My Own Worst Patient
May 1, 2016 3:17 am / Category: Physical Therapy
BY JESSICA SNYDER, DPT, RAUSCH PHYSICAL THERAPY
A college running injury is what originally introduced me to the field of physical therapy. I remember being so frustrated that I could not run and no one seemed able to “fix” it. I was bounced around between the university’s medical staff with no resolution. It wasn’t their fault; they had a lot of athletes to cover and I simply fell through the cracks. But, I was also extremely stubborn and continued running. In pain. Because no one had a better solution.
It was finally my mom who intervened. She did some research and found a physical therapist that she thought could help me. The physical therapist was the first person who took the time to listen to my symptoms, evaluate my injury, and explain to me what was going on and what needed to be done in order to get me running again. Finally! A diagnosis, an explanation, and a plan.
That’s when I knew I wanted to become a physical therapist.
On Top of the World
When I received my doctorate of physical therapy degree, I couldn’t help but think about how I’d come full circle—how I was now going to be that person that helps someone get back to doing what they love. I felt so grateful that this is what I was going to do with my life.
Flash forward, and I’ve now been working at Rausch Physical Therapy & Sports Performance for four years. I still run daily, and I haven’t really had to deal with any of the major, sidelining injuries that plagued me back in college. I’ll admit that I started to lose sight of PT from the perspective of a patient. It took a recent personal injury to remind me why I love this field so much.
Last month I was snowboarding at June Mountain when I fell on my butt and completely threw out my SI joint. That’s when I got my worst patient of all time: Me.
I couldn’t walk, let alone run. Getting in-and-out of the car was terrible. I couldn’t bend down to wash off the dog’s muddy paws, and I also couldn’t mop up the floor. I couldn’t even chase after my best friend’s daughter when she took off running towards the street—half a step and shooting pain across my back.
At first, I was okay with it. As a PT, I was able to self-diagnose myself with a badly sprained SI joint, which I knew would require time for the inflammation to go down and scar tissue to form in order to stabilize it. But, this professional practicality quickly faded into personal distress. By the end of the first week, I was in the anger phase of my depression. I was constantly on the verge of tears, I was ready to give up trying to stay active, I had even convinced myself that I would never run again (Completely irrational! It had only been a week!)
Then, something amazing happened. One of my favorite parts of being a PT is chatting with my patients while I’m treating them, and inevitably my frustration with my injury came up. That’s when my patients started repeating all the things that I had at some point told them during their recovery:
“Jessica, you know tissue healing takes a minimum of four weeks.”
“Be patient, Jess! Why don’t you take this time to focus on strengthening?”
“Allow your body to heal properly; you don’t want to push it too early and create a chronic problem.”
I was transported back to that time in college, when someone was able to pull me out of my injury-induced spiral when I felt hopeless. But this time, that person was myself! Coming through my incredible patients! I was so grateful for their explanations and words of encouragement, and I was finally able to tell myself, “Pull it together and stop acting crazy!”
Getting Back Up
So, I made a plan. I started to focus on what I could do, and used this injury as an opportunity to be more creative with my exercise routine. I started to be grateful for the little things that I was slowly able to do, walk with less pain, finally lie down on my back, and almost lift my foot to put on a shoe.
Recovery is a process. As a patient, I think it’s important to know that your physical therapist has chosen their professional field for a reason: we’ve been there, we get it, and thanks to this recent fall of mine, I am more motivated than ever to get you back to feeling your best.
Jessica Snyder (PT, DPT, ATC, CSCS) received her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree at the University of St Augustine for Health Sciences – with an emphasis on orthopedics, movement science, and manual therapy. Jessica started her career as a Certified Athletic Trainer working with high school, college and professional athletes. She is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (enhancing her ability to build custom strength, stability and performance-centered rehabilitation and return-to-sport programs) and Certified Natural Running Coach. Being a runner herself, Jessica specializes in running-related injuries, including the entire lower extremity. She is also passionate about treating headaches and neck/shoulder pain.