Hello! How’s your week going? I am loving these warm temperatures. Yes, please!
Last week, I went to physical therapy for the first time. Today I’ll be sharing the story behind my visit, and my experiences beforehand. Around last October, I started to experience a persistent soreness in my upper back. The pain seemed to be coming from just one spot in my back. Figuring it was just from working out, I kept right on going. As I shared with you earlier this year, I was going to the gym less and less during the course of this year. However, when I did go, it felt harder to lift weights, and it seemed like my left side of the body was stronger than my right side. For example, when I would do chest presses using a barbell, I had to work harder for the bar not to be shifted unevenly – it was much easier to hold it up higher with my left side.
The pain in my upper back continued the next few months, and at times traveled up to the right side of my neck. I was frustrated when working out, because I enjoy lifting so much, but it seemed to make the pain increase. I finally scheduled a visit with a muscoskeletal doctor, towards the end of last year, to see what was going on. He did say that I was stronger on one side, and recommended a couple of stretching exercises for me to try. I did them often, but did not see a difference in my pain or muscle strength. I felt frustrated that it wasn’t getting better, didn’t understand how the stretching exercises were related to the area I was experiencing pain in, and I honestly didn’t feel like the doctor was really listening. (Fitness lovers, I know you understand – “No, I’m not just going to “stop all exercise” for weeks to see if my problem goes away.) After visiting that doctor, I occasionally visited a chiropractor, when it felt like the pain had increased too much and I needed a little relief.
Visiting the chiropractor helped to alleviate the pain for a couple of days, but then it would seem to come right back. I tried lifting exercises to target my back muscles more, tried taking plenty of time off from lifting, tried a heating pad, etc. Nothing seemed to target the soreness enough where it was getting better. It was to the point where I would lift up my arm to put on mascara, and I had to put it down after a few seconds to take a break because the pain would get worse in that spot, as silly as that sounds!
Recently, my mom recommended I go to see a different doctor. I made an appointment with an orthopedic doctor , and went last week. After a quick consultation and an X-ray, he recommended I complete physical therapy for the next month. (The X-ray didn’t show anything abnormal, but for the pain I was describing, he felt physical therapy would be the best solution.)
I went to my initial evaluation at physical therapy this past Friday, and left the appointment finally feeling like I was taking a step towards getting better. They listened to me, and worked with me to determine what might be the cause of the pain.
When I described where the pain was perseverating, they said that typically pain in that spot results from a muscle imbalance between the read shoulder and upper back/ traps muscles. Hearing that, I remembered that the end of last summer to last fall, I did go through a period of time where I loved lifting shoulders at the gym. It felt good, I could see progress more quickly, and was able to increase the weight I was using over time. I focused too much on shoulder workouts during this phase and didn’t stop to consider if I was balancing my workouts and hitting each muscle group evenly. I also think I tried to increase my weight too quickly, which can result in improper form, leading to injury.
After talking though things at physical therapy, I think that I lifted shoulders at the gym too often without doing exercises to target my back muscles to make my upper body equally strong. This caused an imbalance in my muscles, and because I wasn’t correcting that imbalance with physical therapy or exercises, it continued to get worse over time. It sounds like a silly mistake to make looking back, but hopefully things will get back to normal soon.
At my upcoming physical therapy sessions, I’ll be working on exercises to target those muscles in my upper back on the right side, to increase strength and stability between my shoulder muscles and back. I have exercises to complete at home in between sessions each week, so I’ll keep you posted on my progress!
Have you ever been to physical therapy?
Ever lifted too much in the gym and injured yourself?