Thursday, July 21, 2016

Pain and more pain...physical therapy

After the bone scan revealed no evidence of a recurrence of cancer, my oncologist decided I needed to have physical therapy to help with my spinal pain. I was hesitant to even talk about physical therapy because I had no idea what they might do to me, but agreed to allow his nurse to go ahead and set up the appointments. Yesterday was my first visit to the spinal center.

When I arrived, I sat in the waiting room with a dozen other people. I noticed how hard the chairs were as I was waiting to be called back for therapy. If I'd been in charge of ordering the office furniture, I would have made sure to buy comfortable chairs, especially since most of the clients would be experiencing some level of pain as they waited, but that was just me.

A small section of the therapy room
I was called back and taken to a small cubicle with a draped curtain hung from runners in the ceiling. The curtains were wide open and I felt rather small sitting in the corner surrounded by all sorts of therapy equipment. Several staff members walked by and each of them smiled offering up a greeting as they passed. At least the therapists are friendly, that's a definite plus! A few minutes later, my personal therapist arrived and introduced himself. A tall man in his mid to late 50s stuck out his hand and said his name was Russ. He pulled up a rolling stool and sat inches away from me as he went over my history. A worried look crossed his face but he didn't say a word. I beat him to it and said, "Yeah, I've had a pretty rough couple of years." He smiled and told me he was about to say that very thing. After going through the list of medications, surgeries, etc., Russ asked me to put on a gown. He pulled the curtain closed and said he'd return shortly. As he was leaving, I asked if he wanted me to remove EVERYTHING, and he said you can leave on your bra and everything from the waist down. I asked if he was sure...I said, "I mean, I have no boobs so I need to know if you want me to remove my bra and prostheses too." He paused and said, "No, that's okay. Leave them on."

As he approached the curtained wall to my area, Russ said, "Knock, knock." I gave him permission to enter and he instructed me to lie face down on an exam table. I told him it might be a little difficult since I hadn't been on my stomach in some time. He went to grab a couple of pillows to help make me more comfortable and I was glad he did. With the pillows tucked firmly under my chest, I was able to lie on the table without much difficulty. Russ explained what he was about to do. I felt his large fingers unhooking my bra and knew he must be a little embarrassed so I offered up a joke. He laughed and breathed a sign of relief. He began to give me a very firm back massage. I didn't realize how badly my back was hurting until he started working on it. His hands were very strong and I don't know if it was just me or if he was massaging my back a little harder than he ought to be, but it was painful and I cried out. He asked if he was hurting me and I explained there were several areas that were more sensitive than others. He apologized and said he'd be more careful but if I needed him to lighten up just to let him know. I have a pretty high pain tolerance so I allowed him to continue. He couldn't see the tears in my eyes as he was working and I didn't complain. After the deep tissue massage was complete, the therapist explained he was about to begin a process called "cupping." I had no idea what cupping really was although I'd seen it in a movie. I wondered why the spinal center would use a treatment commonly practiced in China. I hoped this guy wasn't into a lot of mumbo jumbo. I needed real relief for my spinal pain and my insurance company wasn't going to pay for some off the wall treatments.

Slowly and deliberately Russ placed small glass cups on my back suctioning them in place. He instructed me to just lie quietly and after about 15 minutes, I felt him removing the cups. My back was really tender and he said I'd probably notice some redness or bruising in the next 24 hours. He followed the cupping session with spinal manipulation, rolling, and pinching. I had never suffered so much physical pain with my back before and wondering what in the heck I'd gotten myself into! I had come to be relieved of back pain not have it exacerbated. I was instructed to get dressed after Russ had applied a good layer of BioFreeze to my back. He said that would help with the discomfort. Watch a video of cupping here.

The cupping set he recommended
When I was dressed and ready, Russ showed me the cupping set and asked if I thought my husband would be willing to do it to me. He said I needed to have it done every 3 days. I asked what the purpose of it was and he explained the suction and negative pressure provided by cupping can loosen muscles, encourage blood flow, and sedate the nervous system (which makes it an excellent treatment for high blood pressure). I assured him I'd ask my husband if he'd mind doing this at home and felt sure my husband would be willing to agree to help. Russ told me I could find an inexpensive set on Amazon.

On the way home, I noticed my back was very uncomfortable. Just leaning against the seat of the car was challenging. I couldn't wait to look at my back in my bathroom mirror. I was sure it was red and angry looking.
My back after one cupping session
(don't pay attention to the tattoo!)

My back continued to hurt more and more as the evening wore on. When it came time for bed, I was nervous about laying down. As I did, the pain was unbearable and I needed to prop myself up on pillows to get comfortable and take a pain pill.

Today, I continue to have back pain. I feel like I've been in a really bad fight and I lost! I'm hoping a hot bath will help and maybe I can get my husband to apply a little more BioFreeze to numb the pain. I'm not so sure I want to go back for therapy next week. If it's going to hurt this bad, I'd rather just deal with my regular back pain.

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