Don't let the smile fool you, we didn't get off to the best of starts.
Michael took one look at my feet and proceeded to say very, very unflattering things about them. I tried to shield them from the criticism, but they heard and recognized, as with the cruelest of heckles, just how much truth hurts.
It was my Achilles that had brought me to Drevna Physical Therapy Associates but discovered there were outlying issues causing my pain. Michael filled me in on planterflexion and dorsiflexion, the first being the downward movement of the foot at the ankle and the latter being its opposite. Turns out I don't have any issues with planterflexion, but my dorsiflexion flat out sucks.
The extent to which you can bring your toes toward your shin is measured in degrees with 15 being about the max. Running as much as I do (or want to) would benefit from at dorsiflexion of at least 10-12 degrees. Let's just say I didn't come anywhere near double digits on my bum foot. And then, just for kicks, we measured the good foot which, um, isn't any better.
But being a professional, Michael agreed to give things a go. Hence the photo that opened this bulletin documenting his attempts to manipulate my foot into a more flexible state. He tried and tried, session after session, but even the best of physical therapists aren't magicians. Six sessions later my dorsiflexion has improved very little.
The upside is that we worked on far more than that.
I rode the bike.
I stood shakily atop a platform on one leg and lowered my other leg to the floor. I stretched, squatted, jumped, struck tai chi poses. I did none of this gracefully, of course, but with utmost of conviction.
Much of what Michael asked me to do, he asked me to do perched on unstable objects like whatever this thing is:
At first, I fell and fell often. Slowly, I progressed to weebling, wobbling but no longer falling down. I got stronger and gained more confidence.
Each session ended with the minor miracle that is ice and I assume it deserves a good deal of credit for my suffering no swelling during therapy.
My toes didn't draw any nearer to my shin but there were positive signs. My balance improved dramatically. Leg stretches that had been a struggle became doable. What little running I was doing happened without pain.
All of which added up, eventually, to my not needing to go to therapy any longer. This should be, and is, fantastic news, but I must admit that it's slightly bittersweet. I came to enjoy the inching of progress from one session to the next and the teensy but unmistakable victories. When you're healthy and fit, it can be hard even impossible to recognize improvement, but when you're down a peg steps forward are refreshingly evident.
So, Michael, you've done it. The curse of a good therapist is that he or she ends up not being needed any longer. Of course, I'm likely to need help again sooner than later and when I do, I know where I'm headed.
Thanks, buddy. For real.