Wednesday, January 17, 2007

It’s Another Tequila Sunrise…

Actually, it’s not. When I think of that song, which is all mellow and relaxed, or even when someone says “Tequila Sunrise,” I think of waking up so supremely hung over that barfing would be a welcome change; that the just-awoken hung over person is confused, cranky, headachy, queasy, squinty-eyed and mean, and probably slept in the clothes they passed out in, so they’re no fresh spring daisy by anyone’s yardstick. The song probably refers to the mixed drink by that name, but I wouldn’t know since I get all caught up in my imagination and stop listening after the first four words.

However, excepting the hung over bits, I’ve had a few nearly “tequila sunrise” mornings myself ever since I started physical therapy. I never would have believed how exhausting it is – I mean, it looks, from the observer standpoint, like either a lot of very gentle exercise or isometrics. Ha, ha! How tough can that be? Ha, ha! I should have known better from the funny/grim stories my cousin, the physical therapist, has let slip from time to time. She and her cohorts think it’s funny when rehab patients call them the “Spanish Inquisition”. I used to think so, too.

I’m in week 5 of a six week prescription for PT for my over-flexible lower back and soggy lower abs, which have led to bad posture, back pain, and a lack of stamina overall. There are medical reasons for why I got here, but it would bore me to discuss them; I can only imagine how dull that would be for a reader. So, let me tell you about my Sadistic Drill Sergeants, aka Physical Therapists, and their evil schemes.

SDS #1 weighs 8 lbs and is perky. This would normally be enough for me to want to slap her and lock her in a closet, but I told myself I was there for her professional skills. She evaluated me. When a doctor evaluates you, he looks at you, notes observations, does some non-invasive stuff, maybe whacks you on the knee or orders some blood tests and other lab work. When a PT evaluates you, it’s like being in a caffeinated cartoon – stand up, sit down, sit down again, stand up again, wave your arms around, wave your legs around, stand on one leg, lean against the wall while the PT shoves you, push back with your arms, legs, neck, feet, don’t push back, bend over, squat, do half a sit up and stay there for a week or two, balance on your left pinkie toe, bounce on what looks like a giant playground ball, and march, waving your arms around without falling off. And, don’t let’s forget range of motion – hamstrings? Just wrap your leg around your neck and hold it there; bend over to one side, then the other, then forward and backward, rotate your head like an owl, but don’t hark up any pellets, and have you ever thought about orthotics? AAAAAAARGH!

I actually came through the evaluation OK, with lots of exclamations of “good!” from perky SDS#1, with my needs confirmed. She gave me a modest list of small, targeted exercises to do twice daily until the next appointment, two days later. I thought I was feeling moderately spry until I started walking down the hallway to leave and realized I was leaning to the left and lurching along, bent cockeyed, looking like Quasimodo with a purse. I blamed it on the purse, and cleaned all the loose change out of the bottom of it when I got to my car. There was a lot of loose change. Sitting there in my cushy seat, not exercising much more than my arms for turning the wheel, I thought to myself, “well, that wasn’t so bad.” All I can say is that being snockered on endorphins doesn’t last nearly long enough.

When I got home and went up the three shallow steps into the kitchen from the garage, it hit me. I buckled over and ground out a few choice words as one of my eyeballs began protruding unnaturally from its socket due to a tsunami of pain rocketing up from my lumbar region, and I wheezed and stumbled my way to the nearest Aleve bottle. Four hours, one nap, and a well-used heating pad later, I could sit up again without clenching anything or moaning involuntarily. I felt like a complete disaster as a human being. And I still needed to do my second set of exercises.

I stalled. I dallied. I made charming dinner table conversation, attempting to keep my family there until I felt up to exercising again. Then, I knew I had to do it, so I tapped into my inner marathon runner for endurance (I don’t have an outer marathon runner; if I did, I might not need PT), and did my exercises. Slowly, carefully, and with great focus and attention. If there had been an observer, he or she might have wondered what on earth was causing me to lie on my back, feebly waving the occasional limb around like a dying beetle, grunting and squinting up one eye. I dare anyone my age who isn’t a personal trainer to do them without making at least one involuntary noise and one tiny squint.

And when I got up, I felt different. I ached, sure, but my spine felt looser in a good way. I could actually find a lower ab muscle. I couldn’t do much with it, other than wonder where the hell it had been for so long and why was it twitching frenetically, but I could find it. I was encouraged. I went into the living room, cranked the heating pad back up to “broil” and lay down to watch TV with my husband. I woke up at about 3 am, feeling like I’d had drunk way too much tequila, so I went back to sleep. In my clothes.

It’s been pretty much like that ever since. SDS#1 has given way to SDS#’s 2 (short and not so perky) and 3 (a regular sized person with a sense of the ridiculous as outrageous as mine), all of whom have the same evil sense of humor and matter-of-fact way of assigning new, brutally difficult, painful exercises as if they were doing nothing more challenging than sharing a low-fat banana bread recipe with me.

I have progressed, and I can tell I’ve made strides. It’s hard every time, and it needs to be. I’m so tired at night that if I don’t make sure to go straight up to bed after my second set of exercises, I’ll wind up sleeping where I next perch, which has to date included the couch, a chair with no arms, a chair with arms, and the floor, where I was still lying, resting after finishing a new set of exercises. I haven’t broken or strained or sprained anything.

I can walk easier, stand easier, last longer without pain, and that makes me happy because it’s why I wanted PT in the first place. I can put up with quite a few tequila sunrises as a trade-off.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ouch! You're tougher than me, kid. I applaud your "keeping at it" and hope you'll persevere. It does sound like it'll be worth it!