Pelvic Physical Therapy for Chronic Pain from a real patient’s perspective
I’ve likely had symptoms of a chronic pain disease since I was about 12 years old, but I was either unaware, unaffected, or unwilling to face it until I was 32. Like many chronic pain sufferers, I knew I had to deal with it when I stopped being able to do the things I love.
Since finding the appropriate care and starting physical therapy, I have been able to enjoy the things I love again- although sometimes with modifications.
I’m a farmer. I haul, bend, reach, carry, climb and kneel all day long. Or at least I used to. At peak pain- about three years ago- I really believed I’d never farm again. I knew all along that there would come a time when farming was more physically demanding than what I was willing or able to do- but I expected to reach that point in my 50s or 60s, not in my 30s.
After taking two years off to heal from surgeries and focus on physical therapy, I am able to farm again. I have scaled down- I used to work on a 3 acre farm and now I manage my own smaller plot of land. I suppose you could say I’m more of a gardener than a farmer- but considering I thought I was done being able to put my hands in the dirt, it all feels pretty good.
I do not think I would be farming or gardening without the help of my physical therapist. In addition to general lifestyle changes and pain management, we go over very specific things to help me reduce and manage pain in the field. From SI stretches to proper shoveling technique (yeah, I was doing it wrong), my therapist has helped me modify and correct movements, monitor tension, and build strength appropriately.
It’s not supposed to hurt. So when it does, it can feel isolating, confusing, and daunting. I’ve learned a lot of important things about painful sex since starting PT.
First, I am not alone. Dyspareunia (the fancy word for painful sex) is something pelvic floor physical therapists see all the time. It’s common, but not normal. Realizing this helped me stop feeling like something was wrong with me.
Second, there is help. My therapist has helped me monitor tension and understand the role the nervous system plays in all of this. I understand why sex is painful, which has the double benefit of helping me treat it and alleviating my confusion.
Third, it’s a team effort. My therapist has given me extensive guidance on how to work with my partner to increase communication and pain-free touch. He and I have worked together on this issue and it’s actually made us closer.
Before I was a farmer I was a runner. I ran 4-6 miles about 5 days a week. As my pain levels increased and eventually became intolerable, I was unable to run. I could feel the loss of strength, flexibility, and stamina that I had once enjoyed.
I still don’t run, but I have discovered something magical: swimming. I go to the county aquatic center several times per week. I love that I can swim at the level that feels right for me that day. Sometimes I just go for movement, to stretch and bend in the water in ways that I can’t do on land. Sometimes I go to get my heart rate up, and sometimes I go for longer, moderately paced swims. The pool is easily in my top 5 favorite places.
When I first started swimming, I was experiencing shortness of breath and quick fatigue. Part of this can probably be chalked up to conditioning, but I learned form my physical therapist that I was also likely making it worse by the way I was moving my shoulders. After changing my movement to match what my therapist recommended, I stopped having trouble breathing in the pool.
I also initially struggled with constantly feeling like I had to pee (all that running water!) It took some work, but with the help of physical therapy and underwater headphones, I no longer have this issue.
I can exercise again in a way that I enjoy even more than running!
What are three things you’d like to enjoy again?
And how can Well Being Physical Therapy help you get there?
Whether it’s hiking, mountain biking, dancing, or weight lifting, I truly believe physical therapy can help you get back to the things you love. This may mean modifications or the discovery of something new, but it doesn’t have to mean you give things up. Give them a call, tell them your story, and see how they can help.
Our sincere thank you to our guest blogger for sharing this experience. As therapists, of course we boast about all the potential benefits and how we can help. While we genuinely mean this, nothing is more impactful in making the decision to pursue care and finding the right specialist, than hearing from another person who has nothing to gain. We sincerely appreciate our guests taking time to share personal stories in order to help others.