Physical Therapy: Trial and Error

As I mentioned earlier in the blog, I was born with a few congenital abnormalities in my back. I’ve been to chiropractors and I’ve done quite my share of physical therapy before I even left Miami. Over time, I’ve learned to understand how my body reacts when the treatment is working. Once the doctors sent me to therapy for my most recent injury, I must say I was really excited. I had been doing therapy right before I left Miami and it had been going really well and I missed it.

I chose to try out a highly recommended facility that has several locations here in Jersey. The first two times, it felt great, I was stretching out my body in new ways. After that, I was pretty sore and I continued to do the same stretches. However, it started becoming painful and it was a new kind of pain. I told her I had noticed one of the specific instruments I was using on my neck was causing more pain than relief and she just had me do it again. That’s when I knew it was over. I wasn’t coming back.

It took me about a month to find a new place. To be honest, I did some of the stretching I used to do back in Miami for a while. Then, I only searched for a new facility because I couldn’t stand to sit down for an hour without being in so much pain. At this point, I could barely walk, laying down was uncomfortable and sitting down had started becoming hard. Let me explain why that was an issue: I had school on Saturdays from 9am till 7:30pm. I was pretty much meant to be in a chair all day. My body couldn’t handle that. The headaches had also gotten so severe that my body was shutting down by 11AM. Yes, AM.

I found this new place and I was bummed at first. I knew I had to go through the evaluation questionnaire again, where they ask you a million questions, ask you to bend each and every way so that they can find the movements that cause you any pain and measure your fold. I then expected to be maybe stretched a bit for a few minutes and then sent home. That wasn’t it. And boy, was I glad.

The evaluation was quick, short and to the point. The trick is to take reports of any exams you’ve had done (she had X-rays and MRI of my entire back and an MRI and CT scan of my head.) She had me bend and rotate and move to see what bothered me. What had me head over heels was that she immediately sent me to the sitting stair machine for 10 minutes. She was gonna have me work out! She then had me do some stretches with the bosu ball, later had me lay down on the bed for more lower body stretches on my own. Then she stretched me herself. I got a few minutes of stimulation (which I hadn’t gotten at the other place in 5 sessions), I had the option of getting some acupuncture which I received for my headaches and it finished with a targeted massage. I left there, called my parents and just went on a rant on how much better I felt immediately. I scheduled three sessions per week and the stretches changed, the workouts pushed me a bit harder every time and the staff there was not only friendly but knowledgeable and concerned about my care. I’ve been there now for 2 months and the results I’ve seen have been ridiculously amazing and have me back to working out on my own.

**This is a video of me doing one of the PT exercises back in Miami. I do the same one in my sessions now.**

I’ve had great experiences in both my chiropractic care in earlier years and the physical therapy back in Miami and now here in New Jersey. In the coming posts, I’ll discuss some of the stretches that I’ve been doing that have seriously helped me and how I’ve modified them to be able to do them at home with the equipment that I have. But first, I want to stress the importance of listening to your body.

Pay attention to the care that you are given. Physical therapy may not be for everyone; sometimes chiropractic care may be your thing, maybe all you need is rest.. The point is to recognize a few signs that your body gives you and make sure that you do your part to help the therapist. Based on my experience, here are some tips to help you make most of every session:

  • Pain. There is a difference between being sore from the treatment you’re receiving and feeling pain. Are you feeling the same pain you’ve been enduring due to the injury you had or is it new pain in the specific location you’ve been working out? As you do the exercises, are you able to determine what specific stretch or workout may be causing that discomfort? If it’s soreness, continue and just ask for ways to alleviate the soreness at home when it’ll usually worsen. If it’s pain, speak up and ask to reduce or eliminate the possible reason for that pain.
  • Variety. Variety during your treatment speaks volumes to me. Why? For me, it shows that your therapist can help target the affected area from different angles and with different equipment. This is also a great way for you to pay attention and come up with a way to modify it at home. Also, if you continue doing the same movement every day, you might as well keep doing them at home. For whatever reason you are seeking therapy, your muscles should be getting worked out and stretched.
  • Pushing too hard. Of course, you want a therapist who won’t let you come into your session and slack. However, they also should be able to understand that you do have a limit, whether it’s because of the pain, mobility limitations or just fear. I always say that I get pushed but it’s because they can see that I can handle it. I literally sweat during my session. However, the moment I get there, I advise them if I’m too sore and they’ll ask what I did, how much I did and modify the session accordingly. One of the stretches with the bosu ball usually never causes pain, but when it does, they have me do it in front of them and they discuss amongst themselves what other alternative we can try. You should be pushed but not to the point where you risk being held back.
  • Recommendations. Your physical therapist is NOT your doctor. Your therapist should not have all the answers for you. I remember when I asked my therapists if she thought I could run already, cause I was ridiculously eager to get back. She asked me two questions: 1) Who told you you couldn’t run? and 2) Do you feel that you’re progressing?. I answered both questions. Her response: You have to go see the doctor who told you not to run and tell him that and he will tell you if you can start running. In the meantime, in two weeks, we will move you from the stair machine to the treadmill to start walking and we’ll go from there. I started running at home, 4-5 miles once a week before we started the treadmill and they knew I was doing it.
  • Tell all. A good therapist will know what muscles you’ve been working out. They’ll also know how to help you relieve the soreness or any pain from those movements. If you start working out, tell them. Are you lifting stuff at your job? Tell them. Almost twisted your ankle going down the stairs, spill the beans. Our body is connected and sometimes new discomfort will come from different areas. One thing I hate doing is stretching my glutes, mostly because the only way I really know how to is by foam rolling. You try foam rolling your butt and tell me how much that hurt. Haha. But seriously, the massage therapist always asks where I want the massage and so one day I said lower back. She lowered my pants a bit and boy, was my butt extremely tight. She massaged around the butt cheek for a while and moved up to the lower back and bamm. My back cracked. It completely alleviated the pressure that I had built up in there and my glutes were also not tight anymore. Definitely noticed a difference in my next run.

Have you tried PT before? For what injury? Did it work?

If it didn’t work, what did?


Stay injury-free!


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