Posts Tagged ‘physical therapy’

This morning my fabulous physical therapist Fabian came over with his massage table, acupuncture pins, and some power box that would surely bring a corpse back from the dead if affixed to the proper nodes.

He lives in Woodside, too, and is just recently-trained in the therapy of dry needling. He’s giving a few treatments away to some of his patients in the hopes that we will spread the word. You already know how much I appreciate the work he’s done on my muscles–I joke about the pain and awkward positioning but honestly, the man has The Touch. You also know that I’m somewhat of a connoisseur of acupuncture, having tried out four other needlers already (Acupuncture for Athletes the best of those, by far). So me recommending Fabian’s dry needling is not me helping out a friend, it’s me truly saying: he’s good, and his pins heal.

The main difference (that I can see) between what Fabs does with his dry needling and the acupuncture I’ve received before is that the other therapists left the needles in for up to 20 minutes to stimulate the blood circulation in the area and promote healing. Fabian’s method is to get in to adhesions and knots with the needle, release them, and get the needle out of there. This means that while I miss out on that floaty, dreamy relaxing 20 minutes on the therapy table, I actually get needled a lot more in the same amount of time, so Fabian can hit more trigger points. In 45 minutes, he pinned the muscles all the way up both sides of my spine, released my glutes, my hamstrings (that was painful), my left hip, and my calves.

As he did this, he kept up a steady patter of “Yeah dude,” whenever he felt a muscle relent to his poking. (This seems to be his signature phrase.) Acupuncture can be uncomfortable or startling as muscles are releasing, but it’s not supposed to be painful. Every now and then, though, a needle will pinch. Some of Fabs’ needles pinched, mainly in the hamstrings which I find to be extremely sensitive anyway, but he of course took them out right away and tried again.

For his big finale, he put two pins in each calf, and hooked me up to his electric pulse box thingy. He amped up the charge until my legs were vibrating from the knees down. It was the oddest sensation. Not unbearable at all but all my muscles were twitching, completely out of my control. This carried on for about five or ten minutes, during which Fabs sat on my new turquoise couch and chatted at me.

Then we were done, and my muscles were so supple. The pinched nerve in my heel was quiet. My plantar fasciitis was quiet. It was time for a runt run. That’s right, Fabian left me with the explicit instructions to run today AND tomorrow.

Fabian left with his table and Frankenstein box, and I left with Little G and my house keys. It’s been so long since I ran my Sunnyside Loop (the last time was December 27, 2011), that it’s a rediscovery. I was dusted with white flower petals along upper Skillman, I shivered in the dark shadows cast by the Tucker Robbins building, I recognized the steady pitch of my neighborhood’s hills.

For a moment, when I saw I was running a 10:40 pace, I wanted to cry–I’ve lost so much speed, stamina, strength! But really, that was self-pity  pricked by pride. Running fast is a satisfaction, definitely. But it’s also a vanity. The simple truth is, I’m grateful I can get out there for 2.51 miles, even if it takes me 26 minutes and 43 seconds to get it done.

PS here are The Fabster’s deets! Check him out; give him a try!

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Runt Run

Things have been busy. But here’s the rub: I’m still getting the rub, twice a week, from good ole Fabian my PT. And it’s still painful. He takes his forearm and tenderizes my soleus. He takes his knuckles and rakes the soles of my feet. He takes his elbow and he breaks up the knots in my ass.

Yes. I did just write, “He takes his elbow and he breaks up the knots in my ass.”

Apparently, the top of my glutes are extremely tight and have a lot of adhesions due to asymmetry and evil repetitious movements. Yes, ERMs, that is a clinical term. A lot of these knots have clustered around my soleus. Here is a breakdown of what this means.

  1. Fabs has me lay face down me on this massage table that’s slightly convex, so my butt sticks in the air. Oh yes, so helpful, thank you for calling attention to the part of my body which has been the first to show its age.
  2. He takes his hands and palpates the upper parts of my tush, to see where the knots are. This is the part where I hope he won’t strike up a conversation with me. It’s worse than trying to talk to the dentist when he’s got his prong on your teeth. (That is not a euphemism, but if it were it would be an excellent one.)
  3. When he finds the knots, he takes his elbow and leans with all his weight into the problem areas. I think this is called trigger point release therapy? This brings his torso against the back of my legs, and his face is near the middle of my back. There we are: arranged in this unintentionally intimate position. Um, again.

Once, a male patient walked up to ask about his own therapy while Fabs had his elbow pinned into my butt. The patient says to him, “Comfortable?” I of course hear this and start laughing. Now, whenever Fabs works on the muscles around my sacrum I remember that comment and inevitably get a fit of giggles. Which is awkward; so it becomes an awkward sandwich: My Giggle Awkward on top of his Elbow-in-My-Ass Awkward.

Today, the muscles were really sore, so as he was therapizing my glutes, I may have moaned once or twice. That was probably not the right thing to let escape my lips, though surely it was better than what I was thinking, which was, Fuck me! You know, because of the PAIN.

After he made me moan by rubbing my butt, Fabs stretched out my hamstrings and hip flexors. This is the stretch I illustrated for you previously. Today when he did this, I was extraflexi because he said to me, “Most humans can’t do this!” (Woot! Gold star!) Then, while still postitioned between my legs and facing me, he took my left leg and spread it perpendicular to my body and said, “Oh yeah!”

Remember, I’m lying on my back on a table at hip-level.

I couldn’t make this up.

Well, actually, I could. But if I was making this up it wouldn’t be about physical therapy. And it wouldn’t be posted to this particular blog, a blog about running. I feel I must remind you my blog is about RUNNING, since I has been quite some time since I’ve actually RUN. Which, in nice circularity, reminds me


It was just a little runt of a run. It took me more time to dither around preparing than I actually spent running. I tweeted the whole build-up. I got reacquainted with Little G (I had to charge him up). I spent a good while debating: shorts and long sleeves or capris and short sleeves? (Shorts and long sleeves.) IPod or no iPod? (No iPod.) Most notably, I wore my hair in a bun. No pigtails, not even a ponytail.

I ran for 25 minutes, just under 2.5 miles. Remarkably, I worked up a sweat. My plantar fasciitis did not hurt, but the rest of my body was a bit disturbed. What, it wanted to know, are you doing to me? After about a mile my lungs were a little burny. I wasn’t panting, but my lungs were definitely unused to being asked for such a favor as I was asking. In addition to this, my arms were flapping as if they thought I was trying to fly instead of run, and I was hyperaware of the way my feet were hitting the ground with each stride. My posture was like a cooked noodle, it couldn’t hold itself in one position. I made the tactical error of starting the run on the downhill side of my Sunnyside Loop, so the final stretch towards home was more of a challenge than I remembered. When I got back to my front stoop and clicked off Little G, I wondered when running had gotten so hard.

Nevertheless, it’s the most fun I’ve had since I raced with the body of another woman in Houston. I think I’ll try it again tomorrow.

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It’s never a good sign when your physical therapist kisses you good-bye.


What that kiss on the cheek means is, “It pains me to pain you. Though my job dictates I hurt you by grinding your muscles into chopped meat with my forearm, my humanity dictates I offer you compassion.”

It does not mean “I like you,” or “You’re cute,” or even “I want to kiss you.” Especially when the kiss is preceded by a tribal handshake and a salutation of “Dude!”

On Tuesday Fabian used something that looked like a palm sander on my glutes. (He called it an “oscillator” but we know better.) After I did my foam rolling, Sticking, lacrosse balling and soleus stretching, he put me on a table on my front and proceeded to lay into my glutes and hips with the “oscillator” (rhymes with “Terminator” for a good reason).  I was all like, Fabs, you have me laying on this table with my fat ass in the air and you are provoking its jiggle with what seems to be a palm sander?! For realz?! (My spelling degrades when I go to PT.)

But I was all  like that for only a second or two. Because after that I was just in pain, and couldn’t really form sentences of speech or thought. I would have never guessed I was that knotty and tight throughout my glutes and hips, but there I was a day later, sore. It was like Fabian was trying to disintegrate the pebbles and stones in my muscles into sand. It fucking hurt, yo. In between moaning and gritting out repeated owe‘s, I deep breathed and told myself to relax. I’d pick a muscle group–shoulders and neck, or glutes and quads–and tell them, Ssh reelaaaxxx, sweet musclesssss, reelaaaaxxx. It lasted until the hand sander hit another pebble; in other words, for a second.

Fabian might have said, “You’ll be sore tomorrow.” I can’t recall much beyond the ringing in my ears and the gray haze of pain that descended whenever the man would lay his hands upon me.

But the next day? When I pulled my tights down to pee? The pressure of the elastic waistband sliding over my butt was enough to remind me that my ass muscles were pulverized by an asexual vibrator yesterday.

Oh and that wasn’t the end. Fabs surveyed my back, hamstrings and arms–even the survey hurt. I am a rock–in no good sense of the word. My whole body is a tangled, petrified mess. He also worked on my calf muscles some more with his forearms. I’ve explained this before. It hasn’t gotten better so let’s not revisit.

The paradigm remains the same: he hurts me against his will but for my own good, I suffer for my redemption, and just before I’m ready to quit or hate, I receive tenderness enough to return.

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And they both were cute!

Sadly, they were both far, far more concerned about the knots in my muscles than the fact that they had their hands all over me and I wasn’t enjoying it.

I was whimpering. And groaning. The rest of my body tensed up too, so much so that Fabian gently took me by the shoulders as he stretched out my hamstrings and shook me, saying, “Ssh, relax.” You all know the PT hamstring stretch, right? I mean, it’s so suggestive, even someone who was a total innocent would notice it (not just sex addicts like myself).

If you don’t know this stretch, here’s a sketch I made to demonstrate how it works.

This is what I did today in physical therapy, in order:

  1. Had my quads palpated for a hot second
  2. Rolled my quads on the foam roller (4 minutes)
  3. Rolled my ITB on the foam roller (4 minutes)
  4. Used the Stick on my soleus (4 minutes)
  5. Stood on a lacrosse ball on pressure points (30 seconds x 3, once each foot), opening and closing my toes
  6. Got stretched out by Fabian
  7. Got some kind of electric shock treatment on my quads for 20 minutes that made my thighs jiggle in a horrifying, hilarious manner. I read The Art of Fielding on my nook and tried to ignore how disgusting my thighs looked during this treatment.
  8. Andre/Anton (not sure of his name, he reminds me of Hans und Franz but skinny and literate–he started talking to me about Atlas Shrugged) had the dubious honor of working on my calves. Basically, he took his evil, pointy fingers and ran them up my muscles until he found a knot, at which point he’d pressure it until it surrendered or said, “Fuck you!” Wait, maybe that was me saying Fuck you! It’s a little foggy.
  9. Fabian stretched me out again, telling me to shush and once again setting up the pain/pleasure dynamic by telling me, as he was causing me intense discomfort by pushing my leg up until my knee was by my ear, “Much better! You are much looser! You feel great!”
  10. Fabian worked on my feet, loosening up the joints while also pressing so hard on the bottom of my tootsies that I saw flashes of white.

Then I was released to the locker room, floating on a rush of the ecstasy that sweeps in with knowledge that the pain is over, at least for now.

Just to be clear: physical therapy is not SEXUAL but it sure as fuck is PHYSICAL.

I am getting better. I’m not cured, but the constant, searing foot pain has ceased.

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Moaning and Writhing

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.

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