Chronic pain – physical therapy can help! A testimonial

For as long as I remember, anytime anyone has massaged my shoulders, I would get, “Wow, you’re tight!” Trust me, I got the memo. Having been a competitive figure skater from ages 7 to 17, I was accustomed to carrying too heavy bags on my shoulders. Not only was the equipment bag heavy, but I took all of my school classes in a row so I could be excused early to hit the rink.  This meant I didn’t have time to stop at my locker and I carried all of my books, all of the time in a bag with thin straps that cut into my shoulder. When I was younger there weren’t any immediate repercussions other than the “you’re tight,” statement. However, as I got older, went to work and started to spend significant time in front of a computer, the problem definitely got worse. I have remained active and maintained a level of fitness throughout the years. I love the home fitness programs like Insanity, Turbo Jam and P90X. I have a few triathlons under my belt and have completed a half marathon.

A couple of times a year my shoulder would spasm and knot making it difficult to turn my head. Sometimes it would be from overdoing it in exercise, but sometimes it would be from simply turning my head or rolling over in my sleep.  I also struggled with glute issues that were directly related to exercising. I would get flashes of pain that would radiate from the glute through my hip flexor.  For years I have had a massage therapist on speed dial to help me in these crisis situations. The massage would get me moving more normally again, but I’ve always known I was just scratching the surface in terms of getting to the root of the problem. However, I didn’t know of any other solution.

Jump to September 2011 when I am now the mother of three, wife and caring for my critically ill mother. Exercise fell by the wayside for about a year because trying to find the time to squeeze it in was causing me more stress than relieving it. After my mother passed, I tried to regroup and get back into my exercise routine. My mistake was trying to jump back in as if I had never taken any time off. Even though I was largely unconditioned, I decided to power through a ten mile race. I did great during the race, but I paid the price afterwards. My glutes tightened and knotted so badly that eventually my lower back spasmed and rendered me incapacitated. Intuitively, I knew the problem was beyond a massage, so I cried uncle and went to my PCP. He recommended muscle relaxers and physical therapy.  I know Dr. Moore because in my professional life, I do medical marketing and was familiar with her practice. I was familiar with her commitment to her patients, so it was the logical place for me to go. I will admit, I went to my first visit not really knowing what physical therapy was going to do for me. I thought it was geared more towards acute injuries and not lifelong muscle issues. My first visit was a real eye opener. I was introduced to Dr. Moore’s elbow which got deep into those muscles which allowed for a much needed release…this was no fru fru massage! I also learned that the areas that hurt the most had a whole series of trigger points that required attention if I was going to get to the root of my problem. Although I landed there due to my glutes, I also told her about my twenty-plus yearlong shoulder problem, so we got to work on that as well. She gave me specific exercises to do that would carefully build strength but not overtax so I wouldn’t re-knot. We focused on my posture while sitting in front of the computer which admittedly was terrible and wreaking havoc on my shoulders.  She also explained how three pregnancies caused permanent ligament stretching and also played a role in my muscle knotting problem. In addition to manual therapy and prescribed exercises, we also did E-stim and ultrasound which was hugely beneficial.

It wasn’t always easy. I had set backs. We would get me to a certain point of recovery and then I would re-knot. I will own up to my ego telling me that it would be okay to go back to some of my favorite exercise videos because I was feeling good enough…nope. Dr. Moore knows her stuff. Just stick to the exercises she gives you! It was time and money that I didn’t always feel that I had, but the office did a great job working with my insurance company and I was able to bring my three year old with me to therapy which made scheduling easier.

In the end the time and the effort were well worth it. I am back to doing my favorite exercise videos without incident and have carefully built back up to doing 5Ks. Now that I’m back to exercising, I’m close to losing the ten extra pounds that I gained while I was caring for my mother and unable to exercise. I now know what postures I need to hold to prevent my shoulders from knotting. I have the tools and have built the strength to know what I can and can’t do to prevent injury. In my case, physical therapy was much more than a treatment plan for recovery after an acute injury. It was a carefully balanced plan that reconditioned my body so I could get back to the business of being me.

Thank you Total Performance and Dr. Moore!

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