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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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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'm one of the ones who urged you to give PT a try. And now I am joining the crowd urging you to find a different PT - immediately!!

Now a good PT will definitely point out the issues you've got, but there are ways to do that without making you feel like a failure. Also, a good PT will (should) spend a ton of time with you on the intake process getting a complete history beyond the current issue. And you should be upfront about your entire medical history. Think of it as cathartic - you get to blurt out ALL that stuff all at once. I agree with those who are concerned that your PT is acting like an MD, and doubly agree with those suggesting you look into therapeutic massage.

Fingers crossed that you find the right caregiver.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterlizneust
nimbleness and broad shoulders are far overrated. listen, put on a pot of bourbon, invite all your friends, and only let them in if they bring cookies. we're all freaks. i have 4 butt cheeks and no neck. ok, are you happy now, slippyfin? ;)
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkaren
One thing that I've found helpful in dealing with medical professionals is to remember that they work for me. I wouldn't put up with being treated like shit by my plumber, so why would I allow that treatment from a doctor? However, I would not agree with the posters who have suggested a chiropractor instead of a physical therapist. True, PTs are not MDs, but they do have very specific, very extensive training that is regulated. Well regulated. That's not to say that there aren't bad apples in the bunch (sounds like you've got one!) but I would think you're better off finding a PT with some decent bedside manner!

Good luck.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNicole
Oh and Lori reminded me. Aviation Gin in either a gin and tonic or martini. (plus chiropractor, massage and special exercises)
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterNelking
if it makes you feel any better, my nurse and doctor both laughed at me last time I went for a physical since my heart was pounding so hard. Jesus, people--doctors make me nervous, and laughing at me is hardly going to make it better! It can't hurt for you to shop around a bit, as others have suggested. You're definitely not alone...
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterR
I have many of your same problems, but it's almost solely a result of scoliosis. Find a new PT.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterkaitlyn
Yes, go to someone else! Mr. Numbles obviously sucks.

He's probably trying to be helpful and maybe he plans on working with you over time to get you all better but sheesh! What an alarmist. Also, he's not helping. So basically, he sucks and you should go see someone else and forget all about this dude.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterozma
Actually, I should not post two comments as I've used up my comments quota but I remember this dental hygienist was all freaked about my unclean teeth and I've never gone back to that office. And no one has ever done that to me ever again. So I wanted to add that you have to tell us what the next person says--because I'll bet a million dollars they will not have the same reaction.

It's bad manners to make a person feel physically defective. And bad medicine.
December 16, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterozma
I just started reading this so I am not sure if you were in an accident or suffered some trauma that sent you through PT. I was in a car accident and went through this very same nightmare for 3 years! PT was time consuming and never did much for my neck. (FYI you must have taken the prize for the worst neck they have ever seen, as I used to hold that prize. They did do traction which helped me a bit.

What did finally work was a chiropracter. I resisted going for a long time, but finally was at the end of my rope and went. I felt better the very first day. My shoulders felt like I was carrying a 20lb baby around on them 24/7. Suddenly that baby was lifted off of my shoulders. I went back 4-5 times and have been fine ever since. Of course they want you to come back weekly but I do not have enouhg hours in a day for that, when I feel fine.

Real curious if you were in a car accident where you were rear ended.
December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJulie
Oh Alice. I swear you can make anything sound funny. And this isn't funny! Surely it's painful and frustrating for you. I shouldn't be laughing, but I can't help myself. I hope you get things sorted out soon.
December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBarb
I suggest a chiropractor too. When your spine is out of whack, it puts pressure on your spinal cord and that screws up the signals going to other parts of your body. I started going after a mountain bike accident (picture me flying over my handlebars and landing on my shoulder) several years ago and it's been great. It even helped me feel better during my pregnancy this year as I was incubating my 9lb daughter.
December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJulie
Alice, you need to come to Wake Forest, NC and go to my PT. He's awesome, in fact his whole staff is awesome. I'm recovering from shoulder reconstruction surgery and going to PT 3x a week. He is positive, he listens, he pushes when he thinks I need pushing, I've also seen him scold people who are slacking off or not doing their excercises. But I think that is part of a PT's job they are like coaches and what they are asking us to do is sometimes painful, in my case sometimes very painful, but necessary.

Anyway I love going to PT and working hard to get better, it's sort of like going to the gym. If you are not enjoying the process then you really should find a new PT.

That is all
December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel
I once had a PT who told me I had chubby knees. Not the rest of you. Just, you know, chubby knees. Knees, mind you, that had been ripped open, fixed, and put back together again with long zipper scars. I said nothing, because how does one defend not having knobby knees?
December 17, 2008 | Unregistered Commentermim
I think your shoulders look great, and I love your stiff neck, and your low blood pressure just means you're "chill". No worries, I think you're perfect.
December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterCat
You need to eliminate Mr. Nimbles.I mean, not in general! Just from your life.
December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSonja
Ugh. This so reminds me of my brush with a podiatrist.

I was referred for foot pain, and ended up being laughed at as he told me about the 7 things wrong with my feet and gait. Congenital, mind you. He did *not* address my bad walking habits, just talked about how I should have had corrective surgery 30 years ago, and how now it was surgery or at least a custom insole. I finally told him he didn't have to laugh at me since after all, we all had to live with the body we were given. He did apologize, but what an ass. He thought he was going to impress me with how screwed up my body was? Duh, yeah, I have a few more things to add to that list.

Ozma said it: "It's bad manners to make a person feel physically defective. And bad medicine." So could we get some *practical* solutions without the bad feelings? I'm sorry this guy felt compelled to tsk tsk over you.
December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMarie
Aaaargh! Stop giving another thought to what he's told you and get the heck out of there!

Sounds like your PT is a flake. He suggested that low blood pressure causes you not to heal!?! This does not sound like an accepted medical assessment or conclusion. My guess is that he reads weird esoteric new age nonsense that does not pass scientific muster and spouts his ideas off on people that are in a vulnerable place. I can't stand that this happens!

Most other practitioners would conclude that you were very healthy and lucky that your blood pressure is so low... Bully for you and your heart health! Stop putting yourself ina vulnerable place and find someone that could help.
December 17, 2008 | Unregistered Commenteropinionated
Health stuff like this is so stressful. Very sorry.
December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterEva
If you don't like the guy, then of course see someone else. But regardless...

Two words: yoga and acupuncture.

Seriously. Will work wonders for you.

December 17, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersarah
That dude sounds like a cotton-headed ninnymuggins. You can do so much better.
December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterAmanda
I had a friend who was totally attracted to her physical therapist and the way he manipulated her. So strong. So manly. I wish for you a hottie PT in your future.
December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRita Arens
Wait, sugar impedes healing?

DAMNIT. No wonder "depression hurts."

*crams more chocolate in mouth*
December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterSarcastic Mom
Oh, Alice. I am a PT and it hurts me to see so many people have had such bad experiences with my fellow therapists. But if you are not "clicking" with this guy, please do change to someone else. You can choose whoever you want to go to, no matter who your MD actually referred you to. Ask specifically for a manual therapist. It sounds as though you do have a therapist that understands that no joint in the body can be treated in total isolation from joints around it, and that is a good thing, but he certainly isn't using that knowledge in a way that is helping you. And, isn't it both shoulders that are painful? Maybe your right side is out of whack, but that is probably not making both shoulders hurt. Have you actually been to an orthopedist? And I have to say, talking about sugar impeding healing is usually not in the realm of PT...(not saying that wellness in general is outside the realm of PT...just that nutrition is not the FIRST place we go, as a rule...)Anyway, you and your therapist should be able to find small improvements in your strength and range of motion and celebrate those, continuing to focus on the positive. My general rule is to do whatever it takes at first to get rid of the pain- mobilization, heat or cold therapy, TENS, iontophoresis, gentle exercise...I do hope you get better and find someone to help you soon.
December 17, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterBetsey
You need a new PT guy. But you also need a really good yoga class - a gentle one. The more flexible and limber you can make yourself, the less likely you will be to injure yourself. Plus, it's fun.
December 17, 2008 | Unregistered Commentersuburbancorrespondent
i was once told that my hips are less flexible than a bed ridden 80 year old's. told this by a physiotherapist who work in geriatrics and so would be in a position to know. that was 10 years ago and i promise you my hips are tighter and my neck and shoulders have joined them. what i want is for someone to tell me why. why am i tight like this? WHYYYY?
December 18, 2008 | Unregistered Commenterhonesty*rain

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