Why My Physical Therapist Is The Most Important Member of My Care Team

First, I’ll start off by saying I’m not dissing my other providers: my PCP is the best MD I’ve ever encountered, and I’m comfortable with my Neurologist, while recognizing she doesn’t specialize in MS.

I see my PCP for a yearly physical and, since she was instrumental in getting me diagnosed and referred to specialists, she also gets the test results of my MS. I see my Neurologist every since months, (virtually, since she’s based at the hospital), every six months. We go over meds and she orders blood tests.

The treatment that has really helped me

But I see my physical therapist - let’s call him David - every week. (It used to be two times a week, pre-covid, and we did have an eight-month break due to covid.) I tell David everything that my body’s been doing in the six days since I’ve seen him: I couldn’t poop, but now I can. When I squeeze my numb left thigh, my with-feeling right bicep tingles.

David makes routines either for aqua therapy - including the treadmill, my favourite :-) - or ‘land’ sessions. These are customized to my body and what my body is doing on that day. He sees the effect Brown-Séquard syndrome at C6-C7 spinal cord has on me. My body is spilt in half: from collarbone down, the left side is numb, only feeling pressure. The right side feels but is physically limited. My whole body has nerves firing off, causing pain all day.

Addressing paralysis and muscle tension

My right hip is still paralyzed and causes lower back pain when I walk - unassisted - around the house. David is helping me strengthen the muscles so that eventually I may be able to walk outside the home with only a cane or crutch, instead of the bulky walker I currently wrestle in and out of the car.

David knows my torso and hips have extreme muscle tension - the dreaded MS hug - all. the. time. Working out with a concrete block joining your legs to your arms and head is exhausting. Breathing is exhausting, and sometimes difficult. It makes balancing challenging. But like my sister’s favourite childhood game, ‘weebles wobble but they never topple over.’

Why he's so important to my medical care team

Almost three years ago, I was discharged from the hospital after being in-patient for almost a month (three weeks in physical rehabilitation) following the worst flare I’ve ever had. I could ‘just’ walk, even with a walker. Both hands were barely usable: today, I’ve taught myself to write with my left hand. I had to sit in an upright dining room chair all day, because getting up from a comfortable chair was impossible: today I can do 30 sit-to-stands from 14” (followed by a nap).

David sees all this, and more. He knows my MS better than anyone else on my care team. For long as I want to work to get better, David will be there with me to keep me in the upward trajectory. That’s why my physical therapist is the most important person on my medical care team.

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