Pain & Torture (P.T.)

The thing that has made me lose heart is that this kid is still too frightened to run; in spite of all the education and the movement refreshment she has engaged in; all my coaxing is useless. Because, what she remembers is her ‘back is broken’ and that she has to keep her core tight…*sigh*. It is more than a ‘meme’ problem… it’s the tsunami of bullshit I have to swim against to try to convince her that she’ll be ok…She’s a girl in mid-adolescence; previously athletic, somewhat perfectionistic, high academic achiever and somewhat anxious.

She and I are dealing with the complexity of that – and I have the easier job; she’s still a kid.

I recently received the (above) email from a friend, also a physical therapist. We have communicated with one another on various social media platforms for the more than 3 years. I have never had the pleasure of meeting them in person, but fancy them a strong and informed thinker, as well as a passionate therapist.

My friend, however, is becoming disillusioned and frustrated – overwhelmed by a “tsunami of bullshit”, they are starting to ask themselves, “Why?”, and “What difference can I possibly make?”

Earlier in the email they explained:

She is an adolescent who has been experiencing low back pain for about a year. When I saw her, she had next to no mobility in her trunk. A combination of (1) doctor shopping because of her parent’s fixation with a biomedical cause and a ‘cure’, (2) an orthopod who gave her the spondylolisthesis (Grade 1) diagnosis without much more explanation, or telling her that it was essentially stable, or not altogether life-limiting, and (3) each physical therapist (there were 3 before me) she saw giving her some combinations of ‘core stability exercise’ or ‘clinical pilates’ without bothering to try to fit that into normal, everyday movement and physical activity requirements…they had petrified her into co-contracting her abs and paraspinals until she was stiff as a board.

Somewhere, there is a physical therapist telling yet another girl that she “can’t move that way anymore; it isn’t good for you.” She might feel better for a while and not schedule any additional visits; the physical therapist is validated. Of course, she might stop attending therapy altogether if it isn’t working, but the physical therapist won’t remember her then. No, it would seem that every girl with similar symptoms is going to hear a similar story with the same ending: “You can’t move that way anymore…

I am reminded of something that I read earlier in the week – a thought and a vision that has stuck with me. The passage is from Albert Camus’ The Fall:

To be sure, you are not familiar with that dungeon cell that was called the little-ease in the Middle Ages…That cell was distinguished from others by ingenious dimensions. It was not high enough to stand up in nor yet wide enough to lie down in. One had to take on an awkward manner and live on the diagonal; sleep was a collapse, and waking a squatting. Mon cher, there was genius—and I am weighing my words—in that so simple invention. Every day through the unchanging restriction that stiffened his body, the condemned man learned that he was guilty and that innocence consists in stretching joyously.


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