July 17th, 2009

The Real Reason I Hate Physical Therapy

The Real Reason I Hate Physical Therapy

It's not because of the pain. It's not because of the frustration. It's not because of the unrealistic expectations and goals that can never be met. It's because I have to confront my weaknesses.

After my entire adulthood of ME/CFS and fibromyalgia limiting my physical activities, certain muscle groups are seriously weakened and atrophied, putting excessive stress on other muscle groups, creating a cascading effect throughout my whole body. I suspect part of the ME/CFS and fibromyalgia disease process itself creates muscle tightness that resists any attempts at stretching out, adding to the problem. So no wonder I'm in chronic pain.

And no wonder physical therapy is so difficult and frustrating for me. ME/CFS (and to a lesser extent fibromyalgia) forced me to narrow my world and adapt to living within very strict constraints in order to survive. I built a life out of relying on what few strengths I had left and avoiding engaging my weaknesses. I dislike setting myself up to fail, and during the long years of grappling with chronic illness I've learned that there are indeed some battles I cannot win, no matter how hard I try or how intelligently I apply myself. So I find myself ill adapted to confront my weaknesses during physical therapy.

Yesterday my physical therapist provided a few alternative ways to do the most difficult exercises to help me get some benefit from them without creating too much pain or frustration. I'll still give it my best shot, in spite of my gut feelings that at least a few of the exercises are simply not right for me. Many of the exercises are fine for me to do and I will get benefit from them. But it's those nasty few that cause me to confront my weaknesses and walk away no stronger that are the real reason I hate physical therapy.

It's quite a conundrum, really, because the whole point of physical therapy is to strengthen what is weak. Yet struggling with my weaknesses is very traumatic for me, creating a deterrent to put any more effort into it. I don't really see a solution to this. I get so tired of struggling to no avail. I wish I could just trade in my body for a less-troublesome one.