This week my occupational therapist taught me about the humunculous.
Did you know that an enormous amount of your brain is devoted to your hands alone?
This cool little statue represents how much of your brain is devoted to the sensory functions in that region of your body. (I’m sure I’m not understanding or explaining this fully, but I think you get the drift). In other words, what your legs are doing and feeling just aren’t as important to your brain as your hands are.
Side note – I could not find a female version of the humunculous, a fact I found annoying.
Anyway, the reason my OT taught me about this is that when I broke my wrist back in October, my brain responded by making my arm HYPERSENSITIVE to all sensations: anything warm feels like it’s burning me, cool feels like ice, a soft shirtsleeve feels like sandpaper. It’s disturbing and painful at times, but mostly for me, it has become a fascination. Now that I’m past the most painful stage, I’ve become obsessed touching different tabletops and fabrics, running my hands under different temperatures of water. Feeling the textures of different types of paper is probably the strangest of all.
It’s as if I’ve developed a superpower – I can feel a huge difference between, say, our smooth wooden butcher block counter top on the island of our kitchen, and the wooden table top of our kitchen table. Huge differences! I can feel an enormous difference between the copy paper I printed on from home, and copy paper from school–even the temperature! (School’s paper is much smoother and colder!) It’s wild!
Each day, however, with the stretches and exercises I’m doing, my hand and lower arm are a tiny bit less hypersensitive and a little more flexible than the day before. My brain is hooking back up to the nerves in my hand, is how my OT explained it. I’m thankful for this and working hard toward a full recovery. But a weird, sad little part of me misses some of the magic of it. My arm no longer feels like it’s on fire – but I also can no longer feel what once was a gigantic difference between the shirtsleeve of my grey sweatshirt, and my blue sweatshirt (the blue one was waaaay softer).