January 17th, 2008

Cut cuddle and be Cute

A two-fer!

I frequently blog about how I struggle to integrate my blindness and chronic pain, or how one affects the other. I've described how blindness adds challenges to pain management decisions and how RSD makes things like mobility, you know going places, more difficult. But I have rarely described how great it can be when both of these things are integrated well. Today, I was fortunate to experience a positive integration. And, as a bonus, it will help me achieve at least one of my goals!

I mentioned that one of my goals involves some sort of exercise or physical therapy. Basically, I want to feel more comfortable in my body. I want to be able to move around and get through class more comfortably. But in general, I've been the expert on RSD in the previous physical therapy experiences. It's a relatively rare disorder and not everyone has had experience with it. It's not covered to a great extent in courses physical therapists take. So part of my goal was to see if I could get help with my RSD from someone who knows more about it. I think I've found that person, through the help of some of my closest friends. After finding out a bit about the physical therapist they suggested I see, I asked my nurse practitioner, who referred me after asking some questions. But even then, I was nervous.

Physical therapy can be pretty brutal for someone with RSD. There are several potential ways to tick off the RSD monster, and most of those can be done in physical therapy (they can also be done in regular ordinary life). But I made the appointment and got ready for today.

The first thing that surprised me was that I walked in and they knew who I was. We'd told them that I am blind, so that probably helped, but it is always nice to be greeted by name. Next, they were very good about giving directions like "the counter is in front of you". But what shocked me was that without asking them for help, they automatically took me back to a room and had someone who works there and who I thought was very kind go through the paperwork with me. No "can you help her fill this out" to Dad who was driving me. No having me shout answers across the lobby, just dignified help. You can bet I expressed my grattitude!

I was also pleasantly surprised with how much my physical therapist knows about RSD. She has definitely learned about twhat happens in this disease and showed me a lot of things about my body. What she suggested made sense, and so far, the increase in pain afterwards isn't too horrible. In short, I'm not breathing as fully as I could, and that can have effects on the sympathetic nervous system. A lot of muscles are either not getting used at all for things like walking, moving, sitting and standing, and other muscles are being forced to take their places. I've got three exercises and a couple other things to focus on, and we're actually working on areas which effect my foot and leg, but less on the leg itself for now. Once we get me using my body properly, then we can see what my leg needs. She didn't tell me to use ice, which is vital in RSD (not using ice is important, I mean).

I'm really happy I am taking steps to try to make my health, pain and function better. And I'm thrilled too that neither disability compromised the needs of the other for once. Here's hoping the hopeful mood continues.