I had been doing marketing for Tidewater Physical Therapy for about a year when some of the worst of the Multiple Sclerosis (MS) symptoms took hold. The spasticity in my neck and upper back were second only to the excruciating pain in my right arm – the one, by the way, that I use to write. I wore a brace I picked up at a pharmacy in an effort to immobilize my wrist. It seemed to lessen the pain to an extent, but it would still drive me to distraction many times throughout my very busy day.
It’s interesting now in hindsight to see how I minimized the pain, the cog fog, the fatigue – all in an effort to stay in a job I loved. It’s something that a lot of MS’ers have experienced. The difference in this scenario, however, was that at least some of the issues could have been addressed – right there in my workplace – but neither I nor my doctor were aware of it.
The spasticity and the pain in my arm were the most pronounced, the most consistent and the most detrimental to my position as a marketing representative. That job included a lot of driving around, going in and out of doctor’s offices and therapy clinics and happily chatting with people throughout my day. It’s pretty tough to “happily chat” when you feel like an ice-pick is being jabbed into your arm or like a vice grip is around your shoulders.
As a regular part of my job, I got to attend clinical presentations – most of which were over my head but I attended nonetheless. One day, a particular subject peaked my interest. The topic was “Thorasic Outlet Syndrome.” Huh?? Exactly.
But this time, some of the medical gobbliegook made sense. It was starting to sound like they were breaking down some of my issues. How could this be? I have Multiple Sclerosis and you just have to take your meds and suffer, right? There’s no real help available, you just learn to deal with the hand your dealt, isn’t that right?
There are two fallacies at play here: one is that there’s no help and the other is that everything is MS related. I had forgotten what my neurologist had told me early on – not all things I’ll have happen are due to MS.
I started asking questions of those therapists that I had been working with on a marketing level – this time on a patient level. My posture was pointed out as being a potential cause of some of the tightness I was experiencing in my neck and shoulders.
You mean jutting your neck forward to try to read a computer screen all day might cause that pain – not MS? Yep – turns out they were right. When they showed me how I was holding myself – and how I should be holding myself – the light went on for me. I made a conscious effort to change my posture and guess what? It helped – a ton.
I went to my neurologist and asked for a referral to see a physical therapist.
He didn’t see any point but went ahead and humored me with a referral.
Between the education I got on my own body, the exercises I was taught during a handful of appointments and the traction I received at the clinic to relieve the pressure in my neck (and points WAY beyond!), my life was exponentially improved.
Tightness and pain are not a daily issue – or something that I just need to learn to live with anymore.
I utilize the tools I was given in therapy to address anything that comes up.
I felt relief not only physically, but mentally. I didn’t just have to “take it.”
I found medical professionals – who, by the way, were covered by my insurance – that could actually improve my quality of life. And it didn’t take long to realize improvement.
All tolled I had maybe five appointments – the rest I do at home.
For me, a lot of it is stretching – including a traction machine that the therapist recommended – and being mindfully aware of my posture. I had watched these therapists I worked with help people improve their gait, their core strength and therefore stability. Why it didn’t occur to me (or my doctor) that I could benefit from this type of care is beyond me. I’m sure glad I stumbled upon (pardon the pun) the idea though.
It was a game-changer for me – and it could be for you as well. Talk to your doctor, or make your own appointment, and see a good physical therapist like I did at Tidewater Physical Therapy. It can change your game!
About Kathy Young:
I’m a patient who lost her patience. I’ve dealt with the symptoms, the flares, the indignities of life with MS – and I can still find a lot to laugh about. Attitude is everything, as they say. I want our community, our patient population and their loved ones, supporters and caregivers to band together and learn from each other – teach each other what works for us in all facets of living life with MS. This includes how-to-work from home, dealing with family life, dealing with doctors, raising money for research, learning about new therapies and trying alternatives. Read my Blog here.