Out of kelter

I have pulled a muscle somewhere behind my right shoulder blade. Or it feels as though it’s behind… but really it’s difficult to tell because the sharp stabs of pain shoot forth with the undirected vigour of an exploding firework.

Throwing Maizy’s ball over-enthusiastically yesterday afternoon is probably the cause. It’s no doubt an utterly trivial sprain but the effect is highly annoying. Sleep last night proved very difficult. There are few positions I can put my right arm in which don’t cause at least some discomfort. The normal activities of living cause me to gasp with pain at entirely unpredictable moments in a manner I find both pathetic and irritating.

Canted to one side in a vain attempt to immobilise the offending area I’m no doubt making everything worse as the entire musculoskeletal system goes off balance. Damn damn damn.

But at least, thanks to ab, I’ve got to the bottom of kilter/kelter etymology – nothing to do with either kilts or helter-skelters, as can be seen below the fold should you be interested.


[Etym. obscure. Widely diffused in Eng. dial. from Northumb. and Cumb. to Cornwall, and occasional in literature. More frequent in U.S. (in form kilter).]

Good condition, order; state of health or spirits. Used in the phrases out of kelter, in (good, high) kelter, to get into kelter.

{alpha} 1643 R. WILLIAMS Key Lang. Amer. 177 Their Gunnes they..often sell many a score to the English, when they are a little out of frame or Kelter. 1674 RAY S. & E. Country Words 69 Kelter or Kilter, Frame, order. a1677 BARROW Serm. vi. Wks. 1716 I. 50 If the organs of Prayer are out of Kelter, or out of tune, how can we pray? 1722 in Connect. Col. Rec. (1872) VI. 335 Mending, cleansing and keeping in good kelter the firelocks left with his Honour. 1828 SCOTT Jrnl. 20 May, The rest are in high kelter. 1875 Contemp. Rev. XXV. 262 Some part of her internal economy is chronically out of kelter.

{beta} 1628 W. BRADFORD in Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll. (1856) 4th Ser. III. 235 Ye very sight of one [sc. a gun] (though out of kilter) was a terrour unto them. 1681 in New Eng. Mag. (1898) June 450/1 The seats some burned and others out of kilter. 1862 LOWELL Lett. I. 359, I must rest awhile. My brain is out of kilter. 1883 J. HAWTHORNE Dust I. 16 There’s something awkward here… A joint out of kilter perhaps. 1893 STEVENSON Let. C. Baxter 19 July in Lett. Fam. etc. II. 300, I..am miserably out of heart and out of kilter. 1938 ‘E. QUEEN’ Four of Hearts (1939) xii. 173 Jack’s death sort of knocked you out of kilter. 1960 M. PHILLIPS in Analog Science Fact/Fiction Nov. 16/1 We’ve had some reports that some of the government machines are out of kilter, and I’d like you to go over them for me. 1968 J. C. HOLMES Nothing More to Declare 77 A deeply traditional nature thrown out of kilter, and thus enormously sensitive to anything uprooted. 1973 Times 15 Oct. 17/3 There [sc. in N. Ireland], an allotment of 12 seats at Westminster is based upon electoral quotas wildly out of kilter with the quotas for England, Scotland, and Wales.

6 Replies to “Out of kelter”

  1. Oh, ouch! Do you have pain in the wrist of that arm, also? If so it’s almost certainly the subscapularis, the big muscle underneath the shoulder blade, that’s making the trouble. You can reach some of it, to knead it and work out some of the knots (painful, but worth it) by grabbing your other shoulder (like you were hugging yourself) — which brings the shoulder blade of the hugging arm forward — and then digging in with thumb or fingers right under the shoulder blade. The muscle you want really does just sit in the interior curve of the shoulder blade there, like an oyster in its shell. Commonly injured by vigorous throwing.

    If it’s too painful even to work on, then don’t, of course. But when its tolerable working it ought to help. (It can be got at from the back, too, by lifting up the other edge of the shoulder blade, by someone who knows what they’re doing, but you can’t do that by yourself, unless you’re a contortionist.)


  2. Top advice, both, I’m sure. I’ve self-medicated with a(nother) capybara (and a very good jazz club) in lieu of vodka. But Dale, really, is it possible to perform that first suggested manoeuvre without being a contortionist? never mind the second. Which thumb and finger are you suggesting I use to dig under the shoulder blade? because neither of those available to me actually reach. Good to know my diagnosis was correct though.

  3. Well, anyway, when I remembered your high tolerance for pain I got uneasy about advising you to do anything painful 🙂

    You can’t get all that far in, of course, but the usual suspect trigger points aren’t far back there. What works best for me is holding my hand & fingers quite straight and just pushing back. That gets my fingertips just under the scapula.

  4. Ouch. Sprains aren’t trivial! If it were me, I’d hop in the bathtub, if I had a bathtub. But my physio relatives and friends always recommend ice: frozen bag of peas which you lie on.

    I think this is why people throw frisbees and allied forms for dogs: more distance, much less effort. The dog has to do more work, you have to do less. Is she REALLY interested only in her ball?

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