“You’re using your back,” the physical therapist Stacey admonished me. Wow! I can’t tell. How did I get through almost 70 years without knowing how my body works? After analyzing the source of my knee pain, Stacey plunged (literally, a plunger), manipulated, massaged painfully and then instructed me in standing from a seated position. The instruction required multiple trials after taping my lower back into place.
I have spent the last few days analyzing my weight transference with each movement. She was right: when I concentrate on relaxing my back and really using my legs, the pain is lessened. I have also had to realign my gait. It is frustrating to need to think about movements that I have taken for granted all my life.
It wasn’t unusual in the voice clinic to meet with teachers who had been in the classroom for 20 years and suddenly found themselves mute. A few sessions instructing them in “vocal hygiene” including how to speak without strain usually solved the issue. The human body is very good at adapting itself to the needed function. But adaptation can lead to further problems if it is compensating unhealthily. I found that women my age and older had difficulty learning to breathe using abdominal rather than chest muscles. I attributed this to the instruction we received as young girls: hold in your stomach!! Wearing girdles probably didn’t help.
Thus, I am relearning to walk, to climb stairs, to rise from a seated position. The pain was very uncomfortable the day after my session, By the second day, after the pain of the manipulation eased, it was much more comfortable.
Regular movement assessments as we age and unconsciously begin to compensate for weakness and pain may lessen long-term disability and decrease the need for expensive, painful treatment. I wonder if we could get insurance to pay for that?