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Category Archives: physical therapy

I need a minute

I had my hair colored yesterday (more in another blog), which took about two hours. This morning I had to get up early to go to PT (her first appointment of the day) so that I could get to my neurology appointment on time.

This was my second PT appointment, the first with full treatment since initial appointments include lots of time for evaluation and pre-treatment measurements. I’d been doing the stretching exercises she assigned me since Friday, so I have been doing some work. Today, though, she did some more stretching…and it hurt. The physical therapist is a very nice, very low-key woman, who spends most of the appointments so far reassuring me that I will make progress and I will feel better. I’ve told her that I am VERY familiar with PT, as I’ve been multiple times over the years. Even so, she seems intent on keeping up with the reassurances…I guess she thinks she is being encouraging, I’m not sure. Anyway, the appointment was painful and I left feeling sore and tired.

When I got home, Hub told me he couldn’t go with me to the neurologist because he had a big meeting come up at work. My father offered to go, but I really didn’t want to have to deal with my dad’s pushiness, especially with a new-to-me doctor. So I said I’d be okay, and when the time came I headed off to the doctor’s office.

The doctor was on time, which was shocking to me, and his space in the suite was a combo office and exam room. It was a little odd, I’ve never seen anything like that. Normally you are in an exam room or you meet with the doctor in a separate office space. We sat down and he asked me what was happening. I gave him my history as best I could–including the recent bloodwork done that had all come back normal–and told him the issues I was having recently. He asked me a ton of questions, most of which I gave negatory answers to…it almost looked like he was reading from a list on his laptop! He then went through the litany of physical neuro tests–most of which I’ve been through before. When that was done, we sat back down at his desk and he stared at his laptop for a minute. Then he started saying that I didn’t fit in this category (ALS) or that category (Myasthenia gravis) or even that category (Guillain-Barré)…and each time he described WHY I didn’t fit. Having been alone, I tried to remember every reason why I didn’t match those categories, but I was busy thinking “oh, but I do have trouble swallowing!” (but I don’t REALLY) and “oh, my upper body IS weak” (but not REALLY) and “oh, I do have tingling!” (but probably that’s when I overdo or my limb falls asleep). It’s like he was giving symptoms (more than I just described) and I was latching onto them, worrying that maybe I really did have those symptoms and they were just on the mild side and what if I had missed the symptoms??

It was hard. I don’t remember which disease was ruled out by which missing symptom(s). I know he didn’t specifically rule out MS (multiple sclerosis) and I don’t know why.  I was afraid to ask. The final result was the he wanted to start with bloodwork for some muscle thing, and that he wanted to do an EMG (electromyogram). He said he had time to do it later that afternoon or tomorrow because of cancellations, but I didn’t want to do something unknown when I had the wedding this weekend. I said I wasn’t available and at that point the best they could do was schedule for the end of August. So I put it on my calendar and left the office.

I drove home, feeling weak and tired…and so disappointed, even though I really had no hopes for the appointment. I guess some part of me thought something would come of it, but it had to be pretty far buried in my subconscious. When I got home, Hub was still on the phone for his meeting, so he slipped over to greet me briefly. I said I was going upstairs to change my clothes, then decided I wanted to lie down for a while. I called my father to update him, had to listen to him talk about the time HE had some sort of muscle electricity test thingy twenty-plus years ago for a possible pinched nerve, then I stripped and got into bed. I barely settled in when Hub came in to check on me…he wanted to know if something happened that I hadn’t told him.

I cried. I don’t want to be sick again…or more than I already am. I’m tired of being sick. I’m tired of being tired. I’m tired of not knowing. I’m tired of having to change my life because I’m sick again, or more. I’m tired of having to grieve for the life I had, or the one I’ll never have, because I’m sick again, or more.

Hub hugged me, and even though I knew he wanted to hover and smother because that’s his M.O., he left me to rest. I just wanted a minute to mourn, you know? I needed a minute to come to terms with the disappointment, with the fatigue of it all. No one ever knows what is wrong with me. I’m always a syndrome…a catch-all that I’m dumped in because I don’t match any known disease or medical terminology.  I’m tired. So fucking tired.

I laid in bed for several hours–though I got up briefly to eat some soup because I hadn’t eaten or drunk anything prior to that–and just did nothing. I just couldn’t get up the energy to participate in life. My body and my soul didn’t want to body or soul.

I got up and had dinner later, and I talked with Hub like I was “normal”, but inside I’m hurting and I’m disappointed and I’m lost. Again. And writing these things has me crying again…

 

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Viral return (not)

Friday of Father’s day weekend, I was back in bed shortly after lunch. It was reminiscent of that time period starting in February and lasting through to May, when I was then diagnosed with a sinus infection. At the time I was diagnosed with the sinus infection, I began to wonder if the “down” period I’d been having–which was being blamed on a virus by my doctor, and grief by my therapist (and me)–was actually the result of the sinus infection. Shortly after the anti-biotics started kicking in, the fatigue started going away. I was not splayed out on the couch all the hours I was “awake”, and I wasn’t falling asleep in my food. So I came to the conclusion that it was the sinus infection knocking me out, and I went about my life.

But the 16th, it hit me just after lunch and I ended up going back to bed shortly after eating some soup. I had plans to go out with my brother and his new girlfriend (our first meeting with her) Saturday night, but the way I’d been feeling on Friday, I wasn’t sure I could make it. I spent most of Saturday in bed again, feeling exhausted but not sleeping. It was so frustrating. I was nauseated almost all the time, felt off-balance, weak, and just plain worn-out. I hauled myself out of bed to go out to dinner with Hub and my brother and his girlfriend, but basically felt like crap all evening. Sunday was Father’s day and we were supposed to go over to my father’s for a cookout. I stayed in bed most of the day with the hope that I would have enough energy to make it through the evening at Dad’s. I didn’t do much of anything once we were there, I ate very little (which was how I’d been eating since I started feeling shitty, because the nausea is so bad that everything looks and smells gross…), and we stayed only long enough to eat, chat a bit, and that was it.

Monday morning I made an appointment to see the doctor again, but instead of staying in bed, I tried to go back to my normal routine. All the times I’d been in bed, I wasn’t sleeping…I was just lying there thinking of how tired I was. It felt stupid, so I decided to just stay awake in my recliner and try to act as normal as possible. As the day went by, I decided that I needed to get back to my cardiologist. The extreme fatigue and nausea and weakness was enough to spur me to make an appointment with him, even though I doubted it was a heart issue. I didn’t want to wonder, and it’d been a year since I’d last seen him. I decided that there was no reason for me NOT to go see the cardio, so I made the appointment.

As it turned out, I had both appointments on the same day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. I saw the cardio first, and even though there was a scheduling snaffu, they saw me anyway. The doctor did his regular exam, talked to me for a bit, reviewed my tests from my primary earlier in the year, and did an EKG. He said he saw nothing to suggest there was a heart issue, that my test and exam were both normal. But, he said, since I’d had the stress test last year, he suggested I go ahead and get an echo-cardiogram to round out the cardiac testing. So they set me up with an appointment for this week (tomorrow) at their other office, which had an opening sooner than the local office.

I went in to see my primary that afternoon. We talked about how I was feeling, then she did HER exam. She asked if I was getting the same *smell* as when the sinus infection was diagnosed last time and I said no. I don’t think I am, though sometimes I get the phantom idea of the smell… But since it’s not consistent like it was last time, I think I’m imagining it as the memory of what it was. Without any other options, my primary suggested it might be allergies. Her thought was to try allergy medications to see if it made me feel better, and then to consider seeing an allergist. Last time when she didn’t know what was going on, it was as virus. This time, allergies.

So I said THANKS, gathered myself and left the offices. I did make an appointment with an allergist recommended by my cousin, who is a pediatric allergist and whose husband is allergic to everything and loves his allergist. Sadly, they can’t see me until mid-August. So I have to decide what to do between now and then.

Although I am still tired, it’s not as all-consuming as it was that Fri-Sat-Sun, and I’m using a homeopathic nasal spray (with capsacin and eucalyptis) to try to keep my nasal passages open and draining. So if there is a potential for a sinus infection brewing, I’m at least keeping the sinuses draining instead of stagnant. It’s an interesting spray, with not as much burn as I’d expected. It does seem to keep my sinuses open, so that’s good.

Prior to all of this, I also saw my orthopedic doctor about my left shoulder. I can’t raise my arm above shoulder height, and moving it in certain directions is incredibly painful. He took an xray, did a physical, and pronounced me with an impingement. I gotta get in to see the physical therapist to start working on it. He said if PT doesn’t work, it’ll be a steroid shot. Ech. I haven’t made an appointment yet because I’ve been run-down with everything else.

July is going to be mobbed. I have my 2 year cancer check, which will include a CT scan after my visit with the gyn onc. I also have a trigger point appointment, I need to get my hair “fixed” for my cousin’s wedding, and…well, I’m going to see a psychic-medium about my Mom. And then my cousin’s wedding. Plus we need to find a dog-sitter for when we’re at the wedding. I’m not sure when I’m going to fit in PT. Ugh. Of course this arm-thing has been going on for several months, so it’s not like I don’t know how to deal with it…

Did I mention the wedding at the end of the month is a FORMAL wedding? At a local Four Seasons fancy-shmancy hotel. I had to find a formal gown (A GOWN), I had to find shoes (I hate shoes), and just tonight we went out so I could get the dress altered because it’s too long and I hate the sleeves. But I liked the rest of the dress and it was on sale so I bought it and just told the seamstress to hack off the sleeves.

AND I’ve been helping my father clean some stuff out of his house for donation. Which means I was also cleaning some stuff out of MY house for donation. Hub and I stopped tonight and dropped off a ton of sheets and blankets (and 2 twenty pound boxes of dog treats) at our local animal control/shelter.

I need a nap.

 

 

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Physical therapy update

News on the PT front. For the last several weeks, E has been working on trigger points that affect my back. She’s been able to progressively go deeper on the trigger points, which is a good thing. It means the tp’s are getting worked out…it also means OW OW OW OW OW. Jeezus, that woman has tough hands.

But something has been working, because the bad knee that never wants to straighten has gotten one degree away from being straight. The other knee is almost back to being hyper-extended (which they both used to be waaaaay back before I first started abruptly having problems with them). We both kind of surmise that after all the work strengthening my muscles and then loosening up all my trigger points (varied and vast), I finally made progress. So after my appointment, E pronounced that she would see me in TWO WEEKS. It has only been about a month or six weeks since I’ve started seeing her only once a week instead of two…now I’m being moved to every two weeks. I suspicion I’ll be having withdrawal symptoms this week, since I won’t see E at all.  I can’t tell you how long I’ve been seeing her…I can’t remember anymore. It’s been probably close to 18 months altogether, considering how many different body parts I had to work on.

Starting tomorrow, it will be a week since I’ve had PT. That’s not entirely new, but we’ll see what happens in the days following. I haven’t gone without PT for more than about 7 or 8 days in all that time. Already my back and knee are tired today, but maybe by tomorrow they’ll be feeling better (I had to stand around for over an hour during training with Butthead, so….)

Anyway, the good news is, if I can keep things in good form, I can stop going to PT. While I will miss E a lot because I like her very much, I won’t miss having to go to PT once or twice a week every single week for …ever. However, I am thinking I will start going to get trigger point massage from a massage therapist (who used to share space with my PT office), maybe once a month to keep up with maintenance. Trigger points definitely come back, especially in someone like me who is not only prone to them, but has myofascial pain syndrome…kind of pre-disposing me to issues like this. On the down side, massage therapy isn’t covered by my insurance…but I’ve been paying co-pays for PT, so it will actually be less expensive for me to go to massage therapy once a month than what is cost in co-pays four times a month. And waaay less than it was costing me to go eight times a month!

So, one tentative step forward, and we shall see where it leads.

 

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Travel me this…

We went and done did the vacation. And now we’re back, to which my entire body says woohoo.

The drive to the lake was completely uneventful, save for the climb in elevation that made our ears pop over and over again. We made a quick stop at a farm on the way to the lake so we could take a tour that they offered. After that, it was onward to the lake area. I was nervous about the hotel we were going to be staying in, despite the fact that I did lots and lots of research. I knew it was going to look old on the outside, but that the rooms had been renovated recently on the inside. And that is exactly what we ended up seeing.

Unfortunately, the first room we were assigned to had some problems, so they moved us to an adjacent, identical room. Not a big deal considering it was off-season and we were one of three rooms rented in the whole place. And although the rooms were very clean and very nicely decorated, they also turned out to be pretty small. I thought I had remembered that there was a small couch in the room, but that was not to be. The room had a bed, a place to set your keys under the wall-mounted flat screen tv, and a very shallow/small desk with a straight chair. There was no closet to hang our winter coats, no place to put our suitcases except directly on the floor, and no mirror in the room. No place to put our clothes in drawers if we had wanted to. The bathroom was very very small, with no counter top space for our toiletries. Again, the bathroom was spotless and clearly updated, but almost claustrophic-small. There was a teeny tiny refrigerator and a microscopic microwave, both crammed into an alcove that probably could have been laid out better. If they had put the fridge on the floor (in the space that seemed provided for it) and the microwave above, they could have used the higher space for a small closet or just open hanging space.

We had a very small private deck off the back that led down to an open grassy area, that then led directly to a finger of the lake. It was lovely, though slightly marred by all the docks that were pulled up onto the grass, and the not-so-attractive facility across the lake. The people who were running the hotel were very nice. I have no qualms about any of what we had, with the exception of overall space (which is my fault for not paying better attention, I guess, when I was researching the rooms).

The major issue? The bed was horrible. Horrible in the manner of we both slept fitfully the two nights we were there, waking up in the morning sore and exhausted. There was not a stitch of padding on the bed…all you felt was hard surface and the springs below. I actually tried to put the comforter underneath me as padding and slept with just a sheet the first night, but the comforter did absolutely no good. We were both so body-sore in the mornings that it was a pretty big black mark on the weekend.

We found several restaurants that offered gluten-free options, so I was able to eat pretty comfortably all weekend. We did a little shopping, then did our sight-seeing thing. It was nice to spend time with Hub away from the dogs and away from everyday responsibilities. The drive home was fine, too. We both slept so poorly the night before that we were both awake by 7am and we were on the road home by 9am. Checkout was 11am, but we were tired and sore and only wanted to be done at that point. It was very unfortunate.

My parents seemed to do okay with our dogs. I’m told everything went fine, but I did hear a couple of times (from my mom) that Butthead barked a lot at night. I tried to warn them, but I guess they didn’t realize… But they survived the weekend with the dogs, and the dogs survived a weekend with my parents (and brother), so all is well.

I’m glad I go back to see E for physical therapy tomorrow. I’ve got a stinger going up my hip and to my back that is really hurting me. I’m guessing it was the crappy bed that did it. If we ever travel again, we’re going to have to bring our own bed.

(that’s a joke, because we’re never going to travel again) (hee hee)

Ooooh, I almost forgot to mention, one of the places we went sight-seeing included a hike in the woods. We weren’t particularly prepared for the length of the hike, but I did it! It was 30 degrees out and snowing, and there was a lot of ice on the path and the stairs along the path, but we did it. I didn’t panic when I got tired, and I didn’t panic when I thought about how deep into the woods we were and what might happen if one of us got hurt or one of us had a heart issue. On the way in we were enjoy the nature around us, and on the way back I was more thinking about how tired and cold I was, and wondering if I was going to make it out of the hike without just sagging to the ground. But hey, I did it, and I survived it without an attack. WOO!

Here are a couple of quick nature photos. Enjoy!

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You put one foot in, you take one foot out

I doubt highly I’ll be doing much shaking about. *sigh*

I had my follow-up with my orthopedic doctor today, post MRI of both of my knees. I’m not fond of the MRI process, but luckily this was an open MRI and the technician was very nice. I was uncomfortable–mostly because of my back–but I made it through without any real anxiety attacks or panic attacks. There were a couple of points where I was not thrilled, but I centered myself and kept myself in the moment…and I completed both knees and got myself out of there in tact.

Back to today’s follow-up. My regular ortho was apparently running late, so his colleague came in to get started talking to me. She brought up my MRI pictures and started pointing out good things…and bad things. Part way through the conversation, my ortho joined us.

Good news…no meniscus damage in either knee, and although both show normal meniscus wear, they are also considered to be in good shape. Yay. Bad news…I’ve got arthritis in both knees that are slightly more advanced than someone my age. Boo.

Good news…no surgery required to repair my right knee. Yay. Bad news…even PT is not going to resolve my pain or the glorious popping in my right knee. Boo.

Good news…nothing physical blocking my left leg from straightening all the way. Yay. Bad news…it may never straighten out, even with continued PT. Boo.

Good news…the doctor doesn’t want to see me back unless something changes that requires attention. Yay. Bad news…I have to continue to live with the pain and limitations that I have right now (and they might get worse). Boo.

So the appointment was mixed. And on top of that, he suggested that I could continue with PT to straighten my left leg, but only if I felt I could accomplish it without pain. He said he would be satisfied with the extension that I have now, but that it is my choice. The issue I have with staying as-is, is that I walk with a limp because the knee is bent slightly, which throws my entire body off-balance. I believe it is affecting my back and my neck, and really my whole system. I think it is responsible for some of the trigger points I have in the area, too. If I stay as-is, I continue to make my body cock-eyed. If I attempt to continue with PT, I could put myself in more pain for possibly no reward.

Muh.

Meanwhile, he did tell me that my right knee, the one with the major pop (which comes from a defect behind the knee cap or on the bone that rubs against the knee cap…I can’t rememember which), will always give me limitations on some movements. Like getting up from low chairs (check) and walking on inclines (check). He said if it came to a point, I could get a brace to help me with any major activities. He wants me to leave that as a last resort because he says it could become a crutch…and instead he wants me to continue to strengthen the muscles around the knee to act as a “natural” brace. I’m already on that path with PT, so that gets a check-mark, too.

And thus, my appointment with the ortho ends and I go home. And wonder WTF to do now.

 
 

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Trigger point therapy

I have had trigger point therapy before. When I first got sick, I had a terrific massage therapist who used both East and West techniques for her clients. She was French, she did shiatsu, massage, physical therapy, accupuncture, accupressure, and probably more. I liked her a lot; she helped me very much over the course of eight months. But at the time, I was in so much pain overall and felt so crappy, I don’t recall how intense the trigger point release was. These last couple of weeks, E has been doing trigger point release for me, and it has hurt like hell.

I have two areas that E has been working on. E is incredibly adept at finding the trigger points, and every time she finds these particular ones, I end up clutching the table and attempting not to bawl (or scream). At least, not out loud. Today I had to wipe my eyes a couple of times because the pain was so intense. At one point, she was working hard on a trigger point that didn’t seem to want to give in (not a shocker for me, as my body is pretty stubborn), and she asked me how my weekend was. For once in our entire time working together, I was really only able to mutter that I couldn’t concentrate on our conversation because not only was the trigger point burning like a mo’fo, but the pain was referring up my back like smokey fingers burning pathways toward my neck. It was bad, ya’ll. E apologized, but didn’t let up, because the knot needed to be released. I just wish it didn’t hurt so damn much.

E went to a class over the weekend for a technique called “dry needling” for trigger points. She thought I might be a candidate for the technique, so she was excited to go to the training. However, when I saw her at my appointment today, she kind of nixed the idea. She told me that the technique was pretty painful…worse than the pain I was dealing with as we were talking (while she was releasing the trigger point in my thigh). She said she and her partner had to stop several times because it became so painful they couldn’t handle it. And they both have pretty good thresholds for pain. So I was just saying NO NO NO, keep those dry needles away from me! I couldn’t imagine the amount of pain they had gone through over a three day period of training. Yikes.

We aren’t even sure the knee pain I’m dealing with (on one side anyway) is from a trigger point or not. It actually came to me after she worked on the trigger point on my butt… I went to my big fancy book, The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook by Clair Davies, and went searching for the pages I had marked previously. One of them was for the exact spot where the pain had been bothering me. I think I had guessed in the past that maybe it was a trigger point and had tried to release the trigger point myself, but hadn’t been successful. But hey, why not bring it up to E! So I brought my book with me to one of my appointments and she started working on the specific trigger point I had marked in the book, and I’m partly hopeful that it’s working. The thing is, immediately after the release, the pain has subsided. But it doesn’t seem to last long…which is disappointing. I’m not sure if we can pin the pain on the trigger point or not… (there’s a birthday game for you! Pin the therapist’s hands on the trigger point?) Then again, the trigger point on my butt is taking some time to work, too. But the relief from that one lasts longer…

Who the hell knows, right? And yet we persist…

Tomorrow? MRI of both of my knees. Two hours in the MRI = so much fun. NOT.

 

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We interrupt this day

To schedule a muscle spasm. X 2.

Last Saturday morning (roughly 9am), I was reaching down to brush Le Moo and ZZZIIIIIPPP the muscle along the top of my right shoulder that connects to my neck decided FUCK NO YOU WON’T! I spent the remainder of the day in ranging levels of discomfort, from OH SHIT to OW OW OW. I had trouble sleeping that night and couldn’t turn my head to the right hardly at all, and turning to the left brought enough unhappiness that I pretty much stopped doing that, too. I was barely hanging on to hope that I’d be able to see E on Monday and she’d work on the muscle and make the pain go away.

Then it snowed.

Started early Monday morning and continued through the day. By 10am I received an email stating that the PT office was closed and I was shit out of luck. I had already heard that this week was booked tight, so I was really thinking I wouldn’t be seeing E at all since I only had one appointment this week. So Tuesday morning–after another hours of spasms the night before that made my head twitch and another rough sleep–I called the PT office first thing in the morning. It was barely ten minutes after they opened and I was itching to get in contact. Luckily for me, they were able to fit me in before lunch that day, and I went in for my appointment.

E worked on the muscle and told me she could feel the spasm. When she was done, I had some relief, but by the time the afternoon rolled around, I was in pain all over again. Every movement I made felt like I was jarring my neck and shoulders against a brick wall. And last night I had a repeat of the twitchy-spasms for several hours. I wanted to cry because I felt like all the work E did had made no difference. Sleeping was uncomfortable and restless.

Then this morning I woke up and thought…ah, it’s okay! E really DID make it all better. Well, not ALL better, but waaaay better. I was able to move around without that jarring pain, even though I still felt tender. And as the day went on, I felt more and more relaxed and able to move my head more. Day went by, things are still good. Dinner, no problem. Came upstairs and did some stuff in the laundry room, all was fine. Then I picked up a step-stool that belonged in the pantry downstairs, so I carried it to the steps and asked Hub to reach up to grab it from me so it could go back to it’s storage place. However, his reach wasn’t as long as I expected and as I extended my arm (without thinking, of course) so he could take it….zzzzzzzzzziiiiiiipppppppp.

The same fucking muscle seized up and I literally yelped out loud. By this time he had the step-stool in hand and I yanked my arm back over the banister. I leaned over and put my forehead on the railing and I cried. Hub came rushing upstairs to see if he could help me, but I don’t think there is anything that can be done. I’ve got my shoulder down and am continuing to try to stretch the shoulder and neck muscle, but I feel it so tight, waiting to snap short again. I didn’t ride the bike last night because the pain was so bad, and now I can’t ride again tonight. And I go to the orthopedic doctor tomorrow to talk about my knees…I have no idea if I’m going to be able to drive (let alone sleep tonight). I’m not even sure I can go shower and wash my freaking hair…and shaving my legs? Not going to happen, sorry for the stubby/hairy legs, doctor.

ARG. Did I mention that things ALWAYS go bad when we try to take a vacation away from the house? @#$)(*%Y)#_$)@(#%

These spasms are driving me crazy. WTF WTF WTF

Also, OW OW OW.

 

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