Two Fridays ago, I woke up with a dull pain on my upper back, right shoulder blade area. I didn’t mind it because I’m used to having back pains once in a while. That afternoon, while waiting for Peewee to fetch me and the kids from their swim class, I felt a jolt of pain in the area. I tried massaging it but no relief. The pain continued to intensify as we drove home that I couldn’t move as much nor do anything. Peewee had to cook dinner for us that painful night.
At that time, the pain was about 7/10 kind of pain, mildly tolerable but I did not take any meds for it. Seeing my discomfort, Peewee lovingly volunteered to massage my back. Unfortunately, the pain intensified two more notches, it was already 8-9/10 pain. It was uncomfortable to lie down and sleep, thank goodness I was able to get some shut-eye.
The following day, I needed to prepare for a brunch meeting with two friends. I was still sporting this funny kind of walk because of the pain and thought of cancelling our meeting. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to share Jesus to a friend. Driving would be difficult so Peewee drove for me that morning. The brunch was fun and inspiring at the same time despite my aching back. The pain lingered for three more days that I decided to see a doctor.
A doctor friend of mine recommended a Rehab Doctor at the Las Pinas Doctor’s Hospital. The Rehab doctor asked me if I fell or hit something then he proceeded to do his standard tests. As soon as he placed his fingers on my shoulder, he said, “Your muscles are too tight. They are tensed.”
I told him I’m a mom and I do a lot of motherly duties. He suggested lessening the stress in my life that’s causing the pain on my back. Immediately he wrote on his prescription pad : Treatment: 6 sessions of physical therapy with a diagnosis of Myofascial Pain Syndrome or MPS.
At first, I was hesitant to go through therapy and asked if I could just take any pain medication or have a massage. Pain medication won’t do me any good, he explained because the pain will not go away. Better go for the therapy instead as he suggested. If the pain persists after the therapy, he might have to do other tests like blood tests, x-ray and MRI. I opted for the therapy.
What is myofascial pain syndrome? Mayo Clinic defines MPS as a chronic pain disorder which occurs in the muscles caused by jobs, hobbies or stress-related muscle tension.“While nearly everyone has experienced muscle tension pain, the discomfort associated with myofascial pain syndrome persists or worsens. Treatment options for myofascial pain syndrome include physical therapy and trigger point injections. Pain medications and relaxation techniques also can help.”
My first physical therapy session at the hospital’s Rehab Medicine Center was last Thursday. When my therapist called my name, we sat down and took my blood pressure which was 110/70 within the normal range. She then led me to a small room and was asked to change to the hospital gown.
Knoll, the therapist explained to me what I would be feeling during the initial session. First, she made me lie on my stomach and hooked me to a transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) machine. This is a small battery-operated device that sends tiny electric shocks to the target muscle or area. As soon as the machine was on I felt ants running on my back as she told me. It was not at all irritating or painful, it was ticklish at the onset. The intensity though can be adjusted based on my comfort level. This was done for 20 minutes. A hot pad covered in towel was placed on top of the TENS machine.
After 20 minutes, Knoll came back with a small ultrasound machine. This ultrasound is different from the diagnostic type of ultrasound. The Ultrasound Therapy also has a microphone-looking device that is used to send sound waves into the deep tissues which would then produce heat and friction. This is often used in treating patients with chronic pain or MPS like me. Knoll said this would help relax the muscles and make it more pliable for the stretching exercises.
The ultrasound lasted for about 10 minutes and soon I was asked to sit on a chair. She taught me two stretching exercises I should do daily upon waking. The first was rolling of the shoulders forward for 10 counts and backwards for another then counts. Second exercise was to squeeze my back muscles. See the illustration below. I was to hold the second position for 6 seconds and do 10 repetitions.
Yesterday was my second session and I asked if I could discontinue the rest of the therapy sessions since I was already pain free since last week. I added that I have been faithfully doing the stretching exercises at home as she recommended. She agreed that all I really needed was some stretching to relax my tired muscles.
I told her that I do blog and use the computer daily, so she suggested taking breaks once in a while and do some stretching too. She also suggested adding a footstool as I sit in front of the computer. Told me to be aware of my posture all the time because this causes strain on my neck and lower back as well. If you don’t have a footstool, you can use a shoebox too so that your knees should be slightly lower than the hips. I found this very helpful as I intentionally changed the way I sit in front of the computer.