Sunday, July 14, 2013

Colorado PT 2013: Part 1

Oh my gosh, two months in Colorado was one of the most difficult but one of the most awesome times of my life! The car ride with my mom was certainly a memorable one. My mom has dubbed it the "Girls Go Wild, Wild West Trip". We had music blasting and talked about so many random things. On our drive we spotted the "World's Largest Truck Stop", a random dinosaur statue on the side of a road in Nebraska, we discovered the rest stops in Iowa only have bathroom stalls about 5 feet tall (not a good discovery when you're 6'). After this discovery, I couldn't go into the bathroom without feeling like a perv, so I avoided them haha. The drive itself wasn't as bad as we had heard. Spring was in bloom and the shades of green were beautiful. It was a very exciting moment when we spotted the Rocky Mountains in the distance. This meant we were getting closer to our destination. My mom and I both feel like we had someone watching over us on our drive because once we got to our condo in Colorado, for the next several weeks, the Midwest got tons of rain and a lot of bad storms right where we were driving. We are both very thankful we passed all of the bad weather and got to Colorado safely.

Couldn't resist not taking a picture with the height of the bathroom stall.
There was nobody in the bathroom when we took this picture.

View of the mountains when we got to Denver, Colorado
The time in Colorado was the best and the worst gift I have been given. It has been dubbed the two months of observations and discovery. I am so thankful for the time I got to spend there. It is so hard to believe that my two months there has come to an end. It was the best gift because I know there are a team of medical professionals who can help me. It's the worst gift because now that I am back home in Illinois, I'm trying to figure out a way to get back out to Colorado for good. In the mountains where my mom and I were at, there is no humidity. I felt so much better there.  It is so hard being back in crazy humid IL when you know just a few states over that could be avoided and you know your medical team is there. I think going to CO is one of the best decisions I have made from a medical standpoint. The staff is great at the hospital/clinic and they all stay in contact with one another very well from a communication standpoint. Besides my mom, my therapists were the only people I really interacted with for 8 weeks, 5 days a week, 2 times a day. The relationships that I made with them far exceeded anything I ever expected; it feels like I have known them for a very long time.

Going into physical therapy (pt), I knew my shoulder situation was quite complicated, but as the weeks went on, I learned they are much more complicated than I even realized. The first few weeks of pt involved my therapists making close observations assessing my shoulders and kind of learning what my shoulders/scapulas do when I try to move. Quite frankly, it was a lot of trial and error on many levels (exercises, body positioning, motions etc.) to see what worked well and what didn't. When certain exercises didn't work, my therapists would think of different ways to modify them to my bodies needs. Part of my issue is my lack of strength around my shoulders and shoulder blades. Since my muscles are rather weak, especially on my right shoulder, the ball of the shoulder doesn't sit in a good position. This lack of good positioning caused a great deal of crunching/grinding, shifting sensation and pain. To help with the positioning, my therapists would physically hold my shoulder in the correct position while I worked out. Over the next few weeks, I learned where that good position was and was able to workout without them holding my shoulder in place.


So every time my right shoulder would crunch a lot, my
one therapist would always say, "Watch out for the crunchies"
I told him I should get a shirt and paint Captain Crunch
on it with the quote. I guess you could say it
became our "team motto".

About 3 weeks in pt a couple discoveries started to come to the surface. The first one was when I was laying on my back and my therapist was stretching my neck. When he stretched my neck towards my left shoulder, the front of my right shoulder started to spasm and the "ball" of the my shoulder started to be pulled forward. We taped it back into its proper position and I wore a sling the rest of the day so it could calm down. We now know this occurrence was the very first sign that something else was not quite right. On Saturday, which was a couple days later, while working with my other physical therapist, we were working on what is called nerve gliding. I've been told to think of it like flossing your teeth. The therapist works the nerve to try to get it to glide smoothly as the arm is moved. Later that day I started having pain up the side of my right neck, and the front of my right shoulder was in spasm. When I woke up Monday morning, the pain was worse up my neck and into my jaw. Eating breakfast was challenging because it was difficult to open my mouth. My neck motion was very limited and my shoulder was still in spasm pulling it forward. For the next two days at therapy, my therapists did soft tissue work and worked on trying to get everything to relax. Luckily by Wednesday, my shoulder was back to "normal". We learned what to avoid when doing nerve gliding.

Discovery number 2 was when my therapist noticed my shoulder blades move the wrong direction. When I move my arms in front of me, the bottom of my shoulder blades move in towards my spine instead of moving out to the side. Now, how the heck did that happen without me being aware or being able to feel this? Wouldn't you think it would feel weird? It didn't and it doesn't. This is my bodies "new normal" movement pattern. I have no clue how long my shoulder blades have been moving this way. You have to keep in mind I have had numerous muscle reattachment surgeries on my on my shoulder blades and certain muscles were moved to areas where they aren't necessarily supposed to be. This motion discovery meant we had a starting point of where we could begin to try to correct things. In my opinion, you "normal" people move really, really weird haha. When my therapists physically move my shoulder blades in the correct position when I move, it feels so wrong to me. It is unnatural, awkward, weird and the sensation is very similar to when my shoulder blades would wing like a chicken. It has and still continues to be a challenging obstacle we are working on correcting.

Short video showing the motion of my right scapula when I move

Between physical therapy sessions, my mom and I kept on living our philosophy: incorporate fun. We would go for walks on the trails along the streams, eat lunch outside amongst all of the trees, go for drives taking in the scenery, and sit by the pool talking to people. If we didn't do any of these things I know we both would have started to lose our minds. Colorado is too pretty to just sit inside and waste away the day. Even when I didn't feel well after some therapy sessions, we could walk a short little distance and relax on a bench listening to our natural surroundings. Everyday was like an adventure. We never really knew what we were going to do or what we would see. It kept things exciting and fun.

My mom and I eating lunch outside rooftop with the mountains in the background

I have to break this Colorado PT 2013 into a couple parts because there is too much information to cram all into one post. Over the course of the next several weeks, my strength increased. Yay! Since my strength increased, we were able to slowly start progressing onto exercises that involved trying to increase my motion. This increase in motion brought more issues to the surface...

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