Getting Access to Effective Physical Therapy

By: Loolwa Khazzoom, Founder, Dancing with Pain

October 15th, 2009 • Patient AdvocacyPrint Print

Four years ago, when I was living in Tel Aviv, I was in great shape for a gal with chronic pain. I had just discovered the healing power of dance, and I was tearing up the living room floor regularly. I also was biking as much as thirty kilometers (about fifteen miles) a day and swimming as much as three kilometers (about two miles) a day.

Then I got the chiropractic adjustment from hell, and I was left with damage throughout my body. I was bedridden for two months, barely able to walk or type or pull a sheet up to my neck. Through dance and private Feldenkrais sessions, I healed myself enough to travel to the USA, to give a Jewish multicultural presentation and my first Dancing with Pain workshop.

While in New York, I ended up with a condition that doctors initially thought was spinal chord damage from the chiropractic adjustment. I then took an emergency flight to San Francisco, to get treatment and be near my mom. It turned out that I didn’t have spinal chord damage, but I did have Plantar Fasciitis and Morton’s Neuroma – which together left me feeling as if I were, Annie Lenox style, walking on broken glass.

Well the “good” news was that I could report a new injury to the health insurance company, thereby entitling me to a few more scraps of physical therapy. I got a medical referral to a physical therapist named Joanie, who was to me like manna from heaven, a gift from Gd. For starters, when she asked me about my various injuries, she responded to my answers in a clinical way – never shaming, ridiculing, or otherwise judging me for what had happened. And so I felt safe telling her.

Secondly, she was very cognizant of my hypersensitivity. Not only did she not shame or judge me for it, but she was super careful about her own movements touching me and moving around me, so that she would not risk hurting me.

She was also the first health care practitioner who not only applauded my stopping her before I hit a pain place, but who called it some kind of name. I can’t remember the exact phrase, but it was something along the lines of “anticipatory pain” – ie, I knew my body well enough to know that we were about to hit a danger zone.

While other practitioners would push me until I hurt, in the misguided interest of seeing where exactly my pain zones were (thus leaving me in agony for days, weeks, or months after), she felt it was information enough to know the boundaries of my comfort zones and thus the parameters of my pain zones.

On top of all that yummy deliciousness which, excuse me, should be basic in every fucking medical encounter, Joanie seemed to know exactly what my body needed to heal. She gave me exercises that actually worked — amping up my healing process exponentially. I decided to stay in San Francisco so that I could continue receiving this medical care. In other words, I abandoned my life and home of four years in Israel, because I was that dedicated to healing myself.

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