So my body today was talking Oompa Loompa or possibly Jumbly (as in one of The Jumblies) and it was saying it would quite like to follow up on getting that physio check up that I flirted with having after the run on Sunday.
This particular choice of fictional characters (I don’t think either really appeared first in documentaries, but you can never quite tell these days) is because of my wardrobe choices. I was ridiculously nervous about going to see a physiotherapist, and didn’t know what to wear. He might need access to all (relevant) areas, and I’d need to be mobile, so sports kit required. I only have a limited repertoire of running gear (you may already have noticed that, I have to concede not all the photos in this blog were taken on the same day, but they do have a strangely familiar look to them I know), and most of that is now in the wash, following five consecutive days of running/ exercise classes. Rummaging around I pull out some Ronhill shorts and a matching top. These are very comfortable to wear, but sadly look a bit shite. They are exceedingly purple and green, and the shorts/short-sleeve top combo rather accentuates (not in a good way) my apple shape. I definitely look like a cross between an Oompa Loompa and a Jumbly, sort of like the bastard child of an unseemly coupling. That was my suspicion anyway when I glanced in the mirror on exiting the house, and this insight was confirmed to me with photographic evidence later in the day. Still, I’m jumping ahead of myself I decided I’d just have to hope that the physiotherapist was sufficiently professional to pretend not to notice. Hopefully he will have seen worse, or if he hasn’t, not let on.
I’ve never seen a physio before – well not strictly true, I did see an amazing physio who helped me get my wrist mobile again in the aftermath of a really nasty ferret attack (no really, but another story), and a really terrible one after I broke my knee as well – what I really mean, is that I haven’t seen a physiotherapist other than in the context of a really specific injury, so wasn’t sure what to expect from yesterday’s appointment.
I phoned the clinic first thing, and found out they did actually have a free appointment the same day, I asked how to prepare, and was told that in an introductory appointment they’ll take a basic history and look at any immediate concerns that might be bothering me. It turned out that I had a couple of hours free to think about all my many biomechanical concerns. This is basically a licence for complete hypochondria. There is of course the immediate worry around the numbness in my leg; but I find once I get going with thinking about all those niggles that I’ve always wondered if I should get checked out, I probably would need a week long residential consultation to get through it rather than the 30 minute slot actually available. My mind rushes from ailment to ailment. Should I mention that I have that weird asymmetrical toe-turning in gait thing I do, which I think contributes to me falling over whenever I start to tire running? I’ll have to explain about my hobbit feet and arthritis obviously, but I’d also love to know if my range of movement in my shoulder is normal. It’s never felt the same since I fell off a horse a few months ago, and I can only sleep on one side these days because of it.
Being invited to contemplate my physiological frailties also induces a heightened level of paranoia about my body’s inadequacies. Frankly, when I come to think about it, I can’t fathom how I manage to potter about my flat in safety, let alone leave the house to voluntarily engage in physical activity of any kind. I am now thinking that the question I really, really want to ask is: ‘will my body disintegrate on impact as my foot hits the ground whilst out running one day?‘ that’s what it feels like sometimes – is that usual?
I aimed to arrive a few minutes early, but when I did, the shop was actually shut. It doesn’t open until 2.00 on a Monday, which is my appointment time. So I waited outside and the physiotherapist arrived also. He looked a bit taken aback, that I’d reappeared so soon. Does he think I’m stalking him? I was clutching my scrunched up piece of paper with the discount code and looking oompa-loompa like and self-conscious – perhaps it’s that look that made him start rather than me as such – you know the phrase ‘she looked a fright’? Well, perhaps I startled him.
The shop proprietor came charging back from the post office up the road, and let us in. I asked to use the loo, which is, for the record, very swanky indeed. A huge basket of coloured towels and a large selection of trail running magazines catch my eye. It is also massive (the room, not eh toilet as such). I could have kept myself occupied in there for ages, the only negative bit of feedback, would be that the mirror has clearly been put up by some sort of long legged running giant. It is so high up on the wall, that I can only see my eyebrows in it, no chance of checking for spinach between my teeth let alone noting and correcting any wardrobe issues. I wonder what it would be like to live at that altitude as your normal point of reference, how strange the world must seem…
So, onto the consultation, I take off my over-trousers and reveal my jumbly outfit and pale little hairy legs. I think too late that maybe I should have epilated or depilated or dilapidated or whatever it is you are supposed to do to achieve smooth skinned perfection – before coming. I can see little indentations in my knees where I fell over in the grit on Sunday, and my plate like feet with their uneven nails, arthritic swellings and battered post-run appearance are not the vision of loveliness that I might have wished for. They don’t get seen in public very often, and for good reason.
I don’t know what the rules are regarding the sanctuary of the consultation room, we all know about client confidentiality, but I don’t know so much about practitioner confidentiality. I’ve only got positive things to say, but wouldn’t want to breach good manners by over-sharing. Then again – who reads this, and my pact with me is to be honest in this blog, positive but honest. So I’ll cover what I would like to know if someone was telling me about what to expect at their first sports physio appointment. Angst ridden naivety and all.
In factual terms the consultation begins with a bit of a history, when I basically spout on about my many aches, pains concerns, previous breakages etc. I acknowledge that there isn’t time to address everything, so we agree to focus on my ‘injury’ (numb leg) and peculiar gait. I call it peculiar, he tactfully keeps rephrasing this in terms like ‘your natural way of going’ or something equally non-judgemental. He does quite well at keeping a straight face throughout to be honest. Maybe he’s become slightly desensitised to the sorts of things that people tell him in the intimacy of being squashed together sat on a treatment table in a windowless room. He struggled a bit when I told him that when I was very little (another true story) some doctor somewhere picked up on a problem with my feet, and for a couple of years I was made to wear my shoes on the wrong feet to straighten them out. It was insanity in my view, akin to foot binding in China (actually not really no, that’s probably a bit insulting to those maimed by that practise, but you get the diea). I’ve always wondered whether that was the cause of a lot of my problems later on (foot wise, not in relation to wider heartbreak or personal inadequacies). However, even then, his professional loyalty kicked in and he said something diplomatic like ‘I think approaches have probably changed a bit since then, but it may have had some perceived merit at the time’.
There was some diagnostic stretching of legs and pushing against him in various angles. The numb leg thing is probably related to overuse (I know, I’ll take that as a badge of honour) and really I could help myself a lot by using a foam roller for stretching it out properly to sort of re-set. For me though the most interesting thing was getting him to look at my feet and my gait. He was professional enough not to laugh at my feet, and to describe them in factual terms, but he did a couple of tests that were fascinating to me. One involved just standing on the floor in my bare feet (frankly I found even that quite hard if I thought about it too much) and then he just gently tried to lift my big toe upwards a bit. It didn’t move. Now, this isn’t surprising to me at all, since that is where I have the arthritis and my big toe joints are pretty much fused straight like they’ve been splinted. I’ve never really been able to move that joint much, but what was astonishing, is that apparently this isn’t normal! Most people can upwardly flex their big toe a bit, and this news was a complete revelation for me. I’m longing to subtly bring the conversation around to this topic now with my friends, so I can get them to show me their amazingly mobile toe joints. I couldn’t have been more astonished if he’d told me that everyone else in the whole world can rotate their head through 360 degrees and it’s only me that can’t.
The other party trick which he could perform, but I couldn’t do at all, and which I really hope you are all going to go away and try, involved a demonstration of flexibility in the calf (hamstrings I guess). Basically, you just stand with your toe pointing at a wall, but a couple of inches away from it. All you have to do is try and bend your knee forward over the toe to try and touch the wall. You do one leg at a time, the other one you just have a bit further back, or you can have a go at doing it on one leg like I did when I got home, and see whether you tend to fall over sideways or forwards in the attempt. If you are trying this at home, please do remember that I am not medically qualified, and nor am I necessarily very accurate in describing things, but I’d be surprised if you didn’t have a good laugh in the attempt even if there is no particular benefit or insight to be gained from you experimenting in this way.
The last part of the discussion involved me first walking, and then running on the shop treadmill, so the physio could film my gait on his mobile phone and then play it back to me. He promised to delete it later, but I’m honestly not too worried about that, is there really an online fetish site that would be interested in such footage? Even if there is, I don’t think my weird shuffles are going to get a lot of hits. It was quite interesting/depressing to see how I walk/run. I do turn my toes in quite a lot when I walk, but when I run I’m very much on my toes, which apparently might be what contributes to my tendency for calf pain, because of where the impact is taken. I have to admit though that what dismayed me most was seeing the sideways shots. Instead of filming just my feet, he’d got me from the waist down. Not a flattering look, let’s just say I’ll never be able to wear my oompa loompa outfit again, not until I’ve lost about 2 stone of tummy fat anyway.
It is worth mentioning that at intervals, the door of the consultation room, which was a bit flimsy and didn’t really shut properly would be shoved open. Once ajar, a wide eyed brindle coated dog would peer round politely. I didn’t get the name of the dog, but it was just seeking companionship. It obviously knew it wasn’t allowed in, but the temptation of knowing that there were two people behind the door while s/he was all alone on the other side was obviously too much to bear. Hangdog expression doesn’t really cover it, the head only edged through hopefully, the physio got up each time and re-shut the door, leaving the dog outside. However, as we were finishing our chat, sorry, ‘professional medical consultation’, we didn’t quite close the door properly ourselves. Seeing his/her moment, the dog edged over the threshold. Then did that ‘I know I’m invisible’ routine that dogs sometimes do. Creeping stealthily around the perimeter of the room, body crouched low (great flexibility and strength too now I come to think of it) before finally taking refuge under the treatment table and peering out at us pleadingly. Such a very sweet dog, it seemed harsh to have to evict him/her all over again. (The photo is not the actual dog by the way, just a ‘licensed for reuse’ one from bing search, but it’s sort of similar-ish)
So then that was that really. I think the main message for me is that I do need to take stretching a bit more seriously, and that in terms of my way of going it is going to be hard to change that because I can’t fight my genetic inheritance. He said he’d study the footage a bit more and look at emailing me some suitable exercises, and that I probably would benefit from a further appointment. This first one being more about diagnosis and discussion than commencing treatments as such. The other message from the day was to keep my purple and green shorts and top combo for fancy dress parties rather than for going out running in public in future (he didn’t actually tell me that, I just worked that out by myself). But I think I knew that already really, that’s why it was at the bottom of my wardrobe!
Seeing a physiotherapist did feel like a bit of an extravagance, but then again I am at an age where I think it is legitimate to invest in my longer term health, and I did feel like I got access to a knowledgeable professional with expertise that could definitely help me. I came away reassured rather than transformed, but that was helpful in itself and a perfectly reasonable outcome from a 30 minute consultation.
Modesty, and lack of a phone with a camera feature, mean no selfies on this occasion. However it was pretty much exactly like the image below: