As I finished my most recent physical therapy session last week, I felt accomplished and in control. It will hopefully be my last session for a long time, and I left feeling at ease for the first time in weeks. Unfortunately, up until my last few sessions, I was frustrated, skeptical, and, well, my back still hurt. I had little faith and was ready to walk away in acceptance of how my body was going to feel from now on. With the help of Anthony Ongaro’s Daily Action Course, however, I was able to reset my expectations and further internalize the power daily actions can have on my long-term vision.
Physical and mental health have always been priorities. I spent over two years changing my exercise and eating habits to finally have blood test results that didn’t prompt my doctor to attempt to prescribe me medication for high cholesterol. I spent over three years in cognitive behavioral therapy to learn how to live a healthy life with a genetic mood disorder. Along both journeys, nothing changed overnight, and I knew nothing would. Slow and steady wins the race, right? So what made physical therapy so different?
Resisting My Generation
Because I was born in 1987, I can be categorized as a “Millennial.” To some, this means I should be tech savvy, clever, and resourceful. To others, I should be lazy, entitled, and addicted to technology. Of course, I don’t believe in the rigid walls stereotypes can build around us, but my birth year is both a blessing and a curse. I’m finding that, with the exponential rate at which science and technology is developing, I have to actively resist the need for instant gratification.
My online bank account balances my checkbook for me. My phone tells me how to get somewhere without any forethought on my part. I can drive halfway around a building and get a meal without ever stepping of my car. I can download books, movies, and music in a matter of seconds. I can have packages delivered to my door within 12 hours of ordering. I can take medication to reduce pain, lose weight, lower my blood pressure, and prevent conception. Whether it’s an, “I want this now,” or “Oops, let me fix that…” moment, I cannot deny that I belong to the generation of instant gratification.
Don’t get me wrong; I am grateful to have access to new technology and modern medicine. It has definitely improved lives in a number of ways and will continue to do so. However, there is a side effect to growing up as a Millennial: the impatient expectation of instant gratification that bleeds into all aspects of life.
Shifting from Pain to Praise
When my back pain became less intermittent and more of a constant part of my day, I made a doctor’s appointment. I wanted my doctor to say, “This is what’s wrong. Here’s what you do. Have a great day.” I wanted that instant gratification. Instead, I got, “I’m not sure. Here’s a referral to physical therapy. Hopefully you’ll only need 4-6 weeks.”
My physical therapist explained that I needed to work to create a neutral alignment in my lumbar and pelvic spine. When I was at rest, my pelvis tilted forward, especially on the right and dominant side of my body. My alignment caused excess and asymmetrical strain, producing pain in my lower back.
I spent five weeks stretching and strengthening and receiving manual therapy to improve my alignment, but there were still many days where I experienced discomfort and pain. During one session, I got a little carried away talking to my therapist. Cue fed-up Audrey:
“So, I’m not symmetrical, but who is? Why am I in pain when others aren’t? Is pain just the norm for me now? I’ve been coming here for weeks, and I’ve had more pain lately. What does that mean?”
My therapist expedited one of my evaluations in attempts to quell my frustration. Despite the frustration and pain, I was making progress. My flexibility improved; my stretches were more symmetrical. I had gained both strength and balance. And, when manipulating my pelvis, the pain was more localized than widespread. I had made progress.
She explained that, while my sessions involved manual therapy, I was also building a toolkit to use on my own. I had tools to strengthen and stretch, either preventing pain or reducing it. I also had a more keen sense of when I needed to slow down and take care of myself. My therapist didn’t study medicine to run a fix-it shop where her patients come back whenever they need that instant gratification. She studied medicine in order to break down the complex workings of the human body so individuals like me could leave with an ability to listen to my body and take care of it independently.
There is, of course, one caveat to using my newfound tools: neither prevention nor reduction of pain will come from sporadic use, only intentional, daily action. That’s what Anthony’s Daily Action Course is all about. He teaches you how to reflect on and analyze your current actions in order to replace the less meaningful with more the more fulfilling. In order to do this, Anthony walks you through a series of exercises meant to help you narrow down your long-term vision and build a foundation of daily actions to help you get there. While I began the course to create a more consistent and meaningful writing routine, I left with countless connections to other aspects of my life and a new perspective on how to move forward with more intention.
You may call it a coincidence that I was working through Anthony’s course when I had this conversation with my physical therapist. If you talk to my new friend Jeff, he’ll tell you he doesn’t believe in coincidences. At this point, I’m not sure what I believe. I can only say that I am grateful for the way everything worked out and have a new respect for my body and the daily actions it requires to keep me out of pain, whether short or long term.