I graduated from physical therapy today.
As I’ve mentioned before, my back is all kinds of messed up. Apparently years and years of hours and hours hunched over at a desk that’s too tall for me, in a chair that’s too big for me, with a side of perfectionist-stress case tendencies is a recipe for neck and back disaster.
I thought I was done with PT after my last stint, over the summer. But alas, that was not to be. After I walked into a friend’s office at work attempting to twist myself into a pretzel to reach the pain under my ribs and shoulder blade, I called the PT office and crawled back, knowing that I hadn’t kept up as dutifully as I should have with my exercise routine that they’d given me when I graduated the last time. (Well, first, like any good consumer of medical journalism, I googled the pain, looked it up on WebMD, got scared that I might be having chest pain related to my heart, and went to see my GP. She checked me out, saw that I had basically no range of motion and told me to go back to PT.)
Anyway, this last go-round with PT was NO JOKE. At my evaluation, my physical therapist told me that I had “extremely restricted” range of motion. Apparently about a million muscles connect to your shoulder blade, and roughly 999,999 of mine were in spasm and/or frozen solid. Did you know that your arms are supposed to be able to get to 180 degrees, aka straight up next to your head? Without leaning over to fake that they are straight up? I had no idea, maybe because mine came nowhere close to doing that.
So she got serious with me. I had to do actual exercises. At my appointments AND at home. At most, I got to spend only half of each appointment on massage, and then I had to do stretches and exercises that sometimes actually left me breathless.
I figured out the secret to PT: They want to make the sessions easy enough that you can do the exercises (which will keep you doing them at home), but hard enough that you don’t want to go to PT forever. (As I gladly would have done with my torture massage sessions if the clinic hadn’t booted me out over the summer.)
Plus, I’ll reveal another PT secret: The exercises actually work, if they’re targeted to where you’re weak and you keep up with them. (This is true in my case, at least.) I haven’t had any pain in weeks — not since the physical therapist taught me the ultimate stretch for getting rid of my rib/shoulder blade pain, which is extremely technical and involves laying on the couch and raising a broom over my head.
At my graduation today, the physical therapist said some words that were music to my ears: My forward range of motion is “within normal range.” My back! Within normal range! I think my left arm hit 170 degrees, which is still pretty far from perfect, but let’s be honest: I’m never going to be a perfect physical specimen. I’ll take “within normal range” any day.