Monday, March 8, 2010

Miracle Worker

So, I got into the physical therapist for a 7 AM appointment. Have I mentioned how much I adore my PT? She is a freakin' miracle worker.

When I was 16, my dad and I were rear-ended on a freeway off ramp. We were the second car hit in a three car accident. We were at a standstill when the car, going 50 mph, smashed into the car behind us, which smashed into us. I was wearing my seat belt (fortunately) but my dad said it was like watching a floppy doll as I was thrown in my seat forwards and back.

The lady that hit us and the people in the car behind us all had to be taken away by ambulance for serious injuries. I was checked out by the EMTs at the scene, and they recommended that I visit my primary care doctor later that day. But I felt fine and my parents didn't insist.

The next morning, I could barely move. I know whiplash is a "joke" and that the minute someone gets rear ended, most people snidely remark that their neck will start hurting the morning. This was no joke, I was in serious, debilitating pain. My parents took me to the doctor, who diagnosed me with neck strain and severe whiplash. I was prescribed muscle relaxants and physical therapy. After six months of therapy, I finally was able to function somewhat normally and didn't live in horrifying day-to-day pain. I was never 100% back to normal and ever since, my neck has been my "weak spot." If I feel stressed or tired, my neck bears the brunt of it. Whenever I get a professional massage, the therapists are always stunned by my tight neck muscles and "mobile" joints. And, as I talked about last week, every once in awhile, I will have an episode which will completely immobilize me for a couple of days.

Over the past fifteen years, I have seen about six physical therapists during these episodes. They would "help" me, in that I could get over the excruciating pain, but I was never pain free. Most days, I would have a twinge or ache in my neck or shoulders. Even though it was a pain in the heck (ha, ha), I felt as if I was managing. I would have to take some muscle relaxants and stay off of my feet for a day or two, but before I had a baby, that was doable.

The stress (physical and emotional) of having a newborn took my neck into overdrive in the fall of 2008. There is no time off with a newborn to "rest" a sore neck. By Christmastime, my neck was so bad that I could barely sleep, drive, or nurse sitting up. It was BAD. I went to my primary care doctor, begging for relief and she referred me to my amazing miracle worker. . .

Seriously, I was a 10 on the pain scale the day I went to see her. I broke down crying as I explained that I didn't want to (and couldn't because I was nursing) live on pain medications, but I couldn't function on just Tylenol for much longer. She said, "Don't worry, we'll fix this."

It took a couple of sessions and some serious "homework" of exercises at home, but by about three weeks in, I was feeling better than I had in years. Years. All of those years, it felt as if someone was standing on my head, pushing my vertebrae together. After two months of therapy, I felt amazing and literally as if a weight had been lifted. I wasn't in any pain. At all. I referred one of my friends with a similar history of chronic neck and back back to her, and she also fixed him.

I couldn't tell you exactly what she does so differently, except that she did a fellowship in chiropractic work and also teaches at the University of Washington Medical School. She can just look at me and diagnose the problem. She spent a lot of time teaching me core exercises in addition to neck work, which was definitely something that hadn't been done before. She is a slave driver with exercises and will not let me slack (and somehow, can tell when I haven't been doing them as prescribed).

So, this morning, I went in, feeling like a complete mess. My shoulder and neck were killing me, so were my hips. She went to work and although I don't feel better yet, I know I will. She looked at me as she did last year and said, "Aw, honey. We'll fix it."

And I know she will.


Rebecca said...

Glad you have a silver lining on the horizon.

I pulled my neck out drying my hair one time (who does that?) and it was amazing what they can do.

HereWeGoAJen said...

It's wonderful that you have such a good physical therapist.

Matt was rear ended once and the doctor said the only reason he didn't break his neck was because he'd been an athlete and had a neck that "you couldn't cut through with an axe." He ended up with whiplash though, but not as bad as you.

Katie said...

Rebecca - that is usually HOW I pull my neck. That, or towel drying my hair. All in the name of beauty! :)

And, Jen, I am glad Matt has such a strong neck and wasn't more seriously injured.

Sunny said...

Ouch, my neck got tight just reading this! Isn't it wonderful when you can find someone who knows just what's wrong, and knows how to fix it? Sometimes you have to kiss a lot of "frog" medical practitioners before you find your true love. Glad you found yours!