The Human Pincushion Or What It’s Like To Be A Live Voodoo Doll
August 19, 2013 by almostakiss
July 23rd, just 3 days before #BlogHer13, I went for my EMG (electromyogram) test. Clearly, I didn’t have enough on my plate and needed to squeeze in more that week. This is a test that evaluates and records the electrical activity produced by muscles. Basically, the doctor is looking for the source of nerve pain. I had to lay on an exam table and first he sent electricity through different nerves. Then he stuck needles deep into the muscles all over my calves and feet. I didn’t know if it would hurt but I’d done a bit of research online to find out what to expect. I didn’t want to find out too much and come in with expectations of a horrific experience. The first part was just the electricity and it felt like having the bristles of a hairbrush pushed hard into my skin. It hurt but nothing I couldn’t handle. Then he took needles (much bigger than accupuncture needles) and slowly jabbed them into my skin over an inch deep. Hubby came along and watched. I had asked him to take pictures but he didn’t, instead chatting up the specialist. The needles hurt a bit when inserted but hurt A LOT when he would twist them around under the skin. I would’ve given my kingdom for a broomstick to hold between my teeth when the pain hit hard. Now I know if I ever feel that type of pain again that someone has made a Voodoo Doll of me and is sticking pins in it. I also came to the realization that joining the circus and becoming The Human Pincushion is no longer an option. I guess I’ll have to settle for being The Fat Lady or The Bearded Lady if I decide to runaway and become a carnie.
This was the first and only time seeing Dr. Z. He didn’t tell me what to expect or if I was supposed to tell him when it hurt the most. The entire ordeal was being recorded on a laptop computer the doctor had hooked up to the electrodes and needles. It looked suspiciously like the kind of equipment used for paranormal investigations! The computer would make noises like when the Ghost Hunters are sweeping for otherworldly activity in the vicinity. On the screen was a series of graphs showing the spikes as they were happening. The whole thing seemed pretty medieval, even considering the advanced equipment. It seemed like something they might have done in the dark ages, after trying leeches to cure what ails you. Either that or it could’ve doubled as an agent of torture with the next level being tearing your fingernails out. The doctor didn’t tell me the results of the tests. He told me he had to compile his data. So we went and sat in the waiting room while he looked at things. Then he called us in and said that there seemed to be “some compromise of the nerves” in my lower lumbar vertebrae. We assumed as much from the MRI and just through process of elimination. He said I wasn’t a candidate for surgery or even cortisone/steroid injections since my pain wasn’t that bad. I had told them it was a 3-4 on a 10 scale. He asked if I’d be willing to go to physical therapy. I said yes and he wrote a prescription for that. I couldn’t read a single word of it.
Subsequently, I went to ATI in my town which is a physical therapy place. It is located in the building that used to house the Blockbuster movie rentals. I picked this place souly because it is 5 minutes from my house. I didn’t want to drive a half hour each way, twice a week. Wed. July 24th I went in and talked to the receptionist and gave them my prescription for therapy and made my first appt. for the following Monday. Then I put it out of my mind and went to #BlogHer13 and walked like 40 miles in 2 days in new sandals. I didn’t get any blisters and made out great with the walking. It was other things I had problems with.
July 29th, I went for my first PT session. It was mostly an evaluation of my flexibility. This was my first time EVER going for physical therapy and I had asked ahead of time what to wear. The receptionist said “anything you want!” So I wore white pants, sandals and a top. So I looked like a jerk showing up dressed like that. It was cool that day but I found out I should always wear shorts and tennis shoes. Good to know. Of course, the girl I ended up with as a therapist is kind of a tyrant. I mean that in a good way. She doesn’t take crap and doesn’t try to be my friend. She is pretty much all business. We get along like oil and water and I was briefly thinking of asking to switch to someone else but thought better of it. Right away she told me that I am literally inflexible. Not that my personality won’t bend. My body won’t move like it should. For my size, I’ve always been very flexible (or so I thought) until the last year or so. I used to be able to put my foot in my mouth! Don’t ask why, just go with the story. 😉 Now I can only get it about 6 inches away. I used to be able to bend over and put my palms flat on the ground with knees straight. Now I can touch my toes and that’s it. The worst thing I noticed when she evaluated me is I can’t bend backwards or bend sideways with my hand along my leg.
Ok, fine. I was game to do whatever she suggested. She started me on stretching exercises. These aren’t real exercises, people. They are just stretching. I told her I was going to a nutritionist/dietician on Aug. 2nd and was going to try to SLOWLY lose weight. In a way that I could keep it off. I asked her what other kinds of exercises I could do. She said NONE. That she didn’t want me doing anything but what she gave me. Okey dokey. She had me do the exercises on the massage table and told me to do them at home. I asked her, “Should I do them on the floor?” Her response? “If you can.” IF I CAN. Like she figured I hadn’t been on the floor in a decade or something. Please. I get on the floor regularly to play with my dogs. She has me lying on my back with one leg flat and the other pulled as high as I can towards me with a dogleash. Not as kinky as it sounds. I have to hold each side for 30 seconds and do 3 of them on each leg. Then pull my thigh forward with both hands for the same amount of time and #. There are several other stretches I have to do that take that long. It ends up being over a half an hour and I’m doing them 3 times a day. I feel like I’m short on time anyway and now I’ve got all this time eaten up by doing this stretching.
I go to PT every Monday and Wed. at 10 am and it lasts about an hour and 15 minutes. Thank God for insurance. If we didn’t have insurance, it would cost $438 each time! Now it’s a $25 copay. The first thing they do when I get in there is to put a wet/hot towel on my back. It’s something that gets heated up as you keep it on and it’s wet heat to loosen you up. I sit in a chair for 10 minutes with that against my back. Then they have me do 10 minutes on a recumbent exercise bike. That’s one where the pedals are out in front of you instead of underneath you. Then my therapist gives me a deep tissue massage. I’d never had a massage before and the first time she touched my hips, I about cried from the pain. I was sore for a whole day. The next time she worked on my thighs, it was almost as bad. Then the calves the next time were horribly painful. She told me I have all kinds of knots in my muscles. Yikes. Today when she did the calves and thighs, there was no pain at all! I’m hoping something is working!
Between feeling punished by no longer being able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want (more on my weight loss attempt in a later post) and having to do these exercises 3 times a day, I was feeling rather down. I was complaining to hubby one day, “How would you like to have to do something EVERY SINGLE DAY and never get a break or a day off from it, no matter what?!” Whoops. I noticed the second it came out of my mouth. I caught it and started laughing. Leave it to me to say something so self-pitying to someone else who knows EXACTLY what it’s like. Hubby was diagnosed with diabetes 2 months ago and has to take his blood sugar 3 times a day. So I apologized and got a bit of perspective in a hurry. The sad thing is early on I asked my therapist, “How long will I have to do these exercises?” Knock me over with a feather if she didn’t say, “Forever.” Basically, if I quit doing these stretches I will turn to stone. Or rather get so stiff, I won’t be able to move at all. I’m sure Lot’s wife had this problem too. She turned into a pillar of salt but at least they could flavor food with her.
The whole idea behind the therapy is to strengthen my core. I was told I have a “weak core” which is preferable to a rotten one but still not desirable. The good news is that my leg pain has decreased from a 3-4 to a 2-3 as of last week. Fingers crossed that it continues! The bad news is that the pain in my left foot (unknown origin) is worse. I could hardly walk over the weekend. I want to be able to walk without pain but also to walk “smoothly” like I used to. I feel like I’m either limping or hobbling along. It doesn’t matter if I’m barefoot or what shoes I wear. A few weeks ago they showed the victims that were hit by a car at Venice Beach, walking away right after the accident. I looked up at the tv and said, “Look! That’s how I walk!” That’s disconcerting. All the other patients at PT are injured in some way, either from a car accident or working out wrong. Here I am with no injury and my only excuse for being like this is getting older. Sigh. When everything is working on your body, you don’t give any of it a second thought. I miss the days when movement was effortless and I was filled with energy. On the bright side, at least I can still remember them! 🙂