After flying across the country to meet Dr. Andrew Goldstein and get a diagnosis for my unexplained pain, I faced an even steeper uphill battle: finding someone to provide the pelvic physical therapy he’d prescribed. Back home in Albuquerque, I called therapists from my summer job at a high-brow law firm. The first several clinics had waiting lists of 3-6 months. 10 calls later, I got an appointment.
Rushing from work, I arrived at my first appointment wearing pants, underwear, and heels. The therapist was my age and sweet; she enthusiastically wanted to help. But the treatments were painful: internal trigger point work, skin rolling til I bruised, and biofeedback that required me to squeeze tender muscles. Four months later, my vulva was so sensitized that underwear hurt. My insurance company determined that since I wasn’t improving, further therapy would be for “maintenance,” and they cut off my benefits. Two months later, they dropped me as an insured.
The “I’ll try anything” years.
Feeling hopeless and terrified, I found a new gynecologist (Dr. Carrie Swartz) and begged her for guidance. She didn’t believe I could recover in Albuquerque and said I needed to see Dr. Sandra Shevlin, a physical therapist in Boulder, Colorado. After a call with Sandra, I was cautiously optimistic. My husband and I made plans to spend a week in Boulder during our holiday break from school.
The practice, Pelvic Therapy Specialists, was wonderful and comprised of empathetic, dedicated women. My first appointment was the most comprehensive intake appointment I’d experienced. The PT, Krista, asked questions about sex, bathroom, and lifestyle habits that others hadn’t. Her initial exam was gentle and quick; she was reassuring and personable. Most importantly, I felt confident in her competence, which was crucial after my extended experience of chronic pain.
Over the course of the week, I received 2 hours of PT each day, mostly consisting of skin-rolling myofascial techniques. I was so sore that I had trouble sleeping – every inch of my skin ached. While I didn’t obtain pain relief that week, I felt immensely reassured to have such qualified therapists managing my care. I began visiting weekly. And I kept getting worse.
Sandra thought I needed multidisciplinary care, so I was referred to pelvic pain doctor in Denver, “Dr. Doe.” Dr. Doe started administering very painful nerve blocks, which left my pelvis numb for days. I’d learned to live with pain, but these excruciating injections left me so numb that I was unable to check-in with my pelvic floor, unable to tell if I was bleeding or if my suppository had stayed securely inside of me or if I’d fully dried myself from using the restroom. It was frightening and traumatizing.
In a concerted attempt to control my pain, I think Dr. Doe went through a whole prescription pad on me.