Physical Therapy Works When Patient Participates

by NanciArvizu

After six weeks of physical therapy I've experienced the results and witness the reasons for failure.

Months after injuring my Achilles Tendons - in both feet - I was finally sent to Physical Therapy. In the first week I had positive results. Six weeks later, I am still going, following the therapists directions and making great strides, literally. But when I mention Physical Therapy to friends, their reaction is usually a PT horror story.

My Feet Hurt

Invisible Pain Stopped Me In My Tracks

A week after my birthday I strained my illiopsoas muscle, a deep, inner core muscle that according to the pain I experienced, is attached to everything that moves the human body.

Because I had not experienced a traumatic event that could logically explain what I was feeling, those close to me had trouble understanding what I was going through. My husband especially, considering my injury had a direct impact on him. It meant I was unable to do all I do for him, and he had to do more. He didn't like it.

His frustration with me continued when, as my stomach healed, my right foot started giving me so much pain I was unable to walk on it at all. As the gimping grew worse, my left foot began hurting too. Finally, I went to see a doctor who threatened me with a cast - which meant I wouldn't be able to drive - but I negotiated my way into a boot. Apparently my Achilles Tendons and Plantar Facia were inflamed, along with some bone spurs and bruising, probably due to poor foot/shoe support. 

After 6 weeks in the boot and little progress towards healing, my own frustration was growing. I spent another four weeks trying every kind of shoe insert and orthotic that I could find. I no longer walked normally, my feet flopped around unnaturally and my inability to walk in a straight line or stay balanced disturbed me (and my husband and family - I walked like I was drunk all the time!).

I've been active my whole life. The previous year I got serious about my health and exercise and had lost 50 pounds - yes, 50 POUNDS! At this point in the story, it had been 6 1/2 months since I'd walked without pain. I had not been on hike or exercise for 26 weeks. And I'd gained back 25 pounds. 

One option was offered by the doctor - cortisone shots. But, an ultrasound revealed I would not be a candidate for the procedure. Apparently, there isn't enough fat in my feet to create the pocket cortisone needs. They can put your thigh fat into your face, but that can't put it into your feet. Go figure. I bet if I was Larry Fitzgerald a fix would have been found immediately. But I'm not, so it was left up to me to heal myself.

Finally, my doctor sent me for Physical Therapy.

Did you like Physical Therapy?

If you've been there and done that, did you like it or not?

Physical Therapy Is A Bad Word

Like everything else, it takes time

Say the words Physical Therapy, and you're likely to hear "I hated Physical Therapy" for whatever the ailment was. 

When asked why they hated it, most responded that they didn't feel the exercises helped. They had gone two, maybe three times, had seen no real results, so they stopped going. 

I ask, what did you do then? How did you fix the problem?

Many, believe it or not, said they still have the pain, but it's "not so bad" and it's something they say they can live with. I find this odd. Why on earth would anyone chose to live with pain when there are options for healing?

A few complained they didn't like the therapist for one reason or another. I can see that happening. Being comfortable is important, especially since this person will be in very close contact with your body. But, believe it or not, there is more than one physical therapist who you can make an appointment with. Really. 

The only people I found who said their physical therapy worked, were people who stuck with it. Those who went according to their doctors prescription and completed the therapy reported feeling like their old selves, and in some cases, even better.

My observation was that those who committed themselves to their healing, healed. Those who didn't - did not heal, and were still in pain.

Therapy Boots are Not a Fashion Item

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Following the instructions of a professional, works. Quitting, doesn't.

You have to keep going.

It's been 19 months since my original injury that started the domino effect. 

I'm still not 100%. There are days when I hardly notice any issues, but other days there is still pain if I step wrong or try to wear shoes that don't have a Nike swoosh on the side. Seriously, 19 months in nothing more than tennis shoes. I tried to wear my cowboy boots the other day - didn't happen. I did get on my horse (in tennis shoes, something I do not recommend), but it only lasted about five minutes before I felt a twinge in my heel and I was off. It was the first time in over a year I'd been on my horse.

Getting out of bed is still painful until I get moving, and the same goes for after I've been sitting or driving for awhile. Those first steps are killers.

But I've stayed fairly consistent in my exercises and have been able to add back in some of my old routines while modifying others as I get stronger. I've lost almost 10 of the 25 pounds I gained back, so I've still got 15 to go and I'll be able to wear all the skinny clothes I bought again.

Stretching and Yoga have become my main forms of exercise now. I have been able to get out and hike now that the weather has cooled. My first time back I was able to go about 1/4th of the way before turning back I was so out of shape. I'm still not able to go the whole way, it's going to take awhile to regain my stamina for the trail.

I just keep telling myself, I have to keep moving forward. Quitting is not an option.

And then you need this...

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I've learned something through this

Getting hurt sucks. Don't do it.

Staying healthy is the key to a long, relatively pain-free life. And a big piece of the staying healthy puzzle is moving.

Stretch, walk and bend every day. Flex your joints, move your hips and take deep breaths. Set your alarms to get yourself out of your chair every 40 minutes and move for 15 - even if it's just to shake your body. Get you blood moving. 

A body in motion, stays in motion. 

But when one thing breaks, it can lead to a series of break downs. 

If I had been more careful in the beginning, this ordeal might not have lasted so long. 

And, I might still be wearing my skinny jeans that I worked so hard to get into, and now I have to do it again. Only differently.

Take care of your body. Listen to it. Let it heal, help it heal. It's the only one you get on this trip around the sun.

Updated: 09/28/2016, NanciArvizu
 
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