Of course, I didn’t go off to medical school knowing I would become a Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R) specialist, not many future doctors do, since my field is still relatively less well known and definitely not glamorous. But, PM&R is perfect for me. Here's why. PM&R:
My pride in these principles grew out of personal experience. Before starting medical school, I was in good shape physically and had been used to enjoying a healthy, strong body. Out for a run one early spring day, I felt a twinge in my left ankle. As I continued to run, the twinge grew into pain forcing me to stop and limp back to my car. I did physical therapy and, finally, saw an orthopedic surgeon. He told me my ankle was “abnormal” (from birth!), making it unable to absorb the impact of running. He recommended surgery to make the joint move more normally. Out of desperation, I consented.
But, things didn’t go smoothly. After surgery, my foot and ankle swelled up, turned colors, and became excruciatingly painful. I know now that I had a problem called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (or Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy). At the time, all I knew was I had terrible pain that hadn’t responded to medications, surgery, or physical therapy. I couldn’t run, could barely walk without crutches, and had pain in my ankle even at rest.
Finally, I sought help from yet another physical therapist. I told him my story, expecting sympathy. He looked me right in the eye and said, “Well, you can get better, but this is going to be painful. You’ll need to do exercises that will hurt, and you’ll have to work hard at them. In fact, YOU’LL be doing most of the work here, not me. It’s your choice. But, if you don’t do it, you’ll probably walk with a limp for the rest of your life and you may as well forget about running again.”
My initial reaction was to feel hurt, angry, and sad. I went home deciding to never go back to that physical therapist! How could he speak to me like that??? How dare he? By the next morning, I had decided to make another appointment. I realized then that he had given me back something I had lost; HOPE. Sure, it would be difficult and even painful, but, if I accepted his approach, there was hope that I would get better.
So, I did the exercises and they did hurt. To cope with the pain, I began doing yoga and meditating. I started feeling better (on the inside) right away. The exercises gradually got easier. After just six weeks, I was walking normally and, by the fall, I was able to run a 5K.
Here's what I learned from that experience:
Everyone’s path is a little different, but I believe there is hope for all of us. For one person, it may be that certain physical therapist whose approach is just different enough to make a big difference. For someone else, there may be relief in injections, medications, acupuncture, or manual treatments. If you are suffering with pain or loss of function:
"I went to see Allison Bailey for help with a pelvic pain condition. There are very few doctors who treat this condition, and there are very few effective treatments. Of the three doctors that I saw who specialize in this area, I liked Dr. Bailey the best. (read more)
Dr. Allison Bailey is no longer taking new patients in the Cambridge/Boston/Mass office.