Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Physical therapy adventure time!

Two or three times a week, I visit a physical therapist. Now, I wasn't in a horrific car accident or anything, so many poo-poo my loyal return to said office, but I get these headaches that turn me into a terrible human being when they won't go away for 30 hours, so I go and the doctor and his staff seek to alleviate the muscle tension that causes the headaches. 

Last week, this is what a visit looked like: 

First, a blindingly perky college intern led me into a back room, separated from the main office by a curtain, and laid me on a long bed. Hesitatingly, she placed my head inside a machine. She then tightened two vices on either side of my neck, and strapped my head down against the machine with velcro restraints. She then handed me small remote with a big red button in it. 

She looked worried. "If, uh, anything doesn't feel right, or, uh, something seems wrong, just press the kill switch." And I thought, How the freaking hell am I supposed to know if something's wrong if I don't know what this is supposed to feel like?

And then, shortly after, Oh crap this machine is going to rip my skull off. 

Slowly, the machine whirred to life. The perky intern abandoned ship, returning to the main office, probably preferring not to see my cerebral spinal fluid decorating the walls when the robot attached to my head parts decided to go all T-1000. 

At first gently, and then with increasing force, the machine pulled my head up along the bed, extending my spine until it cracked. My head was pressed against the strap holding it down, and my brainbox was tucked at such a strange angle that I'm sure to an outside observer I would have resembled a startled frog with many chins. 

The machine held me in that extended position for a few seconds, and just as my panic at being frozen like this began to peak and I was fingering the kill switch, it slowly released and, by grades, relaxed its deathgrip on my spine. 

This ravaging cycle went on for 15 minutes. When a timer went off and the perky intern came back to free from my mechanized overlord, and uncranked the vicescrews from my vertebrae, my neck cracked, lik, forty times. 

Once my cycle in traction ended, the perky intern and her perkier, blonder twin intern stared at me while I did suspiciously easy exercises to loosen and strengthen my upper back and shoulders, to relieve neck tension. For a while, I lifted three-kilogram (like, sevenish pound) weights until they tell me to stop. Then I leaned on a doorway for a bit. I also got to lay on a long styrofoam log and stretch across a complete range of motion, which actually feels pretty nice and I kind of want one for my house. 

Then the doctor joined me, a short man with a good-natured smile who you'd never suspect could bend wrought iron with his bare hands. He asked me how the pain was, on a scale of one to ten. 

Now, when doctors ask me this question, I never know what to say. What's a ten feel like? Is a one a paper cut, or, like, I slept wrong and my leg is sore now? Or is one no pain at all? At what number do people quantify the breaking of a limb, or a twisted ankle, or that one bruise I got on my hip the other week when I walked into a door knob? How debilitated to I have to be to quantify the headaches I get as a step on a numerical scale? Does a 6 mean the fluorescent lights of my classroom hurt my brain, or would it be an 8 when I lose the ability to be polite to people and just stumble around like a trash can hobo, snarling and grunting until I can curl up in the dark to sleep? Or are those numbers too high, because, like, I'm not bleeding, so maybe it's not that high? I don't know. This is a confusing recurring event in my life. The pain scale currently in use in doctors' offices around the country is woefully insufficient and I doth protest. 

Therefore, confused and quagmired in a swamp of possible pain scale interpretations, I squinted in indecision and finally stammered, "Uh...like, a four? I mean, I have a headache now, but your Terminator machine helped some, and I took some aspirin earlier, so...like, four? Five? Maybe? Is this the right answer?" 

He laughed indulgently, like maybe I was thinking way too hard about this and seriously, lady, just answer the question, and proceeded to work on the deep tissue involved in my headache shenanigans. This is the part that I think helps the most, when his preternaturally strong mutant finger rollers massage the tension out of my neck – but this part also hurts. I lay there with my fists balled, cringing against the little face pillow, teeth grinding until I feel the muscles unclench and chill out for a while. 

This used to be the end of my session, but a few years ago, I had foot surgery, and the doctor has started working on my feet as well, breaking up the scar tissue so I can walk like a normal person again, instead of putting all my weight on my toes to avoid the scars. So, when he works on my feet, he first pops all my toes, which was not something I knew could be done. Then, he takes a giant jar of makeup remover – yeah, you read that right – and slathers it all over my calves and feet. Last week, he rolled over this tray laden with weird plastic mortars and grinders, like transparent torture devices. And I asked, "So, what are those for?" And he grinned at me, kind of apologetic, like he really didn't want to explain. While he fumbled for words, one of the Perky Intern Squad popped her head over the counter and piqued, "They induce microtraumas in the deep tissue!" 

I stared at her. "That sounds terrible."

The doctor sighed. "Yeah. I tend to avoid using that word, but that's essentially what's happening, breaking up the scar tissue, so it can heal again."

"That sounds terrible," I repeated. 

"Yeah," he answered simply. 

And it was terrible. I laid on that table, biting a pillow, using all my will to not kick the doctor in the face while he pressed those devices into my legs and across my feet, digging into years-old scar tissue and making me want to weep like a child while I silently murder-pummeled him again and again in my mind. 

And I get to do it all over again tomorrow. 


  1. How do you do it? I couldn't just lay there and endure the pain. I would have to kick him in the face. Or I wouldn't go anymore. Probably I wouldn't go anymore. I'm too much of a coward to kick someone in the face. xD

  2. Physical therapy is now popular one.Most of like the therapy. Me and my wife also like comfortable foot therapy .It's my favorite therapy in our family. I mind that any one like this .