No diagnosis is kind of okay sometimes …

… even if I am exercising all of my will-power in trying not to have a panic attack about not knowing exactly what it is that’s going on!

lookingaroundI ran across an article on facebook, and the timing of finding it could not have been better. I’ve been concerned about Eli’s hock, which yesterday looked basically normal–no swelling left. He’s not lame. Do I call the vet? Do I wait and see? Well, the wait and see strategy is the way I’m going on this one, and because of so much rain last week, I’d be holding off on riding for a few more days regardless.

The article made me feel slightly justified in my decision not to call a vet in with imaging equipment. Sometimes, it’s okay not to know exactly what’s going on, especially if the treatment will be the same. It also reminded me of my own experience with random swelling.

prettymellowwalkA few years ago, I was sitting at my desk at work, minding my own business, when my left elbow started swelling. FAST. I went to the nurse’s office at work, and he asked if I had bumped it or if something bit me or if I ate something I’m allergic to … Answers in the negative on all counts. By the end of the day, my entire left arm was swollen to the size of my leg. It wasn’t hot, and I didn’t have streaky red marks running down my arm or anything like that (which would mean get thee to the ER, for you have an infection of the drastic sort). I went to my general practitioner and he offered: gout, lymphedema, torn tendon or muscle. Since I wasn’t in pain and hadn’t just had breast surgery, we ruled out all of that. He sent me to a sports medicine orthopedic surgeon.

The orthopedist was hilarious. His first words were, “whoa, your arm is really swollen!” Thanks, dude. I already got that far all on my own. He took some x-rays to rule out any fractures, and there were none. He did note that my ulnas were not straight and looked like one had been broken and healed crooked, which is not something that happened to me. So, huh. He said I could get and MRI if I wanted, but it would probably be a waste because he didn’t need an MRI to see that my tissue was swelling. He poked around my arm, noted that it was cold to the touch, and proclaimed that my arm was full of water.

In short, I stumped him.

He agreed with me that he had no idea why my arm was swollen. He suggested elevating it, taking some Advil, trying a compression bandage if I could find one small enough, and give it a week. If it was still swollen after a week, come back and we’ll do some more rigorous testing for rare conditions and whatnot. The swelling gradually disappeared over a week’s time.

The not-swollen left hock

The not-swollen left hock

That’s my experience with no diagnosis. You can easily see why I am drawing this parallel–if Eli isn’t lame and the swelling is gone, what good would radiographs and ultrasounds have been? He’s getting time off either way because of the weather. Would it be nice to know that nothing is torn or chipped? Of course. But do I kind of know that anyway, having had experience with tears and chips before and that such things result in lameness pretty much every time (maybe not chips, but tears are my primary concern)? Yep. Am I in a hurry to do stuff with Eli, like a show? Not right now–work will keep me out of the show ring until June. So, he gets a vacation and I get to save a few hundred bucks. Getting comfortable with not knowing is not a bad skill to cultivate.

right hock

The formerly-swollen right hock

Additionally, I would like to thank everyone for the positive feedback and kind words on my last post. I was really just trying to rant constructively about a non-horsey friend sending me an infuriating text. I’m so glad you all have enjoyed it and I am very appreciative!

13 thoughts on “No diagnosis is kind of okay sometimes …

  1. I think it’s a good rule that if the tests won’t change your treatment, then there’s no need to put yourself or your boy through the stress and expense. Hope he’s in tip-top shape soon!


  2. Some wise person pointed out, although we have come a long way in diagnosing injury, the treatment is still the same. Rest, Wrap, external help (ice, cold hosing), internal help (pain killers, probiotics) and TIME.


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