Posted tagged ‘physical therapy’

Summer 2015

November 4, 2015

It’s been a while since I have written a post. There are days when it seems like there is too much to write  after so much time has passed and summoning the energy seems impossible. Today, though, it’s time to dig in and just do it.

On July first, I am joyfully teaching my group fitness class—Forever Fit, for anyone 50 years and older. I am prompting, singing, counting, jumping, squatting, grooving to the music, thinking of nothing other than being right where I am and doing my job. The room is filled with about 25 women and one man, all following my lead as we work through Cut Chemist’s “What’s The Altitude“. The song fills me with joy and energy. We all do what I refer to as “step-out step”, a modified jack step. I alter the step to include a raised knee every other beat, switch sides, switch to kicks on alternating sides, and move the step forward for four beats, then back. It’s one of my favorites. We all look like dancers in a Michael Jackson video. It’s a beautiful thing to look up and see a room full of people smiling and moving like that. Suddenly, I both feel and hear a loud pop in my left calf. I think I’m fine, yet find myself unable to touch even my left toe to the floor. I think I am going to finish teaching the class, yet when I look up, with the music still blasting, my class has stopped moving. “Are you okay?” and of course I answer yes. But I am not.

In what feels like seconds, one woman from my class has raided the freezer in the kitchen of the building and comes back with a bag of ice. The Counsel On Aging director has flown down the stairs from her office and is talking about calling an ambulance. Someone else is grabbing a chair for me to sit down and in all the panic, somehow everything feels like it is happening in slow motion. No. I do not want an ambulance. No, I do not want the chair. Hot tears prick behind my eyes. The tears are not from pain, although there is plenty of that. Fighting to hold those tears back, I recognize fear asserting itself and racing to the front of my emotional repertoire. Immediately, I am wondering if I will ever run again. I know in these moments I should be afraid of not being able to work, of a long, painful recovery, of the potential for a bad tear in a muscle that will require surgery. Yet all I can think about is never being able to run again.

As I finally settle into the chair and place the ice on my calf, I start to make decisions. I need to go home first. I obviously won’t be able to drive, so as people ask what I need, I send someone to go pick up my partner Bill so he can drive me home in my own car. I want to change out of my sweaty clothes and wash my face.  I need to get to my car. Before I can think of anything else, Bill is standing over me, asking what I need. “Please. Just take me home.” Two women from class confer for a moment, and then they stand, one on either side of me. They cross their arms, hold each others’ hands in some Girl Scout carry configuration and slide their linked arms beneath me. I am lifted and carried out to my car by a woman in her seventies and a woman in her sixties. I am in awe of their strength and kindness. Even in such pain and fear, I pat myself on the back for doing a great job with this class. I can’t stop thanking them.

In clean clothes and with the sweat washed off (mostly), I reline on a gurney in the emergency room, I am given Valium and a manual examination. The handsome ER doc decides that I need to see an orthopedic specialist. I leave the hospital with a prescription for enough Valium to keep me for a month(!!!) as well as a comfy, handmade soft cast to wear until I see the specialist, and, of course, crutches. I whimper on the way home, clutching my prescription and wondering how bad this injury really is. And, of course, when I can run again.

The next day, I get an immediate appointment with a doctor at Sports Medicine North. After careful examination of my leg, he says I have a slightly torn gastrocnemius and a badly strained soleus, the two main calf muscles. It can take three to six months for this injury to heal. I feel sick. Bill takes me back to the drug store with prescriptions for two different pain killers.

I go home on the crutches, wearing a walking boot that comes up to my knee. I wear the boot for the whole month of July. Bill takes me to Pebble Beach, carries me over boulders to my beach chair, wipes my tears, suffers along as I attempt two and thee mile walks with the crutches. I find I am strong enough to pull myself up the stairs backwards two at a time using my triceps and my good leg. I manage to shower while balancing on one foot. It takes a little over a week before I am able to touch my left toe to the ground and not cry out. I don’t want to talk to or see anyone.

The Boot

The Boot

Pebble Beach

Pebble Beach

I cannot tolerate sitting or resting unless it’s bedtime. I am a mover. During the months of healing and rest, I color beautiful cards to mail to my youngest child in Arizona. I write poetry. I read books—some fiction, some fitness books, some cookbooks. I lose weight on the painkillers, (plus they made me cry all the time), so I ditch them during the first week. I eliminate all sugar to reduce inflammation. I eat lots of greens and naturally anti inflammatory foods. I do everything I can to heal quickly. I also sit on our deck or sun porch and watch with envy as runners pass my house all day long. I hear their footsteps through the open windows of summer as I lay in bed, trying to bring my focus back to what I have instead of what I am missing.

The follow-up appointment on July 30 brings good news. I can ditch the boot and start physical therapy. I have already been working on range of motion, stretching, massage and strength. Despite being told to wait, I have been listening to my body and it feels right to gently start the active part of recovery. I rotate my ankle, practice inversion and eversion. I flex and extend my ankle. I gently massage the painful areas in my calf. I go easy, but I keep it up for a bit every single day. I wear the boot unless I am in bed.

My physical therapist is incredibly good at her job. Each visit shows improvement. Because the boot changed my gait, I am also struggling with hip and back pain on the right side. For a couple of months, I am in pt four times each week. Some weeks I see four different therapists. Each one is kind, honest, good at her job and adamant that I take it slow. I use the foam roller. I stretch. I strengthen. I ice. Some nights after an hour or more of exercises and pt homework, I find myself on the couch with four ice packs strategically placed to reduce pain and inflammation. I am so cold that even in August, I huddle beneath a down comforter.

Friends come and take me for walks. My friend Krissie walks so fast I can barely keep up. I keep going, though, pushing through the discomfort. Soon I start easy running—walk a few yards, jog a few. My friend Amy patiently jog-walks with me. I am grateful. My friend Charlene brings us a delicious vegan dinner.  My class sends lots of sweet emails, telling me they miss me, hoping I am healing well so I can come back to work soon. I even get a couple of cards in the mail. It is nice to be missed and to be loved. I am grateful.

On August 31, one day ahead of my self-imposed deadline, I run three miles. The next day, I run five. I am not allowed to run uphill, so I walk the hills, giving my attention to the beautiful ocean views in my neighborhood.  I note the fishing boats in the harbor, the soft sand on the Front Beach, the rolling waves lapping against the shore of Back Beach. The slow hills are okay, so I run those. By mid-September, I run up all the hills. Once again, I am grateful.

The End of the First Run

The End of the First Run

I return to work September 9. My class is thrilled to have me back. I tell them I am going to go easy for the first couple of weeks and I do, mostly. By the third week back, I am hopping, jumping and singing as I lead them through our workout. We stretch at the end, and I go home and stretch again. I still ice at night and have a fresh awareness of my left calf that I will probably hold onto for longer than need be. I am back. I am strong. And I can still run.

What did I learn? Too much to put it all down here. A couple of biggies, though. I am a runner and much more than that. I can heal my body.  I can wait when I have to wait. And I can be still.  For a while. As long as I have crayons, books and lots of love.

Bil and I at Pebble Beach

Bill and I at Pebble Beach

My Handsome Hero, Bill

My Handsome Hero, Bill

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High Tech Magic

March 22, 2012

My physical therapist brought out the big guns on Tuesday.  She had frowned when I limped across the waiting room to join her for my session.  I confessed to nearly perfect behavior, at least for me, for two whole weeks.  I had been wearing my old orthodics regularly as I promised I would.  I only ran seven miles the previous week; a mere three this one.  Even in cross-training, I had eased up on plyometrics considerably, modifying my boxing warm-ups and cardio classes.  And, I had spent almost a week in bed, flatten by the flu.  I felt betrayed by my own body, unable to bear my own weight without experiencing pain. I could see by the look in her eyes that she sympathized with me.

“I spoke with my supervisor, and we think we should have the head of the department assess your foot.  The usual therapies are not working like they should.  This is unusual.  But there’s one more thing I want to try.  I’ll be right back.”

I lay on my belly on the table, my foot in the air and flexed, trying to stretch the tender tissue even more as I waited for her.  I could feel the crunchy tissue in the arch as I flexed and winced, resting my chin on my folded arms, trying to hold tight to my patience.

“This is the laser.  It’s not usually covered by insurance for this purpose, but we just came back from an informational session where this therapist did a study on using laser for soft tissue inflammation relief.  He said he has had huge success with it, especially for plantar fasciitis.  Let’s give it a try.”

My first question:  “How much is it going to hurt?”

My posture while asking this question:  Leg extended, offering the offending extremity up for sacrifice.

“Oh, it doesn’t hurt at all.  I have to wear these” and here, she held up a huge pair of black-framed sunglasses, the lenses tinted bright green, “and you have to wear them, too, unless you promise not to look back while the machine is on.”

As she made her fashion statement, slipping on the horrid eye protectors, I turned right back around and put my head between my arms, face down on the table.

“I’m good.  Don’t need to watch.”

I felt her hand on my foot and the slightest pressure as she pressed the tip of the laser on my foot.  It was over in less than two minutes.

“That’s it!  All done.”

“That’s it?”  I flipped over onto my back and sat up.

“Should it feel better right away?  Does it take time to notice a difference?”

“Well, you should notice today for sure.  See you in two weeks.”

I bent down and shoved my foot back into my sock and sneaker, wincing as the orthodic pressed up against my arch.  I grabbed my purse and book and left.

I pulled into my driveway, got out of my car and found myself walking, not limping, up the back stairs.  I spent the rest of the afternoon marveling at the lack of pain.  After a while, I forgot I had plantar fasciitis.  I went to kickboxing.  I did the whole warm up.  I stayed for the R.I.P.P.E.D. class afterward.  I jumped around in the back row of the class beside my friend Krissie, grinning like an idiot.

The pain is not completely gone.  But I ran a little over four miles this morning without much pain.  I am walking heel-to-toe on that foot now, instead of landing on the ball of my foot to avoid touching the ground with my heel.  The pain seems to be along the perimeter of my heel, the places where the laser was not applied.

I sit here on my couch writing this.  My cat is snoring loudly beside me.  The sun is blazing full-strength outside my living room window; the thermometer on this March day reads 81 degrees.  I am obsessed with wondering if I will be able to have laser therapy at my next and final physical therapy session in two weeks.  I wonder why it would not be covered by insurance.  I take no prescription drugs, I eat well, I exercise regularly.  I see my doctor for one check-up each year, at which time he shakes my hand, gives me a warm smile, and suggests I write a book on how to stay fit and eat right.  I think he has a crush on my cholesterol numbers.  Why would my insurance not cover this, when in the long run (my long, long run), they would be saving money?

It’s time to get back outside and live in this remarkable day—but the high tech magic of Tuesday will sit in the back of my mind, along with the hope for one more zap.

Giving in to Pain

March 1, 2012

Yesterday’s eight mile run.  Yeah.  Well.  The first three miles were easy—the feel of the cold sea air on my cheeks, the rhythm of my feet hitting the pavement, my breath soft and easy at my 8:30 m/m pace—and even on a day with much weighing on my mind, the pleasure of the run incomparable to anything else. That pleasure reached deep into me,  filling the empty space carved by the heavy sorrows of this world, my world on this day. My heel was not too bad; a little twinge here and there., but doable.

As I ran the loop of Phillip’s Ave., fat snowflakes swirled in the air around me and the desire to run to Halibut Point took me not left at the end of the road, but right.  As I entered the park, enjoying the feel of soft earth beneath my sneakers, I felt a stabbing pain in the bottom of my right foot.  I slowed a bit, trying to adjust my pace and gait to run more on my toes.  I continued through the park, taking time to look out on the quarry on this cold morning, then farther out to the sea.  The water chopped up and down; little white caps crested.  The pale sky against the rich blue ocean, the swirling snow, the solitude of the place made me forget everything as I ran along the path.

I returned to the street, noticing how, now that I was about five miles in, my heel was hurting more and more.  I headed home, trying not to think about the pain.  My Achilles tendon grew tighter and tighter as I favored the right foot.  My left hip began to ache.  I kept going.  I sensed this was going to be the worst so far, but I pushed, taking a brief walk break, then, as I turned onto Broadway, I began to sprint.  The heat of the pain shot up my leg.  I pumped my arms to try and carry some of my weight forward and kept my pace to the end of the road.  As I turned right toward home, I slowed to an easy trot, fighting back tears.  I forced myself to face the truth:  I need to take a break from running to let my foot heal.

I spent the rest of the day limping, barely able to put weight on my foot.  Sharp, stabbing pain in the bottom of my heel took my breath away.  My heel hurt even when I sat down.  I mourned running, in between the business of the day, dividing my thoughts between my family, my job, and this exquisite  pain.

I limped in to physical therapy this morning.  My physical therapist, Jodi, took one look at me and her happy smile shifted to a look of concern.

“What happened?  What did you do?”

“I decided to try a longer run yesterday.  It’s pretty bad today.”

She shook her head and asked about my weekend running.  I told her about the just-okay run on Saturday, six and a half miles, then the wonderful run of the same length with Sue on Sunday.  How could it be so different from one day to the next?

“I’ll see what I can do.  You look terrible!”

And so I sat in misery as she dug her thumbs and fingers into the soft flesh of my arch, into the crunchy tissue of my heel.  I held back on any wincing, stoically tolerating the deep tissue massage.

“So, what do you think you should do?”

I knew what she was up to.  I knew what answer she sought.

“I think I’ll not run for a week.  A whole week.  And no plyometrics, either.  Just boxing, kickboxing, extra strength and core work.  That’s it.”

“Do you think you can go a whole week?”

“It doesn’t matter what I think.  Obviously, I need to give my foot a rest.  So yeah.  I can take a week off.”

“Good!  Good!  That’s great.  It should help a lot.”

She flexed my toes way, way back, then turned my ankle left, right, then up, flexed it so far that my toes almost touched my shin.  Then it was time for electrical stimulation therapy.  She taped the electrodes to my calf and heel, hooked up the battery, turned it on, and walked away.  A thousand bees buzzed against my calf; a cold hand gripped the bottom of my heel.  I grimaced and read my book as I waited for the timer to signal the end.  I thought about buying a boxing bag for my living room.  I thought about the elliptical machine at the gym, and the stationary bike at home.  I poked my tongue out at no one in particular.

Jodi came back when the timer beeped and unhooked me.  She taped my foot, wrapping the arch tightly with flexible tape, then used firm white tape along the sides of my foot.

“That should help you today, at least.  Can you walk and bear weight on the heel?”

I could indeed.  I had to restrain myself from hugging her.  The wrap felt so tight and good!  It barely felt like my heel was touching the ground at all.  I stuffed the foot into my sock and then into my sneaker.   I swore to keep my promise and walked out.

One week.  Doable.