A Different Kind of Therapy

7:00 AM

People who look this happy during PT: no one
I'm no stranger to therapy. Having dealt with bouts of depression and anxiety for a few years of my life, I'm not shy when it comes to admitting my weaknesses and opening up about my struggles.

However, physical therapy is a little different. Where mental health counseling often goes, "Let's come to a consensus about where you're struggling and learn how to manage that," physical therapy goes, "Yeah, you suck at this long list of things. Let's fix it."

After turning down Lupron, I decided to try PT to manage an ongoing pain in my left side (right where my endometriosis was found) and dyspareunia - an unfortunately common symptom of endo. But little did I know that I would be dealing with more than I expected.

As some background, I've been aware for a short while that I have some inherent skeletal issues. When I went to the ER two-ish years ago, my CT scan revealed that I had mild scoliosis, which runs in my family. I had always had suspicions something was wrong with my spine, since you can pretty much tell by looking at it, but that was the one and only time I received a diagnosis. Since it was/is so mild, the ER doctors didn't say anything, and I didn't consult a doctor about it later.

On top of that, yoga taught me a lot about my physical weaknesses and quirks. In combination with my curved spine, my hips tilt forward, which I noticed after doing yoga for a few months. When I stand, I often lean my hips forward and have to make a conscious effort to tilt them back. Additionally, as my yoga instructor, Pierre put it, "Your hips don't move." They just kind of stay frozen in one place, and it's taken a lot of focus and self-discipline to get them to cooperate like normal hips.

So I walked into physical therapy well-aware of these issues. But let me tell you. I've never had them picked apart quite like I did!

I'm not saying that's a bad thing, of course. In fact, it's a great thing. As I stood there and performed basic movements (i.e. facing forward and turning my torso around, leaning back, touching my toes, etc.), my two physical therapists (whom we will call Jenny and Kate) made comments that made no sense to me ("Oh yes, she definitely is right on the end of her hip flexors.") and jotted down constant notes. 

From what I could gather, my body was all sorts of messed up. One side of my hips and back never achieve full motion, and the other side goes beyond the normal range of motion. On top of that, my abs suck (much to my dismay, since I thought my stomach was looking pretty nice with all that yoga!), meaning that my legs and hamstrings had to work harder. Oh yeah, my butt doesn't work hard enough either. Who thinks about how hard their butt is working?!

And that was only the outside. The inside had even more issues that I was already well-aware of from doctor exams, dyspareunia and, of course, the 10 plus years of pain from endometriosis. So the internal problems made sense, but what did the external issues have to do with my endo symptoms? Apparently a lot more than I expected...

During my second session, we got to work on all of my assorted issues. We spent a lot of time working on my back, "applying some WD-40" as Kate put it. Let me tell you. That wasn't even remotely fun. We worked on teaching the weaker side of my body to turn its full range of motion, which involved me doing a seated twist while Kate pushed and pulled on my shoulder blades. While that made me a little sore, it didn't even prepare me for the pounding and pushing into my back muscles, which aggravated my endo pain and left me feeling a bit beat up the next day.

We also set to work on my "C-grade abs" (boooo) by doing bridge poses and teaching my butt to work with my stomach. It was interesting to learn that a lot of my hamstring pain and tightness that I had felt for most of my life went back to the shape of my back and my uncooperative hips. I'd like to go back to elementary school and tell that to my gym teachers who couldn't understand my inability to even manage the sit-and-reach during the Presidential Fitness Test...

Another thing about my stubborn, messed up body: it likes to tilt to the right. Every bridge pose, every leg lift, every exercise I did while laying on my back revealed that my hips and back slowly pushed my entire body out to the right, putting further strain on the muscle and nerves where my endometriosis was. It also was bad news for my lower back, which already has it rough since I'm an office worker. (I've been trying that standing desk thing, though, with decent results...)

Kate said, "I know it seems like we're spending a lot of time on your back and hips, but trust me. This is all connected to your internal pain." It's hard to see right now, and it's only been two weeks, but I'm starting to understand how everything fits together. And it's really surprising. While my skeletal structure has nothing to do with my endometriosis development, it definitely has played a role in aggravating the symptoms and putting further strain on my body.

And you should have seen my body before I started yoga. Until a few months ago, I had never been able to touch my toes in my entire life. Now, I can stand on my hands. I still deal with tightness and inflexibility, but yoga plus physical therapy has already helped minimize some of the daily pain I experience.

That being said, I went home after physical therapy completely worn out and exhausted. It felt like I'd been beat up, and I guess, in a way, I had been. I was also really, really sore where my endo pain tends to flare up, so I crawled under an electric blanket and pulled a heating pad to my side.

I know this journey won't be a fun one, but I'm bizarrely excited about it. It feels like, for the first time since my diagnosis, I'm actually doing something about my endometriosis besides googling stuff and coming up with my own theories on what I should be doing. I'm really happy that there's a concrete, attainable method to manage my pain, and even though I feel like crap after I come home from the doctor, I know it'll pay off.

If you've done physical therapy, please let me know about your experience. And don't forget to subscribe by email to my blog.

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