Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Woman Without a Bicycle

I really thought I was going to escape.  Everybody grouches about getting old.. But I was fine – biking around the city, swimming at the pool, running to catch the bus.  Then I turned 60. For the first time, I was in pain. I couldn’t lift my leg over the back of my boy-style bicycle. I couldn’t get into my favorite yoga poses. Simple acts like swinging my leg sent a flurry of snap crackle pops that felt like somebody snapping rubber bands on my thigh. And worst of all, I hurt. Not just ached – hurt. Especially, my hips and thighs hurt during sex.

Trying different positions is out of the question. I don’t like them. My first thought was – maybe this will go away. I’ve been achy before.  But instead, the pain just got worse.

My boy-bike was 12 years old and had plenty of miles on it.  It had long since paid for itself in saved bus fare. I could justify buying a new bike. I went to the bike store and bought a girl’s bicycle so I could continue riding around town. Biking is essential to my lifestyle.  There’s no place to park in my inner city neighborhood. I ride my bike to clients’ homes where I fix their computers. I ride my bike to the grocery stores, where I fill up my saddle bags several times a week. I park my bike in my living room - it’s just 3 steps up from the sidewalk.

When I listed my old bike on Craig’s List, I explained – there’s nothing wrong with the bike – I’m getting old -- I can’t get my leg up and over it any more.  That was the hardest part of selling the bike. Saying, “I’m getting old.”

It felt like telling the world – I’m mortal. I’m a geezer. Next thing you know I’ll start calling young people whipper-snappers, and rhapsodizing about the “good old days.”

I went to my chiropractor. He’d helped me before when I was in pain and feeling crippled.  He adjusted my spine. He tried ultrasound, which means smearing gooey stuff on the skin of my hip, and rubbing a warm thing that looks like a hair dryer over it.  It didn’t help.  I went to my massage therapist, who worked for two hours loosening up tight muscles in my legs and pelvis, but still, my flexibility was gone, and I was in pain.  I went back to my chiropractor who suggested an x-ray might tell him what was going on.  I didn’t want one, but nothing I’d tried was working.

At the radiology clinic, the technician asked me to rotate my knee outward.  “Is that all you can do?” asked the technician.  “That’s why I’m here,” I answered.

The technician gave me a printout of the x-ray which I took to my chiropractor.  He looked at it and said he couldn’t read it and needed to talk to the radiologist.

The good news – no broken bones.  The bad news – osteo arthritis. Both hips and my spine. 

My massage therapist recommended I try microcurrent.  Go to and find a trained practitioner near you.

I found a physical therapist who is trained in microcurrent only 3 miles from my house. That’s an easy bike ride.  It turns out that in Pennsylvania, you need a prescription to get microcurrent. The PT got me an appt with a doc who would write the prescription.

I went for the appt with the doc.  The receptionist told me to take off my jeans.  “Why?” I asked.  “The doctor might want you to move your legs.”  I told the woman I can move my legs just fine in my jeans. I rode my bike to the appointment. She shrugged her shoulders and left. I did not take off my jeans.

The doc agreed to let me try microcurrent, if I would promise to do the exercises the PT gave me.

Microcurrent involves having sticky patches placed on your body, connected by wires to a box with batteries in it.  The PT warned me that I might feel high or warm. All I felt was itchy from one of the patches, so she moved it.

She ran some programs on a little box that lasted for about 40 minutes.  Then she had me try walking.  Walking felt normal. She asked if I had any questions.  My questions concerned what my body could do now – nothing I could put into words. Only experimenting would give me my answers.  I sat on the floor, put my feet together and rotated my knees out.  They moved.

My PT was shocked.  But prudery has no place in getting my life back.  


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