A Very Different Physical Therapy Experience

I wasn’t going to write about my new physical therapy experience and/or therapist this soon, but I can’t help myself.

The whole experience, so far, is so completely different than what my concept of physical therapy has been since the accident.

And yet?

It already seems to be helping.

I’m not saying it’s a miracle-maker.

I’m just trying to take it one treatment at a time.

Will it improve my particular situation?  If so, how much?

In some ways, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the experience.

A rare, daytime, long exposure, of the beautiful Pacific Ocean.

First of all, the actual place of business for my new physical therapist could not be more different from where I’ve gone in the past.

My New PT (whom I’ve now named Mr. Confident) is in a non-fancy, very small, facility.  In fact, I would never have known it existed if I hadn’t been looking specifically for it.

Mr. Confident himself is very quiet, and therefore a bit difficult to read.

I know he’s married, has a baby, and is into nutrition and exercise.

I also know he’s one of only three A.R.T. certified physical therapists in Orange County.

(For those of you who are unfamiliar with this area, Orange County is home to over three million people and zillions of physical therapists.)

Mr. Confident considers himself a “scientist of motion.”

Mr. Confident doesn’t seem judgmental.

I was expecting him to say, “Your arm should have been chopped off for all the good it’s doing you.  Have you always been out of shape?  Blah, blah, blah.”


He seems to get it, in a way some of my medical providers haven’t.

(Possibly because I was in so much pain on my first visit, I practically crawled in to his office?)

If you’re in horrible pain, you aren’t signing up for marathons.

If you’re living with severe pain, you’re just trying to hold on

And you’re grateful when you can – because holding on can be damned hard, day, after day, after day.

Mr. Confident doesn’t talk a whole lot.

(Except for the part where he told me, “I’m good and I know I’m good.”  Hence, Mr. Confident.)

He hurts me.

I say Holy Fuck! multiple times (which is what I almost nicknamed New PT, by the way.  Holy Fuck.)

Then, after awhile, he announces we’ve done enough because he doesn’t want my body to go into a more severe pain flare-up.

He asks me to show him how much movement I have,

And then he grins, in a rare show of emotion –

Because he can clearly see I’m better than when I walked in the door.

That’s it – we’re done for the day.

Very efficient.

No ice.

No heat.

No massages ….

Unless ripping the scar tissue out of my body with his bare hands is considered massage?

[Because that is what Active Release Technique (A.R.T.) does – rip out scar tissue.  And that is exactly what it feels like when it’s being done.]

The thing is ….?

I’m already in a lot less pain than when I walked into his facility a week ago.

When I showed up for my first appointment, I could barely move my neck because all the muscles in the upper right quadrant of my body were so spasmed.

My body is very efficient at making itself into a vice to protect my bum shoulder/arm.

The problem is –

A vice is a very bad thing – movement is good for me, and my arm.

My body tries to protect/guard my arm anyway.  My body is consistently very confused about this.

My Masochistic Self-Imposed Muscle Vice gets tighter and tighter until I’m in horrible pain and can’t move.

I’ve tried talking to my body about this, but it refuses to listen to me.  It thinks protecting my arm by building a vice with all my surrounding muscles is a good thing.

My neck is now moving again, and my pain – although not gone – has decreased more with each A.R.T. treatment.

Mr. Confident isn’t concerned with the broken mechanics of my arm or shoulder right now.

He’s de-vicing me instead.

(Sort of like de-icing a plane, but different.)

Sometimes he’ll make a comment about one of my hard-as-a-rock spasmed muscles, or a giant knot that he’ll initially think is a titanium electrode …

Only to find –no, it’s just a wad of sexy scar tissue.

“What is THIS?” he’ll ask, with a glint in his eye, as he presses on yet another hard lump under my skin.

And then he rips that shit right out of my body while I chant holy fuck, holy fuck, and try to remind myself to breathe.

The weirdest thing?

I feel so much better when he’s done.


Because I’m not totally bat shit crazy –

Why would I keep returning if it wasn’t helping?

10 Responses to “A Very Different Physical Therapy Experience”

  1. Karen in East Texas

    It’s good to hear that the new therapy, while painful itself, is making you life less painful. As people with a chronic illness and/or pain we must learn to take care of ourselves better.

    That is difficult, especially if you are a mom. You have so many other people to take care of and we tend to put ourselves at the end of the list.

    My goal for 2012, is to take better care of myself. If that means going to one of my many doctors more often with more tests etc; then so be it.

    I’m important.

    My sanity is important.

    Gentle Hugs,

  2. Missy

    Once Mr. Confident works on a particular area of scar tissue is it permantely broken up or will it reform? This is so interesting and I am so happy for your relief and I hope it not temporary!

    • Twenty Four At Heart

      In a “normal” person it would stay gone because they can keep moving to prevent it from re-forming. My movement is somewhat limited so I might need some ongoing work – but it won’t be as frequent as what I need now. At least, that’s my understanding. (I’m still learning myself!)

  3. Cathy B

    This is really cool, Suzanne! I’ve heard similar things from the people I know that have had A.R.T., so happy to hear it’s giving you some relief. Hoping the improvements continue!

  4. Linda Tustin

    Wow- I am so glad to hear something is helping. No hope is a terrible thing. Merry Christmas Suzanne, to you and your lovely family, and to Mr. Confident too- as long as he helps you! 🙂


Comments are closed.