Once Burnt, Twice Shy

“Pain changes everything.”

That’s what my wonderful and amazing physical therapist said to me. She was having me walk side by side with her while she held her hand up, palm towards me, and had me lean my left shoulder against it as we walked. It was to retrain my brain, though she didn’t specify that, I knew that was the purpose of the exercise.

I tend to favor my left leg, therefore, I walk crooked. My gait is off, with the resultant muscle cramps on that side. Muscles screaming at me, hey, this is not our regular job!

But that’s what naturally happens with an injury, you subconsciously splint whichever part of the body has suffered, to protect it. It is primal, it is reflex, it is the survival instinct.

After the horrific pain I experienced for weeks, due to sciatica and a slipped lumbar disc, my brain wants to avoid a repeat. I don’t even have to think it. It’s like breathing. I limp when I don’t have to.

Now, I have to interrupt the distress signal that’s automatically being sent out. I have to teach my brain that it’s OK now. It’s OK to put my full weight on my leg. It’s OK to walk normally. It’s OK to climb one step with it, and step back down with it. I won’t crumble.

Now at the end of week 6 since this saga began, I am doing much better with medication and even better with PT, after only two sessions so far. I thought for sure there would be hell to pay the morning after my first session, but amazingly there was almost no pain in the morning, which is when I suffer the worst pain of the day, usually.

My therapist is showing me what my leg can still do, putting it through a workout, which even includes pedaling a stationary bike. At first, I was skeptical, but I got on the bike, put my feet on the pedals and got going, and it was like: Look, Ma, no pain!

I have to admit that my favorite moments of that hour and a half are the heat treatment in the beginning, followed by massage to my sore left side and leg, and the ice treatment, along with lower back muscle stimulation, at the end.

In between those moments, I could very well be at a gym with my own personal trainer coaching me through one exercise followed by another and then another. Everyone is masked, given the age we live in now, and everyone is pleasant and accommodating.

I actually look forward to going to my twice-a-week sessions, and I’m thankful to having my leg back in action and my pain mostly gone. And I do my exercises faithfully every day to strengthen my leg and my core. And hopefully, I will need no further intervention.

As I hope all is well with you.

My new exercise ball with which I do stretches while sitting in a chair. My grandkids will have fun with it as well.

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