Have you ever been afraid of something ... so afraid that you've become paralyzed or even stopped doing the things that made you truly happy? This fear can change your whole world overnight.
A Lesson in Fear
The definition of fear is "a feeling of distress, apprehension, or alarm caused by impending danger, pain, etc.". To be honest, "fear" has never been a word in my vocabulary. Aside from the idea of insects the size of my fist invading my space I have not experienced fear ... until a few months ago. An injury threatened to take one of my great joys away ... volleyball.
The best years of my "previous" life involved a volleyball court. The game of volleyball is dynamic, exciting, exhilarating and intoxicating. Magic happens on the court when a team of selfless players work together towards a common goal ... celebrating the victories and also supporting each other through the disappointing losses. It's my addiction!
Experiencing severe knee pain (from a suspected torn meniscus ... again) and not being able to walk up stairs or getting a decent night's sleep, let alone play sports or exercise at all, was depressing! I was afraid the bend down (which is hard to avoid when coaching volleyball three days a week), jog or run, or even cross my legs. I refused to show it in public (and held back tears most days) but I was feeling completely helpless and miserable.
Being a competitive athlete for the majority of my life, I looked back at my previous injuries and never remembered feeling afraid. I always knew that I would heal, get better and move on to the next challenge or competition. This time was different. I didn't know if I would ever move the same again. It made me incredibly aware of my age and mortality ... and knew I needed to seek out help.
Silverado Sport Physiotherapy to the Rescue!
When I injured my knee earlier this year I immediately recognized the similarities to my first meniscus tear (over ten years ago). The swelling, the sharp shooting pain and the stiffness. I was terrified to face the truth. A friend, and fellow volleyball coach, recommended I visit Silverado Sport Physiotherapy. He had been seeing Andy Botelho for over a year and swore by his ability to provide solutions in just a few sessions.
I made the call and was in to see Claire Thomas the next day ...
The minute I walked into the clinic I knew I was in good hands! The staff were very attentive and made me feel comfortable and important from the first interaction. When I was in speaking with Claire she took the time to understand more than just my injury ... she wanted to know about me, my concerns and what I ideally wanted to accomplish with a fully functioning body. My biggest concern was a major US tournament I was committed to attend in May ... giving me less than six months to heal and get my body competition ready.
Trust me ... this was not my first rodeo! I have spent hundreds (of not thousands) of hours in a physiotherapy clinic. I've had more cords and electrically charged equipment attached to my body than anyone should endure. I've also spent more time in ice baths than your typical polar bear and have gotten eerily comfortable covered in steaming hot pads on my skin. Regardless, I know that physiotherapy works and could help out my injury. But, this time, I was still unsure it would be enough. I feared my only other option was surgery (again).
After a few sessions Claire had recommended Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS). In short, IMS is an advanced form of acupuncture used to specifically target muscles that have been injured, chronically shorten and cause pain to surrounding muscles and joints. The muscle takes hold of the needle which causes it to shorten and produces relief from pain. Well ... I may be Asian but I was NOT comfortable with the idea of someone sticking needles into my body!
Regardless, I completely trusted Claire (and the colleague who also comes to Silverado Sport Physiotherapy for IMS treatment when needed) and was willing to give it a try. So, uncertain of how this would make me feel or if I would scream in the treatment room, I gave Claire the "go ahead" and was anxious to see what would happen.
One of the skills I greatly appreciate of Claire is her ability to maintain a natural conversation as she meticulously does her work. Talking about the Christmas holidays and the trials and tribulations of coaching my athletes calmed me down as I could feel her manipulating my muscles and finding the correct acupuncture points to target. I have to admit, it wasn't nearly as scary as my brain had made it out to be. I never felt the needles but certainly felt the muscles responding to the acupuncture points. In the end, I felt immediate relief and a significant reduction in pain! My body was very tired after that first session but I was amazed at how much better I felt right away. My concern was that it was just temporary and not a long term fix.
Claire also recommended I schedule some sessions with Keith Mather, the resident Registered Massage Therapist. In my previous life, massage therapy was a regular part of my workout routine. But, as life ultimately "happens" and other things became a priority, my body began to shift back into chronic tightness, which was obviously a contributing factor to my knee injury to begin with. To be honest, the reason why I avoided finding a massage therapist was because it's just really hard finding the "right" one. I personally need a massage therapist who is willing to work on my extremely stubborn muscles, who is not afraid to get really aggressive on my limbs, and literally "beat me up". Keith is not only the best massage therapist I've worked with, he is also just as personable, caring and conscious of my needs and concerns as the other members of the Silverado Sport Physiotherapy team.
Over the next three weeks I could see and feel the results of the physiotherapy, IMS treatments and massage therapy. I was moving better, more confidently, and with very little to no pain. Because I felt less pain (without the need for pain medication) my body had the opportunity to relearn movement patterns and move freely again. The IMS treatments and massage therapy gave my body the pain-free window to do that so when the pain was completely gone I was ready to get back into full movement and function again.
The Light at the End of the Tunnel
After eight weeks of keeping my fingers crossed and patiently working with (and trusting) the team at Silverado Sport Physiotherapy I got the "green light" to walk back on the court!
With a mix of apprehension and unbridled excitement (including two Advil and a serious pep talk) I started with a simple practice drill and got lost in the adrenalin rush from the very first ball! The next day I was playing with my co-ed team and had the time of my life! Pure fun and enjoyment ... giving everything I had with no apprehension or regrets. In the end, I was able to play at the USAV Open Nationals with my women's team, where we took home a silver medal!
Although my entire athletic career was built on dedication, commitment and hard work ... I did find myself clinging to "hope" on more than one occasion during this difficult time. It was this very hope that gave me the strength to make it through to the other side. Science has its place in the world but believing in something that can't be proven, or that seems highly unlikely, is something we all need in our lives!
I am incredibly grateful for all the amazing people, in addition to the team at Silverado Sport Physiotherapy (Andy, Claire, Keith and Cydnee - who ultimately connected me with Chiwon An for my tattoo), who were there to support me through the last six months and I am extremely blessed to have you all in my life!
P.S. - I recently got the opportunity to take fun pictures from Silverado Sport Physiotherapy and you can check out the images on social media using the icons at the top of the page.
(This post was originally published on www.sixfootcanasian.com on August 13, 2015)