Moving Pain Free

Submitted by: Brian Richey

Susan Robertson's Success Story

I've had many old injuries and now two new knees had left me wondering whether I could ever regain my function. Aging has a way of accentuating early injuries, so by the time I neared 60, I could no longer walk. I was lifting my left leg with my right foot. Getting up from sitting required my right arm to serve as a leg; standing was possible for two minutes at most. I had to plan how to do the grocery shopping: what to buy on which trip, where the items were in the store, which bags to bring in to the house over the next several days. A bath? The last time I remembered being able to get out of the tub was 30 years ago. I had to decline activities I really enjoyed hiking, swimming, basketball, and instead saw myself retreat to exercising my brain with reading, puzzles, writing, and thinking. By the time I could no longer sleep because of the pain, I knew I had to do something. Plus, I was finally old enough to be considered medically appropriate for artificial joints.

I got my new knees, one at a time, a year apart. The first knee turned out beautifully: great range of motion and no pain. But the second knee was painful doing anything but sitting. After getting through the surgeries and thriving on the hope that I would be able to do things I hadn't done in years, I was disappointed that some of the pain remained and restricted my function. I had physical therapy for months after each knee, and the knees did indeed bend now and I had some new strength. But soon after stopping rehabilitation, my muscles remembered how to create that body armor and within a year, I was watching myself lose flexibility, strength, and endurance.

The first time Brian asked me to tighten my abdominals, he had to repeat the instruction, thinking I hadn't heard. When I emphatically told him I AM, it was clear that the muscles may have been lurking in there somewhere, but they were not turned on. So began the journey of identifying muscles, feeling how they were supposed to work, and slowly rebuilding their proper function and strength. Now, I can walk rather than limp, I can stand rather than sit, I can take a bath because I can get out, I can plan to go to a museum and enjoy it, and most importantly, I can get past injuries. These are huge hopeful steps.

Brian is able to think of the movements that are needed to extend a leg, or bend a knee, or raise an arm and then use telescopic vision to tease out what muscles are needed, how the joint needs to be positioned, and what might be restricting movement. He then figures out a fun way to isolate a particular muscle and get it moving again. Only people able to break down movement, link it to function, and stay motivated (even when I've hit a plateau) could have kept me at it. I've been on this road for only a few years now, and I'm certain that keeping at it is pivotal to my health. Fit 4 Life DC has given me back my life.