6 screws. 3 rods. 2 inter-vertebral cages. That’s what’s been holding my spine together for the past 5 months. I’m well on my way to a good solid fusion, my bone growth is good. My muscles have reattached, and I’ve worked to strengthen muscles I’ve ignored for years – probably decades. I’m feeling pretty good overall, and I’m working on the areas that sneak up and bother me. I’ve been in physical therapy for 12 weeks now, and am looking at another 6. Rehab and Recovery is WORK – but it’s also working.
My physical therapist Danielle has left now – to be a momma to a 2 year old boy they are adopting from another country. I’m thrilled for her, and we talked a few times about bringing him home and how excited (and nervous) she is about it. I never did ask her why she went the adoption route, but I know she doesn’t have any other children. Whatever her reason, I’m just thrilled that this dream is becoming a reality for her!
So Danielle left to be a mom, and I got referred to another PT in the clinic, Brenda. I worked with her one of my first visits, but I felt it was a good opportunity for fresh eyes and to talk about my current symptoms and see what adjustments we might need to make. She reviewed my chart notes and did some assessment and moved me around and watched me move. She is comfortable with how my spine is healing and how I’m moving around the fusion. My deep core work is keeping the fusion and my spine in general supported and aligned. My pelvis and the pesky SI joint was a little out of alignment, so she worked to line me up better, and doing so, she found that my Iliotibial Band (IT Band) is inflamed. It runs from the hip to the tibia along the outside of the leg, and helps to support the knee. What I had been attributing to sciatic inflammation on the right side (and had me quite concerned actually) is actually a muscle pain memory – and caused by the inflamed IT band – not the nerve.
So, our focus is now to change the muscle and pain memory. We are working to heal the inflammation in my IT band and then work on my body mechanics to prevent it from flaring again. Remember me talking about bossy muscles before? Well, that’s what’s going on again. My hamstring is trying to compensate for what my hip and glutes should be doing. My pelvis is out of whack making the SI joint inflamed, and so then I move wrong and cause new problems – like an inflamed IT band. IT band injuries are often attributed to running injuries – overuse when there is a bio-mechanical misalignment. I’ve done that in spades…so time to work on releasing the IT band and hope that allows me to work on continued strengthening in my hips and glutes.
So…how to release the IT band – well trigger point massage is the best way, but let me tell you…it’s NOT fun. Brenda used a torture device and really massaged where the IT band connects to the tibia (outside top of the calf), and along the edge above my knee where the hamstring connects. I don’t remember what she called it – but that’s probably because I was gritting my teeth and trying not to hyperventilate. She also did some work on my hip, with the trigger points as well. We talked about home care and how to continue working on the IT band. I have a tennis ball and a wall – and I lean into the hot-spots in my hip and glute and through direct pressure and tiny micro movements, I am working to get the tension (aka nearly cramping they are so tight) out of my muscles in my hip and glute. I also have a “massage stick” that I use to roll massage along the outside of my thigh and search for and find all the tender hot spots along the IT band and hamstring. When I find a hot spot, I stop and put direct HARD pressure on it, and slowly roll off of it. It’s not fun…I suck a lot of air through clenched teeth…but hopefully it’s doing the trick. Kind of like a begging toddler – you just irritate it, nag it, and keep after it constantly until the muscle gives up and relaxes. It’s still very, very sore – but the memory pain of the sciatic nerve that I thought was going on, is diminishing. So that suggests that what I’m doing is helping.
I’ve also been doing massage on my left foot – the one with the nerve pain, trying the same theory – lets see if I can irritate it into healing through persistent massage. I’m also working on ankle stretches, because as Brenda put it, “On the spectrum of flexibility – you are quite stiff. Your joints don’t move enough to be able to stretch the muscles that are tight.” Um…thanks, I think. So ankle stretches a couple times a day has been added to my PT rehab plan.
Since my last post I’ve been doing well with eating clean and with tracking my calories. I’ve reigned in most of my bad food habits. I’ve set up a routine of riding my exercise bike each day and have worked hard to move more in general. The scale has appreciated my efforts. I’ve also gotten much better about taking my supplements each day. I think all these things together are working to help me feel better not only physically, but emotionally. The whole adage of garbage in= garbage out is so true. When I fuel my body well, both nutritionally and with exercise and movement – the results are always better. So that’s my words of advice for all of you – treat your body like a temple. Be respectful and humble, know your limits – but push them a little too!