Restoring YOU Ep 02 & 03: Christy Cross Fit and EDS can go together!
In the second and third episode of Restoring YOU join me, Amy Eicher, as I talk with Christy about what it means to be diagnosed with persisting/ Chronic pain and EDS. Listen and learn as she shares how she came to terms with those labels and learned the power of understanding and applying Pain science / pain neurobiology to her life. Join her as she shares how her life changed as she changed her view of herself and her diagnosis to discover the amazing Athlete within.
A 35-year old physical therapist working in the field of pediatrics. I have a special interest in wheelchair seating and positioning and doing everything I can to help my patients participate in their lives and learn to move their bodies. I am a Level 1 trainer with CrossFit and coach a few hours a week. Outside of work you can find me out throwing a ball for my lovable Labrador retriever (Harper), in the gym, spending time with my favorite people, playing the piano, or cooking.
Her Pain Story: EDS
The height of my pain experience was when I was going through graduate school and the first few years of my career. It started in 2005, when I was 22, and peaked after about 4-5 years.
I’ve never thought about pain in terms of loss, because I never felt like I lost anything tangible. I was so young and had very few life experiences or identity to lose, but what I do remember is I was very concerned about my future. I was quickly realizing that the hope I had for my future in a career I loved was being shadowed by the realization that the work really made my body hurt and I didn’t know how long I’d be able to do it.
My friendships were limited and so where my social experiences. Partly because of my introverted personality, but also because I just didn’t do anything except go to work and come home and go to bed. I was afraid of the things I could lose to pain; things I didn’t have yet and didn’t know if I’d ever have. Things like a meaningful romantic relationship, children, hobbies, etc.
So, in terms of things lost, I’d lost confidence in myself and could see that I was losing opportunities to participate in life. I lost hope in believing that the life of my dreams (great job, wonderful husband, cute home, and happy kids) could come true.
Pain made me feel damaged, like no one would want me and that I’d only be a burden to a partner. So, a hope-filled future was lost in a sea of unknowns because of ongoing pain.
After many, many physical therapy visits, procedures, and interventions, I decided that surgery might be the best thing for me to do. I had surgery in 2011, which has now become like a new birthday for me. Everything started new that day. Once I was recovered, I started venturing into life again: my job, home ownership, exercise, and I got a dog! But that’s not what got me to where I am today or what makes my story worth telling.
It’s interesting because along the way, I got a diagnosis of Ehler’s Danlos Syndrome, or joint hypermobility syndrome. This connected a lot of dots in my medical history: frequent and chronic joint pain, migraines, anxiety, poor sleep … It was nice to know that there was a reason, but the reason didn’t change that pain really was somewhat of a normal thing for me.
The pain that led to my surgery was bad, but if I steal my Australian friend, Antony’s expression, little “niggles” aren’t unusual for me. Symptoms that are more bothersome also happen and seem to come out of nowhere. I’ve had some pretty bad hip-joint pain, shoulder pain, leg pain, and back pain. My back surgery changed my course and was a huge stepping off point, but it hasn’t changed the fact that my body has the structure it has and life isn’t without pain
What Happened Next
How I think about pain was the game-changer and what has moved me toward the person you see today working, coaching, lifting, and just generally being strong and active.
I had to learn about chronic pain, how pain works, and why we get it. My history with my own condition, subsequent pain, and also physical therapist education led to me thinking constantly about body structure, biomechanics, and how they relate to dysfunction and pain.
It took a PT friend many hours of conversation of multiple years, a continuing education class on pain, and my own pain experience for me to think about things differently.
“Simply put, pain is not a reliable indicator of damage and in the presence of a chronic pain experience (where pain continues past the timeframe expected for tissue healing), we can teach our bodies that movement and load aren’t actually a threat and in doing that, change our experience of pain. I thought this was total garbage when I first heard it, but experience has shown me otherwise.”
I never thought it would happen, but…
With ANY pain I experience, I keep moving. I stay in the gym and do what I can. I let the pain calm down, and then I start to load it again. So far, it has always improved and I’ve been able to get back to things. I am happy and proud of who I am. I work, have a boyfriend, and go to the gym. I own a home and take care of it and my very active dog. I have no limitations.
Life Today: Cross Fit
There’s definitely restored confidence as well as belonging in a wonderful community: CrossFit. I am strong and see myself as incredibly capable and resilient. I mean for perspective, when I go to the gym, I’m doing everything that everyone else is doing, without restrictions. CrossFit is hard work, and I am able to do it. There were roughly 165,000 women who competed in the CrossFit Open this year worldwide, and I placed 42,112th in the world. I am no longer afraid of pain because I know I’ll be ok after a while and if I take the time to treat it. At the height of my pain, it was very scary to think about it as a part of who I was and what that meant. Not having the burden of fear and uncertainty is the biggest blessing and gift I’ve received through this.
“Pain can get better. I don’t think a story like mine is impossible for others to also attain, but it took letting go of so much that I thought I knew in order to move forward. That was really challenging and uncomfortable.”
If you don’t hear anything else, I want you to know that when pain lasts a long time, it is more often from tissue being sensitive to input than from it being damaged. Chronic pain is NOT a label to be ashamed of or to be fearful of. I remember thinking that having chronic pain meant that I could no longer be helped or get better.
How far from the truth that is! Now, when I have joint pain that becomes chronic, I see it totally differently. I have more control over being able to load a joint slowly over time that I do when I’m just waiting for a tissue injury to heal. That is where chronicity in my symptoms no longer is scary. Start learning about chronic pain and keep an open mind.
Ask questions, be willing to be challenged, and don’t think that what you know is the only right way to understand your pain.
My story can be yours!
Listen to our two-part interview with Christy below.
What is EDS
Greg Lehman’s website: class schedule and patient resources!
Antony Lo’s website The Physio Dectective: class schedule, blog, and many other goodies!