Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Importance of Physiotherapy for Chronic Illness, Weight, Muscle Weakness, and Injury.

It took me a month plus a couple days to really face the fact that I gained two extra sizes in clothing. But I can honestly say I have adjusted now. (See previous post HERE.)

I have a plan and it's no longer hinging on weight loss. First, I saw my therapist and doctor. We figured out that while I am eating fairly great ( I have made a few tweaks here and there but nothing major... less cream in my tea ect.), and walking almost every day, my muscle weakness is not burning calories for me. I have the bare amount of muscle to get by in life. He said, even if I am walking, I won't lose because my muscles aren't engaged enough to burn calories, thus he wanted me to start muscle training and squatting. My heart sunk at this statement because I knew my history. I try exercise, it goes well for maybe a few days, then I put my back out, injure myself and end up far worse than I was before. And depressed. He told me to work with my physiotherapist to come up with a plan that could work. That felt hopeful.

I can not stress enough, the importance of Physiotherapy to anyone who is suffering chronic illness, muscle weakness, fatigue and injury (all of which I have.) Because my physiotherapist is well versed in my whole physiology and muscle composition, she automatically ruled out squats. Our goal will be to GET me to a point where I can manage squats. It will take a few months. Which is both depressing and validating all at once. She said because of my hip injury and because my muscles are so weak, I cause myself injury because I lift from my back, which can't withstand the weight. My back is stronger than my thigh muscles which shows the imbalance of my body. Basically we have to start from breathing exercises, triggering stomach muscles into action carefully, and basic lifts. She gives me little exercises every day to build on. I see her regularly. In the last session, I was allowed on the bike for six minutes but then she wouldn't let me use any resistance. What's hilarious is that a seventy year old was using resistance beside me for longer. Which was depressing and humorous all at once. I'm really laughably sore and it has only been two weeks of daily intentionality. But I have lost one full pound in that time, so I really do think that muscle control/burning was my missing puzzle piece. Someone suggested I run but she said no running ever  because my postural muscles are not strong enough to sustain the wear and tear running causes. Plus, my one leg is shorter than the other which requires balancing muscles... so there goes that plan - luckily we don't live where the lions are.

I want to be strong. I miss being able to do simple hard work without paying for it. I resent disease and dyspraxia combined causing this, plus a past injury. I envy those whose bodies are lucky enough to do squats without preparation. Who can build muscle simply for more strength and enjoyment. I miss moving muscle for muscle sake. I'm craving energetic activities. I want to be back in the game. I will do what I can for the stage my body is at. My husband reminded me to be grateful I can do this much compared to a year ago. Chronic illness can be so vast for different people and it's important not to judge myself against anyone else. 

For years, I would try different exercise programs and end up in bed for weeks at a time. I WANTED to get in shape. I desired to be strong, but no matter what I tried from high intensity to gentle yoga or stretching, I would cause further harm and injury. Some of this was because Dyspraxics can't often tell how much pressure they are applying in the moment or even really feel strain until a few days later. But most of the issue was that, despite doctor's aid or permission for "lighter" programs, I was missing a piece of the puzzle. Physiotherapy. I needed a trained health care professional well versed in the muscle composition of the body, to start me off slowly and re train my weird body to get to a point when I can even begin to do an exercise program. My first physiotherapist was previously a Gynaecologist as well and she was the one who informed me of my back, hip and abdomen injury composition. We worked for five months on breathing alone before she moved ( I was at a point in anemia where I barely functioned.) Where I live, the physiotherapy is free but it's a two year waiting period. So I waited while walking (the only activity I could manage and if I walked too much in one day I would still put my hip/lower back out) and I gained a bit in the meanwhile, and finally received a phone call a year and half later to meet my new physio gal.

TIP: The physiotherapist has their hands on every aspect of your body within the first session. It's always uncomfortable for me because I am actually a private person, despite what comes across on this space. I learned from the first time that it's important to wear flexible, form fitting capris, tanks and over shirts that can come off. I also wear socks even though I don't wear socks in minus 4o degree weather in my outdoor boots. I hate socks so much and they often make me feel colder.  But at Physio I wear grip ones because runners are a pain to change into (plus I don't own any) but bare feet is gross on the hospital floor, plus they also tend to touch the feet a lot, so I don't want them to deal with anything unpleasant. Even with the appropriate attire, they tend to lift up clothing.  No area of the body is off limits. They assess EVERYWHERE. Something I was not prepared for the first time I went in. It's professional but it DOES feel invasive as they press into your buttocks to feel the muscle groups, lower pelvis and so on. I also make sure my legs are waxed/shaved/ ect. and I smell good because I can't imagine how that job would go for them dealing with so many aspects of various bodies. If you feel uncomfortable with a certain gender, keep these aspects in mind when choosing a physiotherapist.

My priorities have gone from wanting to lose weight to wanting to gain strength. The weight was my trigger point. I will admit I plummeted into an obsessive state for a few weeks. I got a calorie counter (and found out I am usually 200 calories under what I need to lose weight so that wasn't super helpful but I use it every day to see how I can maximize the healthier calories first.) I scrutinized the mirror for fat lumps. Basically I was off balance in my perspectives. But I needed to move through that phase to get to where I am now. It's just how I am. I spend a couple months in obsessiveness when a change happens, then I adjust my perspectives, change some things, let it go, and move on.

I realized, like anything, there are pros and cons to weight gain or loss. When I look at normal people and weight changes, I see the good and the bad. The thinner I get, the more wrinkles show ( unless using botox ect.), dark circles are more obvious, there is a general lack of glow, smaller boobs ( a con for me- ha ha), and less of a square face shape. With weight gain I benefit in different ways. However, on the flip side, when I am a few sizes down from where I am now, I fit into clothes I love. I get to shop at my favourite store which does not carry much at the size I am currently at, and come home with loads of happy options. I feel better belly wise. I tend to carry the most on my belly and I like it not digging into my pants. 

When I looked at this list, I realized that the weight no longer mattered anymore. I am what I am. Both sizes have attributes I miss in the other category. Both have aspects I benefit from. However, I realized what DOES matter to me is strength. I was getting the two mixed up. I want to be able to lift my nephew without putting out my back. I want to spend more hours with him than I usually can manage, because I am stronger. I want to be able to open jars without calling my kids or having to skip out on it entirely because no one is around to help me. I want to be able to carry a box without injury, lift groceries without feeling a rip in my side, manage the times the kids pile up on me and I can't breathe, dance without getting out of breath (due to anemia but I think strength will give more oxygen), and any other numerous activities that require muscle tone.

I don't want to be a weight lifter nor am I in admiration for the look of muscles. It's fine if people look like that, but it has never been a goal for me. It's not about looks at started out that way admittingly, but I have moved on. It's about quality of life. I finally think I have found a way to master aspect of chronic illness plus meet my body from a place of strength. I felt hopeless for so many years, watching others be in health, muscle and achieve awesome goals for themselves. But now, I have my new physiotherapist. I make sure I engage in her exercises every day. 

This may seem small to most, but I feel so sore every night. Last night I tossed and turned till three because my abdomen was burning so much. I have to apply hot packs (at her suggestion.) But, it's been two weeks and I have not put out my back yet! Which is amazing. For the first time since my early twenties, I feel that I may be able to heal parts of my body. She thinks that we MIGHT be able to heal the injury spot. She says it will always be a problem area but if we do the right muscle groups, we may be able to trigger it less and less! That is HUGE for me. She also suggested I see my naturopath again to get more minerals into my body. I feel these are all things I can do. For so long my life has been about what I can't do and what I can't eat. I suddenly feel empowered. There are small changes happening already but it's not automatic or linear. It's the long haul journey of setbacks and forwards. I want to enjoy it...I think I can do this.

Coming from a place of empowerment versus helplessness is so important. I highly encourage anyone who is suffering from chronic illness, injury or Dyspraxia to find a knowledgeable physiotherapist. She has made all the difference for me. I finally feel hopeful in these aspects of life.

Song Choice: Michael Buble's new album came out. Love this song- it encompasses how I feel:


S said...

I am glad to see you in a happy place. Sometimes, when I talk with my husband about my weight gain, he keeps telling me that I may weigh more now (compared to earlier ) but I am stronger and healthier now. So, I should aim for overall health rather than weight gain/loss. Whatever makes us physically and mentally healthy/sound, we should keep doing that in the form of good food, meditation and exercise/ training that is necessary for us. Since you have found a programme that is appropriate for you, it will help you with your overall health issues. Keep updating on how the programme /training is benefiting you, it will serve as a motivation for others. Take care,

Kmarie said...

It helps so much to have a few answers, goals, and strength building support! It does improve my mood a lot!:) yes mine says that too...but in all honesty I wasn't feeling strong or healthy...I am starting to now- on my third week of physio I can feel little changes. Small things but an example would be I can walk longer distances and I can last a little longer in the day before I feel so sick and need to lie down. Moments like I am glad I am on a path that seems positive. I had most of the healthy food, mental supports and such going for me...but the muscle stuff was lacking and I am so glad I found some ways to make it work. Thank you so much.

Ashe said...

Routine physical exertion like regular exercise has been proven to help emotional health, so I reckon if you've been having blue spells those will be clearing up some as you're able to do this more often. Strength has always been my driving factor too when I exercise. A little toned look is nice, but having the sheer physical power to be able to shut or open my stubborn doors without having to involve a shoulder or hip is rather nice. When I was a teenager, my parents had this one door that required my entire weight being put into it for me to be able to open it. It was disheartening, to say the least.

Socks really do have that weird effect of making feet colder, don't they? They keep my feet warm enough if I'm only wearing socks, but throw on some shoes, and I'm tiptoeing on icicles. Very annoying.

Kmarie said...

Ashe: Sorry I thought I commentated back and I did not. Epic fail:) Anyway, Yes you are right...strength is important. That would be disheartening!
Yes I despise socks. forever and always. I have a tough time even seeing bulky socks on others. ha looks so dry and yucky. But I suppose it is better than bare feet for some:)