I love my Physical Therapist!

by Elouise

Partial face of a young woman wearing vintage glasses and blancing four books and an apple on her head

I love my Physical Therapist! Only six sessions with her so far, two per week, and I already feel the difference. Muscles in my upper back, neck, head and mouth have begun to relax, instead of clamping down ever tighter to protect my broken jaw from more pain.

In addition, I’m learning new habits to replace old habits. Small changes that impact everything related to my jaw. This includes things like where and how I ‘park’ my tongue when I’m not chewing, swallowing, or talking. And how to stand straight and tall.

When I was in junior high school in the 1950s I learned, with all my female classmates, to walk around the gym floor with a book balanced on my head. This wasn’t a joke. It was serious business, especially for young ladies.

Balancing the book was about proper posture, how I carry my body. Every part of it. I loved doing it. It was easy. Like playing the piano or reciting verses from the Bible.

Just one problem. I didn’t spend my female adult life walking around a gym floor. Instead, I spent hours sitting hunched over in front of typewriters, at desks with books and papers spread all around, or in offices and classrooms, intently taking notes or dictation. Any small gains I made from balancing books on my head disappeared.

In the late 1980s and early 1990s the computer age came to the seminary where I taught. Here it was at last. The grand machine that would save time, save paper, and make us more productive workers!

When my first computer arrived, a staff member helped me with basics. As I went along I figured out (or didn’t figure out) other things. I don’t recall being told or shown how to sit at a computer, how to use a mouse, when and how to take breaks, or why breaks would be important to my health and productivity.

Unhealthy body habits from earlier years simply multiplied, had babies, and relentlessly pushed me to keep going. No time-outs to assess damage done to my body. And there was never enough money to provide adequate training and other office equipment that might have helped.

In 2011 I retired and began sitting at my computer, writing posts for this blog. Then one day this year I fell and broke my jaw. Today I’m one of uncounted women and men suffering from TMJ disorder.

Obviously, my unhealthy body habits didn’t cause me to break my jaw.

Nonetheless, healthy habits I’m learning today are making my jaw more comfortable than it’s been for months. Even better, they’re helping me recover good body-care habits I lost over the years. Or never had at all.

Do you or a friend have TMJ disorder? About 1 in 25 people live with this. Below is the title of a book my Physical Therapist recommended. It’s chock full of pictures, diagrams, clear explanations, simple ways to gain relief and hope. It even shows how to read a book while lying on your back!

The TMJ Healing Plan: Ten Steps to Relieving Headaches, Neck Pain and Jaw Disorders, by Cynthia Peterson, PT, published by Hunter House, 2010 edition (paperback).

So is this part of my spiritual formation? I believe it is. I’m still learning how to care for this body God entrusted to me. Not for myself alone, but as a citizen of this world we inhabit together.


© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 October 2016
Photo found at trigger.photoshelter.com