“Because if there’s anything you need to be a physical therapist, it’s a sense of humor.”~Adele Levine, Run, Don’t Walk: The Curious and Chaotic Life of a Physical Therapist Inside Walter Reed Army Medical Center
Fun fact about me: I’m one of the most accident-prone people on the planet. Seriously – it’s almost superpower level (although I’m not sure what good it would serve). I fall UP stairs, I trip over my own feet (and thin air), and coordination and balance are foreign concepts. My parents threatened to make me take ballet as a child to teach me how to walk – I’ve always been THAT bad. This translates to frequent bruises, and A LOT of injuries.
Injuries = Physical Therapy
While I’m no stranger to the OR (and my natural resemblance to Sally from A Nightmare Before Christmas proves that), I try to avoid that scenario as much as possible. I may have a chronic illness, but I still don’t do well with pain, and surgery means PAIN! So whenever a doctor offers to start with physical therapy I agree without hesitation. Doesn’t always keep me from going under the knife, but I have to try.
Let me explain one simple fact for those that have never experienced physical therapy: IT SUCKS! Physical therapists somehow found a way to exempt themselves from the Geneva Convention, employing legalized torture. Even worse, they post this list of cheerful “Nevers” all over the building reminding you that you are their guinea pig for the entire 45 minute session.
What the hell?!
You get a nice little 5-minute warm-up, and then pure hell commences. And they SMILE the entire time! They even laugh! All while you grit your teeth, dig your nails into your palm, and wish you were dead! Then you drag yourself outside, with a cheery, “See you next time!” following behind you. Oh, right, and you’re usually given special exercises to do at home – to continue the “fun.” (I’m pretty sure they implant some kind of micro-camera to make sure you do them, too)
I’m not exaggerating, but physical therapy DOES help. And if you DON’T have a condition like fibromyalgia, it may not be as bad. Unhappily, I have pain receptors on every milometer of my body, so every second of my Graston session is beyond my tolerance level. My therapists know, but neither of us have a choice if I’m going to get that particular muscle through to the other side. They DO push, but it’s right up to the line of tolerance and no further. I might get tears in my eyes, but they don’t fall. It’s a delicate line, and physical therapy dances right to the edge.
I might hate it, but I appreciate it.
My current therapist is a champ, because I frequently tell him I hate him and threaten to kick him in the head. (I have a right ischiofemoral pingement) While vocal cursing isn’t allowed, I admit that there are a lot four-letter words happening in my head when he asks. He knows how to get me talking so I don’t break my jaw. He watches how hard I’m clenching my hands so know when I need a break. And he knows very well that I keep count, and he’ll stop me when he thinks I’m going too far.
He also knows I’m not doing my stretches at home, and he’s stopped asking.
It’s medically-sanctioned torture, but it’s better than surgery. Every session HURTS LIKE HELL, but I can see the progress. This current round’s progress isn’t going as fast or well as I’d like, but it IS there. The laughter helps (I won’t throw that quote in – everyone knows it), and so does his promise that we’ll get where we’re going.
On my bad days, when I have to sit on the couch and watch my fiance’ do kickboxing without me, I feel like it’s all a lie. When I spend the remainder of the day wanting to detach my leg from my body, and I reach for the phone to cancel the rest of my appointments, it seems pointless. Then I remind myself that a month ago, I couldn’t do ANYTHING without pain. Now, I can at least work without wanting to scream. I can walk without a visual limp. Maybe it isn’t much, but it’s SOMETHING.
Besides, even if I end up needing surgery, I’ll still end up back in physical therapy afterward. (Kind of how the wretched system works) Might as well get used to the routine now.
So, yeah, I hate every minute I’m there. I’m a terrible patient, and I complain. It keeps the pain from getting the upper hand. And when my therapist tells me he gets it, he understands… Well, at least we’re on the same page.