Let’s Get Physical

I have suffered with back pain for years. Last year it reached a critical point where I actually went to the doctor. I don’t like to rush into things, as you can see. I went to the doctor seeking less a solution and more something to take away the pain. The doctor, missing all my cues, did not prescribe anything that I found useful. She handed me a prescription for physical therapy. What? No pain killers? No muscle relaxers? No quaaludes? I was more than disappointed, I was pissed.

I have seen physical therapy on television. It involves grueling work to regain some lost motion or activity. There are tears of pain and gritted teeth. Patients with paralysis walk with their hands on parallel bars shuffling their legs along in the hopes of regaining the power to walk. They struggle and sweat, neither of which are enjoyable. Even the name of the company she referred was unappealing: Athletico. This is clearly a company that services athletes, which I am not. I am a relatively sedentary, reluctant exerciser. I am motivated by vanity not competition.

So I tabled the prescription for this physical therapy nonsense and went along my way, my soon to be hump-backed way. A few months ago I began to wake in the middle of the night unable to roll over because of pain. Still I persevered (probably not the right word for stubbornly refusing to seek help). Eventually I began to have muscle spasms in my shoulders and neck and I had to throw in the towel. I went back to the doctor, this time secure in my self-diagnosis of back cancer. No WebMD needed, it was all very clear to me.

My doctor did prescribe muscle relaxers this time, possibly because my upper back muscles had begun to resemble oak or maple to the touch. She also renewed my prescription for, say it with me, physical therapy. Bitch. I took the muscle relaxers and honestly they helped a bit but were no where near as much fun as I had hoped. (Side note: I may or may not have been looking for a martini in pill form which is strange because I don’t think vodka really helps with back pain.) After I had taken all the muscle relaxers (as prescribed) and my back had refused to comply, I had to admit defeat and make an appointment to begin therapy of the physical nature.

Um, why did no one tell me how awesome physical therapy is? Seriously, I would have done this a long time ago if I had known. I don’t know how it is for other ailments, but for my particular issue – I have to have a strong handed young man give me a massage. Sure there is no aromatherapy or Yanni music, but who cares? I am receiving an insurance subsidized back rub. Then, the physical therapist does a little adjusting of my spine, not in a jerking chiropractic way. He gently moves my spine this way and that way to loosen the ligaments that are in a chokehold on my vertebrae. It pretty much all feels awesome, even the parts that hurt. There is a little exercise component to the therapy. I have to stretch which requires very little coordination and do a couple strengthening exercises, but no gritting of teeth, no sweating. And did I mention the massage. I am converted.

I realize that other types of injuries may require more vigorous therapy. I have seen others who have been doing some unpleasant looking exercises, but they all appear to be pretty athletic. As a non-athlete, however, the chances of me sustaining any of those injuries is pretty slim. Even I can’t hurt myself on an elliptical trainer. I have five more weeks of back rubs, I mean therapy and the physical therapist told me that I would probably benefit long term from regular massage therapy. I may love that guy.