finding time in a way that jogging doesn’t so good luck with that. Not committing to anything one way or another right now, there are other things that are a higher priority for me right now.

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