Physical Therapy is Hard

10325771_10152178862025945_3803660742779114138_n[1]If you’ve ever done physical therapy, this won’t come as a surprise to you.

I’ve been in PT for about four weeks now trying to address the issues with my knees.  It’s going well, but it’s painful.  I’m working to strengthen my hips, legs and knees in order to help my knees maintain their alignment and also alleviate the pain associated with the loss of cushioning and cartilage.

My first active session with my therapist was both embarrassing and torturous.

First, she put me through a series of hip and leg exercises that were expected and not all that different from working out with my trainer.  It felt like a workout, but that was good.  Afterwards, she “stretched me out.”  This is where it gets embarrassing.

Like this, except laying on or your back with a therapist looming over you.

Like this, except laying on your back with a therapist looming over you.

She had me lay diagonally across a therapy table, and positioned my legs so that one foot was braced on her shoulder, and the other was bent as far back as possible under the table.  She leaned into me so that my knee was almost touching my shoulder, and she used her body to stretch my other leg back under the table, stretching my quad and hip flexor.  Outside the context of a PT room, this would have looked like some serious girl on girl action.  I was so embarrassed by the positioning, and we were not alone in the room, I had to stare at the ceiling.  I could not look her in the face while we were in this ridiculous position.

Then, with my leg jacked up to my shoulder, she digs her forearm into the top of my other thigh and says, “Your hips are so tight.  Your quads and hamstrings are strong, but your hips are really tight and weak.”

Gasping through the pain of her shredding my muscle with her tiny arms of steel, I said, “No way!  My hips aren’t weak!  My hips are bangin’!”

Just kidding.  I didn’t say that, and my hips aren’t bangin’.  Well, at least not in that way.  My hips are awesome in a good-Midwestern-stock-breeding-hips sort of way.  I actually had a doctor tell me once that I was “good Midwestern stock.”  I probably should have been offended by that at the time.

Anyway, this freaky, painful stretching escapade lasted for several minutes and then she moved me into the same position with the other leg.  At one point I had to put my arm over my face and turn away because I refused to allow anyone in that room to see how much pain I was in.  I kept chanting to myself quietly, “Don’t cry in public, don’t cry in public.   Only candy-ass, wussie girls cry in public!”  The next morning as I was getting dressed, I noticed multiple bruises all over the tops of both my thighs.

I don't know this guy.  It's a stock photo, but an accurate depiction of pervy guy.

I don’t know this guy. It’s a stock photo, but an accurate depiction of pervy guy.

This physical torture has continued for four long weeks.  The stretching has gotten better and less painful, although there is one dude also receiving therapy who seems to enjoy watching my stretching sessions with more enthusiasm than I’m comfortable with. I’m pretty certain he’s a pervert and probably getting off on the visual.  I secretly hope the therapist gives him an extra dig with her elbow when she’s manipulating his muscles.

I wish I could say that I’ve noticed a significant difference between the knee shots and therapy, but so far, it’s mostly the same.  Pain, grinding, and more pain.  My therapist admitted to me that some people don’t experience any pain relief from the shots.  That’s disheartening considering that I only need one more shot to complete the course of my treatment.

So yeah, physical therapy is not for sissies.

This is how I know I’m getting old, Part 2

Several months ago I wrote a post titled, This is how I know I’m getting old.    I talked mostly about how my attitude and perspectives about various things have changed over the years, for better or for worse.

Well, my attitude is not the only thing that’s been changing.  As my 94 year-old Nanny would say, “Getting old is not for sissies.”

Here are a few more tell-tale indicators that I am officially old.

1.  When I was younger, if I had a weird pain in my abdomen I wouldn’t think twice about it and blamed it on the pizza I ate for dinner.  Now, weird pains in any part of my body makes me worry about kidney stones, ulcers, cancer and any number of horrible diseases that seem to be an inevitable part of aging.  I’m 41, and it’s logical to think my shit is going to start falling apart.  I didn’t worry about my liver in my twenties.  Now, with every cocktail, I worry that my liver is 41 years-old and may not appreciate my love of wine and margaritas.  The same holds true for all my other organs.  I think to myself, “Damn, my lower back hurts, I hope my kidneys aren’t about to have a mid-life crisis.”

2. I have sun spots on the back of my left hand, but not on my right hand.  My left hand is my driving hand and the hand that gets the most sun exposure when I’m in the car.  Now I hate myself for not putting sunscreen on that hand before driving every day for the last 25 years.  No one thinks about sun spots or sun damage on their hands when they’re 25!

11195999_s3.  When I was eighteen, my mom warned me that as I aged the elasticity around my eyes would be one of the first things to go.  Her intention was to provoke me into a routine of good skin care.  Thankfully I listened to her, for the most part.  But she was right.  The skin on my eyelids isn’t as tight as it used to be, and I can no longer wear any type of shimmer eye-shadow because it accentuates the loose skin and makes me look like an old hooker.

4. Saggy boobs.  Sigh.  I won’t go into too much detail about this because, you know, TMI.  But I will say two things on this subject.  1. I would kill to have my 25 year-old boobies back, and 2.  Gravity combined with Age is a double whammy of a mother-fucker and I hate you both.

5. More often than I care to admit, I will walk into a room to do something and realize I’ve completely forgotten what I entered that room to do.  My short-term memory is for shit at this point, and it never fails.  I will walk all the way back downstairs and then remember what I walked upstairs to do.  So then I have to walk back up the stairs, which is hell on my knees.  And this leads me to #6…

If you're too young to get this reference, then I feel sorry for you.

If you’re too young to get this reference, then I feel sorry for you.

6. About two years ago, I noticed my knees were starting to hurt when I walked up stairs.  Then it was my ankles.  I went from being able to do jogging intervals during my workouts to low impact incline intervals because my knees and ankles couldn’t handle the impact from jogging anymore.  Also, whenever I bend at the knees or ankles, twist or pivot those joints, everything goes snap, crackle and pop.  The other night my knee popped so loudly it sounded like bone snapping and my husband looked at me and said, “Holy shit, was that you?”  Arthritis runs heavily in my family and my mom and grandmother have both had knee replacements.  After multiple workouts with my trainer that resulted in extreme pain in my knees and ankles, she insisted that I stop ignoring the problem and see an orthopedist.

About two weeks ago I had my first appointment with the orthopedist.  During the appointment I was shuttled between various techs, X-ray,  and the doctor’s physician’s assistant.  At one point, two techs got into an argument over which one of them was to assist me to an exam room.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Tech 1:  I’ll be taking you to exam room 4.

Tech 2:  No, she’s with me in room 6.

(I’m standing in between these two guys who are towering over me.  They’re young, perhaps in their mid-twenties.)

Tech 1:  Are you trying to steal my patient?  She’s with me.

Tech 2:  Dude, she’s with me.  She want’s to be with a better looking guy anyway.

Me:  Boys, settle down.  This isn’t a bar and you don’t need to fight over me.  And by the way, everyone here is good-looking, so that’s not a qualifier.  (I live in LA.  The staff in this doctor’s office all look like they stepped off the cover of some trendy health/fitness magazine.  And the fact that they were arguing over me and I was annoyed by it is further proof that I’m officially old.  It wasn’t flattering.  I wanted to knock their heads together and tell them to grow the fuck up.  See, I’m so old.)

20686060_sThankfully the physician’s assistant came to my rescue and directed me to the room she wanted me in.  When my doctor walked in my jaw almost hit the floor.  He did not look like a distinguished orthopedic surgeon.  As my husband so aptly described it, he looked like a Swedish porn star.  Tall, definitely younger than I expected, athletic, easy on the eyes.  I could imagine him more clearly in a wet suit surfing on the beach or posing in a photo shoot for a men’s health magazine before I would imagine him in an operating room. (I realize this information is completely irrelevant to the topic of my post, but when your doctor looks like he could be working in a strip club, that certainly adds an element of holy-crap-I-have-veiny-legs-and-I-have-to-let-hot-doctor-touch-them stress to the situation.  Hot doctors are not a good thing, and they add to the discomfort of the situation.  I already feel old.  Now I feel old and self-conscious about whether or not I shaved my legs good enough that day.  The struggle is real, folks.)

It's an angry needle.

It’s an angry needle.

He sent me to get an MRI and the results showed that I’ve lost most of the cartilage around my patella/knee caps.  I also have the beginning stages of arthritis in my knees.  The treatment at this point is a series of shots in my knees to replace my joint fluid and lubrication, along with physical therapy.  I almost lost my shit when he asked if I was ready for my first shot.  I’m not thrilled about letting anyone stab me in the knees with a four-inch needle!  So,  I said, “No, thank you.”  He said, “PT is going to hurt like hell if we don’t do this, and it will help alleviate the pain and inflammation in your knees.”

Rock, meet hard place.

So I sucked it up and got the first of six shots.  If you’ve never had a shot in your knee, let me say this….it was unpleasant, but it certainly wasn’t the worst thing I’ve endured.  It was fast and I didn’t scream or curse out loud.  That’s good for me considering I dropped a ‘mother-fucker’ during my mammogram.   But I had to grit my teeth and my back involuntarily arched off the table in physical response to the sensation.  For me, dental shots are worse.  An epidural is worse.  Mammograms are most definitely worse.  And considering I need three shots in each knee to complete the treatment, that’s a good thing.  My knee was sore for the rest of the night and I rewarded myself for my bravery (yes, I’m calling it that) by having wine and sushi for dinner.  It was a treat, and my old, broken-ass deserved it.

In summary…my Nanny was right, getting old is definitely not for sissies.