As I mentioned earlier, I have some issues with tight muscles that are preventing me from running, and instead have sent me to physical therapy. My physical therapist is a kind man who wants to help his patients get better; he is also very good at causing me intense, searing, mind-erasing pain.
If I didn’t know any better, I would think he was a sadist.
This is how it works. Fabian spots me the second I walk into the gym, “Hey TK, how are you?” That makes me feel special. Also, he is in charge of the PT team, so I have the boss taking care of me. That also makes me feel special. After I do my warm-ups with the foam roller and lacrosse ball, he comes over and “works on me.” Today he “massaged” my quads, my soleus muscles, and my calf muscles, which I learned are called the gastroenemius. While we was working my my quads, I was facing him so he talked to me. That was nice, we caught up on the neighborhood, common acquaintances, and Mike Greenberg. Anyone who has ever had PT knows it’s bizarrely intimate. The intentions and procedures are clinical, and it certainly isn’t pleasant to get physical therapy massage. Nevertheless there’s just no way around the fact that that kind of touching is personal. So, he’s working on my right quad and it’s uncomfortable but not even close to unbearable. He moves to my left quad and I start grimacing, wincing, squirming and can’t hold up my end of the conversation. Fabian feels badly so he takes pity, and stops working on that muscle to give me a break.
But, when he has me roll onto my tummy so he can work on my soleus and my gastroenemius, there’s no more chatting. In fact, I don’t even have his attention anymore. Rather, my muscles have his attention, but I do not. He’s laughing with the other dudes about some sports story, perhaps not even aware of the intense pain I’m in. This is how he hurts me: he takes the bony part of his forearm, starts on one lower side of my leg, and pushes it as if he’s trying to strip the muscle off my body all the way up until he reaches my knee. He does this along my soleus, and along my calf muscle, at least 30 times on each leg. Each time he does this, it burns continually with stabbity bursts of even greater discomfort when he hits knots or swelling. I writhe in pain, gasp for air, and squeeze my hands shut around the towel I’m laying on. I cover my face so no one can see the tears popping into my eyes. Also, I break out in a cold sweat. All thoughts are wiped from my mind as the only thing I can sense–I’m not even sure articulate thoughts can occur through this kind of agony–is the pain that takes my breath away and causes my whole body to convulse.
Has anyone else ever gone through physical therapy this awful?
I’m pretty sure the last time all thoughts were wiped from my mind, my breath was taken away, and my body convulsed, I was actually experiencing intense, fantastic, ecstatic pleasure. But that was quite some time ago, so my memory can’t be trusted.
I am not complaining, I swear. Between every 5 or six swipes of his forearm, Fabian gently grasps my foot and shakes it, to give the muscle he just tortured a breather. In comparison to the vicious massaging, this shake-out seems like the tender, loving gesture of a compassionate person. This back and forth, between punishment and salve, is bewildering. And since I am a glutton for punishment from way back, it is also motivating. When Fabian finishes, sits me up, and asks me if I’m OK, all I can do is nod mutely. As long as he’s not trying to peel the soleus off my leg, I’m OK.
Some people might not fault me if I felt bad for myself. And certainly, there are moments where the longing to go for a run is so keen that I do slip into self-pity. But I would be a crazy person if I denied the part I played in fucking up my body so badly, and because of that, there is no room for moping. There is only room for action, and for recovery. So, Fabian, bring on that bony forearm. I’ll gasp and writhe through your therapy. I’ll do whatever it takes to repair the body I abused over the past six or seven months.