Patients often ask me, “how did my body get this way?” In all realness, this is a loaded question that does not have a straightforward answer. It goes much deeper than what you did last week, last month, or last year. The body undergoes so many triumphs and tribulations, trauma and healing… and it does not forget ANYTHING.
Even as a physical therapist, I am no stranger to pain. Personally, I’ve experienced pain throughout my spine, nerve pain that shoots down into my right foot, a torn lateral meniscus, and a bum ankle from recurrent ankle sprains. I’ve also suffered from pelvic pain accompanied by incontinence and intolerance to sex, which I found the most debilitating of all. I am here to share my personal timeline of events that I believe contributed to and snowballed into the ailments that crushed my confidence and diminished my self worth. My hope is that by reading this, you can find peace within yourself and know that your issues can be helped if you have the right professionals in your corner.
As a child, I was a hot mess of anxiety and afraid of everything from dogs to swimming in the lake (because Raystown Ray might have eaten me.) Another HUGE fear of mine was, god-forbid, having to pee or poop outside, in an outhouse, or in a “dirty” public toilet. So what did I do? I held that shit all day long… to the point where I would shake because my body was so tense and clenched. When the time came to use tampons, that wasn’t happening. It would not go through without EXCRUCIATING pain. So when my friends were having pool parties, I was drowning in Always super-absorbent pads and panty liners.
Sex? HELL NO. While my friends were becoming curious and experimenting, I wanted nothing to do with sexual contact of any kind because I was deathly afraid of the pain. As you can imagine, this had an incredibly negative impact on relationships and even friendships because I was seen as a “prude” or “immature” or a “worry wart.” But I kept that secret lock up with the key because I did not know how to ask for help nor did I think anyone would understand.
This continued through college and a new, horrifying symptom surfaced. I was working at my nice little summer job as a bank teller and all of a sudden was drenched in urine at my station. In tears, I went into my boss’s office and blurted out that I had an emergency and needed to leave immediately. The worst part is that I did not feel it coming and could not control it. ...and it kept happening. I went to my primary doctor’s office and the medical school students who saw me while on their rotations would say “you just need to lose weight” or “maybe this medication will help.” Needless to say, I did not go back after the narcissistic weight comment (I was not overweight and exercised multiple days a week). So I was left to my own devices and dealt with it.
One month before physical therapy school, I needed to have surgery to remove my gallbladder. The surgery was “successful” but as the months went by and I sat in class and in the library all damn day every day, I developed the low back pain and eventually the nerve pain in my right leg. By the end of the day, I was too sore and too tired to exercise so I drove to Sheetz, ordered a quesarito, and laid in my bed instead. Good look for a future PT right?
A couple of years later at my job in an outpatient clinic, I experienced BRUTAL pain in my right lower abdomen and hip. I was truly convinced that I needed to have my appendix removed that night… but the ER doctors blamed it on an ovarian cyst, gave me IV fluids/ pain meds, and sent me home. When I followed up with my gyno, she looked me square in the face and said “Victoria, you did not have a cyst big enough to cause that amount of pain, I truly don’t think that is the problem.” What is though?? I am 27 years old and have sciatica that is not getting better with physical therapy, unexplained pelvic pain, and incontinence… like what the actual hell?
I promise, this is where the story turns around! One of my best friends called me for our monthly catch up on life chats and said “Vic, you need to see a pelvic floor PT, they really helped with my issues and I think they could help you.” …what?? Much to your surprise, pelvic floor was barely discussed in physical therapy school and requires extra training. So I made the appointment and waited six weeks to get an evaluation. It was well worth the wait.
Thankfully, I was matched with a phenomenal therapist and together we found that the right side of my pelvic floor was in spasm from compensating for my lumbar and deep core weakness. We also found tons of painful soft tissue trigger points throughout my abdomen, which affected my pelvis and thoracic motion. My old friend anxiety? Yeah, it played a role too. This was the pivotal moment where I finally saw relief for not one, but basically all of these lifetime symptoms. No more surprise leaking, very reduced back and leg pain, and enjoyable sex with my husband! Pelvic floor physical therapy is grossly underutilized and scarcely available so I immediately emerged myself into coursework so I could be a beacon of hope for other patients like me.
So please, stay hungry for answers and don’t give up on your health. The right providers are out there… ones that will truly listen and relentlessly work as a team with other disciplines and with you to get your life back. I am making it my personal mission to educate the public on these preventable issues and to provide you with an all-star team to tend to all of your unique needs.