This is week 7 since my injury and my 13th physical therapy session. I often look to my therapist’s face for clues for how well I am progressing.
“¿Como esta? ¿Como se siente, hoy?” she inquired yesterday. “Do you have pain?”
“No, never,” I answered. “Just the numbness in the outside of my foot and the two toes.”
“How often now?” She inquired.
“All the time,” I said, puzzled. I had thought she understood that. “From when I wake up until I go to bed.”
And then I see it in her face. Doubt. Concern.
“There is something pressing on your nerve, absolutely,” she said seriously. “I am going to gift you time on the compressor to see if we can lengthen the space.”
The compressor is ironically for stretching. It literally pulls at me at my spine between my L4 and L5 area where I have less space than I should. There is a certain torque and timing to it based on my weight and it is not continuous or painful. But it does look like it should be located in the basement of a Spanish castle where the Inquisition Committee has a way of making you talk.
When I finish stretching (without any significant confessions) she has me walk a tight rope figuratively across the room. This is the kind of exercise I would have excelled at before I hurt my back and leg with no problem. But today I teeter, awkwardly lifting up my feet too high and placing my arms out for balance.
“No,” she counsels. “Do it normally.”
“You are losing strength in the smaller muscles that you are not using,” she said. “Go up on the balls of your toes.”
This I can do with two feet, but my injured side will not lift up on its own. It collapses right away without help from the right.
“Um-hmm,” she pauses. “Let’s try something.”
She hands me a foot weight, the kind that velcros around the ankle and has me walk on the treadmill. Strangely, I feel a hundred times better. It pulls me down into the floor grounding me. My whole foot suddenly has a kind of normal contact that is a physical relief and my walk is immediately much corrected.
“You are going to need one of those for awhile,” she advises.
“Great,” I say. (Sort of great, this means I have to journey into Managua, a hotbed of activism at the moment).
The next day I am practicing at Junior’s all that she would have me do. I focus on the areas that I instinctively tried to avoid previously. They are weak, but importantly alive. I have to chase after their involvement in my movement if I am going to get control of my body back.
I walk a tight rope across the tile and it still isn’t pretty, but by the time I am done, I am doing it faster and more confidently. I go up and down on the balls of my toes, which I can do at least thirty reps and will have to keep adding a few more each day until all those working parts are volunteering to help out.
And then I head to the back of Junior’s gym, where I get to work with weights as a reward for my awkward therapy. This is the best part of my morning, although I love all the phases that go into making my body feel and look the way I ideally envision it in my mind.
Each parts counts and has to get done, but it can’t be all work, right?!
We always have to make time each day for physical play.