A Graceful Rehabilitation

I’ve been thinking I need to give an update, let you all know how the rehab is progressing. The change of physical therapist has been good. I’ve been able to switch things up and make some real progress. I’ve seen Brenda 3 times now, and have been doing my home exercises and when I see her each week she works on something else.

The first week was that darn IT band and trigger point massage in my hip and glute, and using my roller massage stick on my hamstring and the IT band itself. The incredible tenderness has diminished, and the tension has released significantly. I continue with stretches and work to build balanced strength. It’s clear it’s all working, as my SI joint is much more stable, my pelvis aligned, and the IT band isn’t holding so much tension.

The second week, she worked the soft tissue in my hip and then put me through the paces on the Pilates Reformer – doing a lot of core work and leg work. More stretching and a reminder to keep the rest of my spine above the fusion mobile. While we want good stability around the fusion, we want strength and mobility in the rest of my spine.

This week when I saw her, I asked her to help me trouble shoot the left foot nerve pain. We went through what I have been doing at home, the stretching and “neural flossing” and she did a body mechanics assessment. She had me make some small changes to the way I had been doing the neural flossing, and focus on a couple different ways to stretch and work my ankle and foot. With some soft tissue work – more trigger point massage- in my calf and ankle area she helped release some tension, which should help that nerve to glide more freely. I’ve had to do some home massage and really work at the hot spots – so as it heals from the massage work, the hope is that the nerve will glide smoothly and that annoying nerve pain will diminish. Again I’m in a work it hard for a couple days, and let it rest and heal a day or two and then go back after it for a couple days. Hopefully soon I’ll see some progress.

I feel like I’m at a point finally where I’m really ready to go at this rehab and recovery thing on my own. I’m glad I’ve pushed to continue with the physical therapy past the initial 6 week protocol. I’ve needed to work through problems that have developed as I’ve healed – the SI joint, the IT band, the nerve in my left foot – all the while continuing to retrain muscles to support my spine. I’ve been careful, but I’ve also pushed myself in rehab. I didn’t want to just heal the incision and let the bone heal – I wanted to really rehab my body to get back to a place of strength and stability that I haven’t had in several years. I wanted a new lease on life, so working on healing and rebuilding strength has been important to me – a full recovery. I’m so thankful that I have good insurance and the ability to take the time to recover that I’ve needed.

I see my surgeon again in February – almost exactly 6 months from my surgery. That’s about when my physical therapy “prescription” runs out again. I feel like I can see the light at the end of the tunnel, like my recovery and rehabilitation has been a success, and that I will back to myself and my “pre-fusion” activities soon.

I’m looking at spring and summer craft fair dates, and feeling like I am physically able to do the work of setting up and tearing down shows. I need to spend some time making soap in preparation for that – and I feel like I’m physically able to do that too. I have to admit, there was a time when I was wondering if I would be able to get back to the soap biz – so it’s a very good thing that I’m feeling like all my hard work in rehab has been worth it!

I’ve been consistent for over 3 weeks with clean eating and exercise. I’ve been taking my vitamins and supplements every day and doing everything I can to fuel my body well. And I’ve been giving myself grace to just live a little too. I have found the balance that has been lacking for a while in my life.

Oh yeah…and it was recently my baptiversary – so I treated myself to a new bible and bible cover. With my focus on women’s ministry I have been doing a lot of bible study on women in general, and leading our local Ladies Night In ministry – so I wanted a bible that would help me do that. One of my favorite blogs put out a devotional bible recently, and so I treated myself to one. It’s visually a beautiful bible, but it’s also chocked full of reading plans, devotionals, and highlights over 50 women of courage. I’ve really enjoyed skimming through it and prayerfully considering which reading plan I wanted to start with. As usual, God had a plan and led me right where He wanted me to be.

Thankful for Healing

On this Thanksgiving Day, I’m thankful for the healing in my body this year.  The year isn’t over, nor is the healing, but it’s still something to be thankful for!

I’m at a touch over 3 months post spinal fusion.  My spine is held together by 6 screws and 3 rods, plus cages in the disk space between vertebrae L4-L5, and L5-S1.  Oh, and bone matter.  The goal is that everything will be held together by solid bone, and the titanium of course.  I will see my surgeon again next week, and expect a good report from him.

I’ve been in physical therapy for 6 weeks now.  Danielle is finally back, and she has been working me hard!  We have a couple areas of focus:  my hips and pelvis, and my upper back.  She wants increased movement and flexibility in my upper spine so I’m doing a lot of stretching and rotation work in my shoulders and upper rib cage, rotating from the bottom of my rib cage to look over my shoulders, and reach across my chest.   My hips and glutes are working as well to give me stability in my pelvis to support my sacrum and low back.  During my PT sessions, Danielle has me working on the Pilates reformer – doing a lot of squats in various positions to work specific muscles both in my hips and glutes, but also in my lower abs.  We are working on the flexibility of my low back (those muscles got VERY tight after surgery) while keeping my spine itself in a neutral position, but also stretching my hamstrings and hips.  Everything has been very tight because of years of chronic pain and moving in “defensive and protective” mode.  So I’m doing lots of stretches each day, as well as muscle building activities.  Danielle has also been working on helping the nerves to heal by loosening their paths as well as stretching them.  I have a series of “neural flossing” stretches and movements that are working like a charm.  Nerves heal so slowly, but I am noticing changes in my symptoms, so I know what I’m doing is helping!  Also, Danielle has been great about helping me modify and get comfortable in different yoga poses to help me get back into regular routines.  Best of all, she’s given me confidence to start really pushing my healing forward.

I’ve kind of turned the corner from being in a very protective healing mode and being extremely careful, almost fearful, about doing something to put my surgery in jeopardy – to pushing hard and moving much more.  My stamina is increasing, both muscular and cardio.  I can walk comfortably for a lot longer – it’s not just one slow gentle walk to the driveway, but 3 trips back and forth at a quick pace.  I’m noticing more muscle strength in the muscle groups we’ve been working on, but still need to focus on really engaging the RIGHT muscles to do the exercises, not what my body has been compensating with for years.  I laughed when Danielle said I have some really bossy muscles that need to take a back seat to the ones who are supposed to be working.  I won’t see her next week, but I will continue with my home exercises and yoga practices for hip and sacrum stability.  I have scheduled once a week check ins with her through the end of the year.  I’m doing much better – but I’m not “back to normal” yet, so therapy with guided exercises will help me get there.  Re-training muscles is hard work, in case you were wondering!

I’ve got a lot to be thankful for this year, but I really am thankful for the body God gave me and how resilient it is.  I pray you each have blessings abounding that you are also giving thanks for.

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Thinking about the future

Have been doing my physical therapy each morning like a good little patient.  Making sure I spend time walking throughout the day, do some gentle yoga a few times a week on my non PT days.  The more I move, the better I feel.  Standing around, sitting around only makes me stiff and uncomfortable.

My PT Danielle has still been out sick after her trip, so I have been bounced around to whomever is available in the meantime.  I’ve seen some assistants, some PTs, and then last week none of the openings would work with my schedule, so I did my exercises on my own, and scheduled a deep tissue massage.

Now this is no foo-foo spa type massage, although I enjoy those too – but a deep tissue massage to really get the muscles, and more importantly the nerves to release.  I was a mess, holding lots of tension deep in my muscles from months and months of pre-op sciatica spasms, and then the whole post-surgical lock down of all the muscles trying to protect my back.  Chronic pain will do that, you just tighten everything up without thinking….but at some point it needs to release.  Jerry spent a good hour and some change starting with my feet and working up to my shoulders and upper back.  I had knots deep in my calves, thighs, hips, butt, and beneath my shoulder blades.  He was able to get most of them worked out, but it left me with some pretty tender spots for a few days as they healed.  I’m feeling better now, but anxious to get back to m PT appointments with Danielle.  Hopefully no more last minute cancellations for her.

I’m anxious to work more on flexibility and strength building – I know I need the core strengthening and stability, but I’d like to work on rebuilding strength and flexibility, and find some things I can integrate into my preferred yoga and walking and spin bike work – rather than just the clinical do this many reps of this particular exercise.  I know I need both, but I’d sure like to feel like I’m adapting to real life again.

I’ve also been preparing to get back to soap making.  I need to order a few oils and supplies, which I will do this week, and then hopefully next week I can make a batch or two of soap.  I made the decision not to do any craft shows this fall, which feels a little strange honestly, but I knew I needed time to heal completely.  My intent was that I could then take the time this fall and winter to stock back up on soap, and be ready for spring without all the normal chaos of trying to squeeze it in.  I have a couple orders for Courageous MRKH soaps that I need to fill, an order of foot cream I need to make, and then just start working on restocking and getting caught up on production for spring.

I feel like I’m making good progress, able to think less about the specifics of recovery – and more about what my future looks like with a fused spine.  How to regain my strength and flexibility, and get back to “normal” life again.  I’m a week shy of 3 months post op, so about 12 weeks post op now.  You know you are far enough down the road to recovery when you think of how many months instead of weeks!  I’m feeling good.  Still have some tired and sore days, still have some days where the nerves are pissed off and I’m uncomfortable.  But they just serve to remind me to be kind to myself, use my ice, rest when I need to, stretch when I need to, and MOVE when I need to – and to rest.

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