Unsteady Uproot – “Love at first stretch” (Wednesday, June 26th)

By the way, I think you all know this already, but I’m no doctor so when I talk about medical conditions it’s only from my personal experience with doctors and other medical professionals who have treated me personally.

I first fell in love with the magical field of physical therapy when I was a teen barely beginning my undergraduate education. I was experiencing some unfortunate repercussions from my childhood back injury and had reached out to a local chiropractor for help. I wasn’t making much progress with her so she referred me to a local exercise physiologist who specialized in injury recovery. I checked his credentials and he held a degree in kinesiology.

I wasn’t sure what all of that meant in the medical world, but at the time he worked in a rehab department of a local gym. Not that his appearance helped my back heal at all, but the man was/is gorgeous. Tall, buff, used to be a pro hockey player in Canada. Full tat sleeve. Dark, curly hair. Blue eyes and the biggest, whitest smile you’ve ever seen. I take it all back. Just looking at him during our sessions made me feel better, haha. He introduced me to a world where exercise actually took away pain instead of causing it.

Along with the back pain, I was also having all sorts of strange symptoms such as swelling in my knees. I would come home every day from school and/or work and tie ice packs to my knees just to be able to function without pain. Turns out it was a patellar tracking disorder, which is ridiculously common in sedentary people. All the exercise physiologist suggested were a group of exercises to strengthen the muscles supporting my knees. Within two weeks the knee pain vanished. Mind blown.

This exercise physiologist was a magician. He taught me how to exercise in the gym and at home to relieve pain. I got stronger and the pain diminished. Those assisted stretching sessions probably didn’t hurt anything either. *wink wink*

Up until the point of my revelation, people and professionals everywhere were saying that I needed to exercise more. But all exercise caused more pain and swelling. All I felt was pain. I was lost and depressed and truly did not know how to progress. I would research and Google and try to make up programs on my own, but I always got discouraged by the pain and eventually gave up each time.

Meeting this exercise physiologist showed me a new path to recovery. In the state where I lived I needed a Doctor’s permission to meet with a physical therapist. But for some unknown reason my doctors never prescribed PT. They gave me pills and pain patches and wished me good luck. And for some other unknown reason I believed them and never stood up for myself. It took me many years to put the pieces together for what I was missing in my own recovery. And if I was missing it, maybe others were missing it as well? And that got me thinking about how I could use my own body as a science experiment to serve the community of people in pain.

I then took my aspirations one step further. At the age of 6 I was “diagnosed” with Joint Hypermobile Syndrome (JHS). I put the word diagnosed in quotes because there isn’t really a good measure for testing whether you officially have the syndrome or not. It’s the way your body genetically codes the connective tissue collagen. It’s also one of the variations of Ehlers-Dahnlos Syndrome (EDS). The most common way I have seen people diagnosed is by checking the patient for 10 markers of excessive elasticity throughout the body such as knees that sway back when locked, a thumb that can touch your forearm, or chronic knee pain with no arthritis markers, etc. If you have a certain number of these from the list they say you have JHS. Doing the actual genetic testing isn’t all that common from what I understand.

If you’re curious about JHS here’s a more in-depth read that I got from a JHS support group I found on Instagram. It’s helped me make sense of all of the symptoms in my mind. Read it here.

In the end all of these experiences over the years led me to consider PT as a new career. First I was sparked by the magical concept of curing chronic pain through movement, and then I was slightly upset by the apparent lack of medical professionals who know how to stabilize people with JHS. You can tell them your symptoms all day long and they will look at you like “You’re flexible. So what?” My PT said she had never had a patient like me. She didn’t have another patient who injures easily from hyperflexion, heals slowly, and complains of arthritis-like knee pain but tests negative for inflammatory markers. There are PLENTY of people out there like me – that JHS support group I recently found has proven that. There needs to be more medical professionals out there who are capable of helping us stabilize our bodies, prevent injury, and relieve chronic pain.

Until next time my faithful readers…

XO

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