too many words by laura lemay

today in pain news

So I’ve started going to physical therapy for my bad shoulder. My doctor sent me to a physical therapist called — so not making this up — Australian Physical Therapists. (Laura: that is an entire blog post right there. Eric: Do they beat you with kangaroos? Laura: see? see?)

The Australian Physical Therapists are, alas, just like every other physical therapy outfit I have ever been to, which is to say it is populated by sadists. I have always found it ironic that physical therapy is supposed to make you feel better, but they do it by beating you up. “Does THIS hurt? No? Howabout THIS?” You don’t even get beer and a nice steak afterward. Some Australians these are, I ask you.

In addition to conventional manual sadism, at physical therapy you also get electroshock. Sorry, I mean electro neuromuscular stimulation. The first time I had physical therapy it was for nasty tendonitis in my hands many years ago, and it was then I learned all about electrostim. They hooked my hands up to the machine, switched it on, turned the knob, and all my fingers shot out straight, completely rigid. “Is it supposed to do that?” I asked. “Ooops,” said the technician.

Googling electrostim for the purposes of this post was…enlightening, as home versions of the machine are commonly used as a sex toy. Medically it helps circulation and breaks down scar tissue. Its a weird feeling, a kind of prickly buzzy itchy sensation, although having now glanced at a few of the electrostim-as-sex-toy pages I may never be able to manage an actual therapy session again without giggling.

I had high hopes for the start of my physical therapy. I haven’t been able to do much of anything at the gym for a while. Anything that puts weight on my hands hurts; riding the stationary bicycles is OK until I actually put my hands on the bars and then it hurts; I tried walking on the treadmill and then my right arm went completely numb which was kind of alarming. So I was hoping for magic at physical therapy: fix me. Fix me right this second.

Alas, it doesn’t work that way; in fact it gets a lot worse before it gets better. I’ve mostly gotten used to my shoulder killing me; it hurts but I’ve adapted. Yesterday I went to physical therapy and got beaten up and electroshocked and my shoulder went from a quiet ow to a BIG FAT OW DAMMIT OW. I went straight back home to the couch and the hard drugs. Dammit.

But I know from here it’ll get better. Slowly, with muscle relaxants and physical therapy and the hot tub. And australian physical therapy could be worse; it could involve spiders and jellyfish.