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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Join me, won't you, as I wallow for a bit?

My physical therapist is giving me a complex. Is he supposed to do that? Is that included in his list of services?

I was hoping to just get this shoulder pain treated, but apparently the rest of me is in complete shambles. It's a wonder that I'm ambulatory. The first thing he observed, as every medical professional I have ever seen or walked by or made out with wants to tell me, is that my shoulders are hunched forward. Yes, I know, and you know what? They've always been like that, and there's apparently nothing I can do about it. I am a freak. There, are you happy? Are you satisfied, medical professionals of the world? I have freaky narrow shoulders that are bizarrely tipped forward. I thought it was a likeable slouch, but apparently it is WRONG and CRAZY and needs to be TSK-TSKED over.

And that's not all!

"Did you know that your torso is twisted over to one side?" the therapist asks.

I sigh. I actually did know that. "It's come up," I said.

"Does your back hurt?"

"Sort of. Yes. Pretty much always." I like to just not think about it, Physical Therapist Guy, but now that you're reminding me, OW. THANKS.


"Your right hip is twisted, as well."

"That might be because of the, uh, club foot."

"You have a club foot?"

"Well, I did, at least that's what they called it, but they treated it when I was little. So now it's okay."

He frowns. "Except it's thrown off your entire right side."

"I'm sorry," I murmur. Why am I apologizing?

Then he tries to twist my neck in some sort of impossible direction.


"That hurts?"

No, ow is my mantra. "Yup."

"Your neck is extraordinarily stiff. I could only move it this much. " He shows me a tiny increment with his two fingers. "I should be able to move it this much," he says, and swivels his head 360 degrees. (I exaggerate, but less than you might think.)

Well, kudos. Aren't you nimble! I will call you Mr. Nimbles! "Wow," I say.

"Yeah. That's a problem."

And it is only the beginning of my problems. The biggest one is that, after seeing him four times, after having been manipulated and stretched and prodded and told how stiff and inflexible I am, the pain in my arms is worse than ever. "Your body's not healing itself," he tells me. Then he takes my blood pressure, which is, according to him, alarmingly low. Technically I shouldn't be alive. All my blood should be pooling around my ankles—my freaky ankles.

I'm supposed to go for blood tests, because, I don't know, he's concerned about my liver? Honestly I stopped listening after a while. I should probably just go to someone else, someone who'll make me feel not quite so misshapen and hopeless. He's not saying things I didn't already know, so I can't blame him entirely. But no one else has made me feel quite so unfixable.

He also told me not to eat too much sugar, because it will impede my healing. But really, after you make me feel that bad, you think I'm not going to go home and eat cookies? Well, you don't know everything, Mr. Body Smarts Guy.

Reader Comments (97)

I always end up at doctors like this - they're all Dr. Doom. Low blood pressure and bad posture - so what? You're still here, so it must be working for you!
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterTaryn
Oh geez, I just had the exact same thing happen. Only my Physio told me that I had the worst joints and muscles she had ever felt and tsk'd the whole time.

Now I'm undergoing testing for EDS (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome). Fun times.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterVeronica
Eek. And ow. And aw. I am also crooked, which is always mentioned when I visit a new doctor. I always kind of want to say, "And my ears stick out and I have chicken legs! Would you like to point those out too?!"
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDiaryofWhy
oh GOD! I thought "physical therapy" was supposed to be code for "massage" or something.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMarinka
I, too, am "flawed" physically, or so I've been told...who's perfect, by the way? I always wonder if yoga would help...of course, it's just another entry for my To-Do list. Sigh. Hope you're feeling better soon, Alice.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGinny
Chiropractor. Seriously. He or she might find all of the same things to be out of whack, but he or she will also FIX THEM instead of just making you feel unfixable. Which you are not. Seeing one was the best decision I ever made. Quotes from my appt to follow as proof:

Her: "Did you know you rib cage is out of alignment on the left side?"

Me: "Would that be why I've had a strange muscle spasm in the middle of my back for years?"

Her: "Uh, yeah."

And then she fixed it and something that hurt me for years did not hurt anymore. We had a similar conversation about my left hip. Apparently the left side of my body likes to get all screwed up while the right side of my body takes it's responsibilities more seriously.

Anywho. Good luck! You are fixable!
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterErin
My list in order of things I did to fix my neck that wouldn't turn left.

Two rounds of PT and special exercises1 series of Rolfing and special exercisesMassage and special exercisesChiropractor and Massage and special exercises

And for now the Chiropractor is magic.

You never know what'll work, but you have to make the decisions for yourself.

Oh and take a multi vitamin

December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNelking
I can deeply relate to your frustrating and i felt like reaching out to you somehow.

it's unfortunate, the medical view of disability is that there is some physical norm and all the rest are deviations. which just makes all their treatments designed to take those deviations and force them to resemble the norm as closely as possible.

and yet, we are so adaptable and our goals as individuals regarding how we want to use and live in our bodies is so vast and flexible.

if your physical therapist doesn't ask you how your pain impacts your life and how you want to live it and what your goals are with therapy and instead *tells* you how your affected, and what your goals should be, it probably wont be a very integrative, succesful process.

i wish for you that you find a therapist/therapy that integrates their understanding and knowledge of healing, with your goals and the natural (for you) shape your body has taken.

I hope your body finds compassion.


December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterErin
Affirmations: I am flexible in mind, body, and spirit.

I stand tall and proud, opening outward to the world, and trusting it to embrace me.

I am Alice Bradley, you gonna make something of it?

December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJessica
I'd have gone home and drunk a bottle of wine because, you know, wine is healthy.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLori
Therapist: You're messed up. Look at how deformed and misshapen you are.

Alice: I am not an animal, I am a human being.

Therapist: You wouldn't know it to look at that hip of yours. In therapist school we had to dissect a fetal pig who, in his spare time was a practicing Yogi contortionist. I mean this little guy used to twist himself up and squeeze into this little plastic box. It was amazing. Anyway, his hips were less f*cked up than yours.

Alice: And how about my club foot?

Therapist: I'd keep that. It's a real bonus for soccer. KAPOWIE! Seriously.

December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterHeyJoe
Sheesh. So sorry to hear about this. I've had both good and bad.

One of my legs is shorter than the other and yes it does cause some issues. I over-compensate by clenching my butt all the time when i walk and so I have these really painful gluts and my back is prone to going out. blah blah blah. It's fairly common because we are humans!

I try not to lift stupidly heavy things (anymore), exercise, and get a massage at least 3 times a month to stay limber. It is expensive, but it is worth every penny.

I am not an expert, I'm just saying that I have learned how to cope (AND have a hot masseuse rub me down every once and awhile).

Your merry christmas is his number if you are ever in the Chicagoland area.

December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterGrace
Well I, for one, glad your p.t. had the courage to say it. I've stopped coming over because looking at your twisted and misshapen body has begun to give me vertigo.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBrian
And night sweats.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBrian
Hm. He sounds...negative? Telling someone all the things that are "wrong" with them is so far from constructive. I'd find another guy. And you seem quite far from this viewpoint, but try not to end up on the "I must always go to physical therapy because I am so messed up and always in pain" train; my friend's mom is on it and it's ridiculous.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMarin
I'm a massage therapist, and I totally recommend the Rolfing. It's a great way to get your body back on track, but it's not cheap! Regular massage would help you stay in good alignment, like once or twice a month. It has to be therapeutic massage though, none of that relaxation stuff. That stuff is for vacation!
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterShevon
I'm all for the finding a new doctor suggestion, but seriously, when I had hip problems over the summer, my physical therapist pointed out that one of my legs is over 1cm shorter than the other. And this is what has caused my recurring problems with all joints on my left leg. I got a lift, and things are much better these days.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAllison
Funny thing you mention all that. I'm in similar straits -- tho no freakish ankles or formerly club feet -- and the ortho doctor and GP have ganged up and pointed to my thyroid as being the culprit to why I've not healed since my recent flare up many months ago. Tests, tests, tests. And now meds. No better yet, but I've not been doing them a long time. (My liver, like my ankles and feet, is A-OK, however.)
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterpatois
Ah, can I sympathize: It's like when my doctors tell me that something seemingly catastrophic is wrong ("Hey: your liver is shutting down!") but they don't know why, and then WITHOUT ANY SENSE OF IRONY turn around and say to me "You should really avoid stress." I'm sorry? Do you not realize that YOU are causing me stress?

Seriously: find a new guy. It's a hassle, but it'll wind up being worth it.

I'm sorry he sucks so bad.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNTE
New doctor, massage, from husband or professional (Oasis Day spa is having specials), bottle of wine, chocolate chip cookie from Jacques Torres. I won't even charge you for this stellar advice.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous New York
what do you expect from a physical therapist? he's trying to fix you not make you feel all hearts and flowers. Kudos to him for trying to find the underlying causes.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterStu
Right, and I'm not allowed to have any feelings about it. And the fact that he's "fixing" me in a way that makes me feel like crap, well, that's par for the course? Good to know. You're a delight, Stu! Thanks for dropping by.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteralice
Physical therapists like to play doctor. My mom has been dealing with probs of Parkinsons - her therapist couldn't figure out why she couldn't hold her head up. HELLO Mr. Therapist! That's a symptom of Parkinson's! Ask him very professionally to address the issue that your REAL doctor wrote the orders for! Then say your MEDICAL DOCTOR will write more orders if anything else needs to be addressed.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkaren l
I went to physical therapy and all they did was give me moist heat therapy (which, hey, was great and helped me relax but did nothing to fix my back). I've been seeing a chiropractor for about six months and the majority of my pain is gone. And I can move my neck to the left now. He's big on the health tips and everything but he never makes me feel like crap. Considering that I'm 41 and incredibly overweight, it's nice to see someone who makes helpful suggestions and doesn't give guilt trips. Plus I told my doctor I was seeing one and she was fine with it.

While the information he's telling you is true, he definitely should be putting it in a better manner. And Stu obviously doesn't have a clue.

Good luck, no matter what you decide.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commentergreenduckiesgirl
health professionals should never make you feel bad about yourself. i learned that when my then-infant son needed physical therapy for torticolis (a neck issue). i'd never been to a PT before, so when i felt like a bad, bad, neglectful, bad mother with every visit i didn't know i had a choice. then i took him to someone at a better location - closer to the pediatrician's office - and she was AMAZING. really made me feel like she cared and would help my baby and me. SO, you do not ever have to see that guy again - someone can help you. i wish you luck!
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commentervbd93

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