I climbed hard rock routes. I lifted heavy weights. I rode steep mountain bike trails. I thought that I was in the best shape of my life, and then about six or seven years ago an unexpected event left me with bilateral shoulder separations. Unable to lift either arm away from my body, I iced and rested for a week. A month later, I was able to lift my left arm to shoulder height and my right arm about half of that distance. I iced, used ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and started traditional shoulder strengthening exercises. No more climbing. No more lifting. No more riding.
Two months later, my progress was minimal. Left arm just above shoulder level. Right arm not quite. I thought to myself, “What the heck. I’m a physical therapist, isn’t all this stuff I’m doing supposed to work?”
Desperate for some routine exercise, I picked up a semi abandoned Tai Chi & Qigong practice that I only did on occasion as a “rest” day activity. I didn’t believe it challenged me enough. I wanted to train hard and push myself to the limits, there really wasn’t any time for “soft” training.
Slowly I began reconnecting with my body. During lunch everyday at the footbridge park and every evening at home I practiced Qigong. Slow, methodical movements with synchronized breathing began to soften my neck and shoulder tension. Injured and abused muscles began to come out of hiding and ask to be included in my daily practice. I started noticing what muscles were working too hard and what ones had been hibernating after the injury. Each day I practiced and a month later my left shoulder range of motion was normal with my right one just behind.
Still unable to lift weights above my head, I advanced my Qigong practice with challenging yet painless muscle/tendon changing exercises. My strength returned and within a month my shoulders were pain free. I thought that I had been in the best shape of my life but now I know that I had just been on the edge of broken. Since being saved by Qigong practice I have grown stronger in body, mind, and spirit.
Today I weave Tai Chi & Qigong into my private physical therapy practice with clients and continue to see amazing results. We call it Rehabilitative Tai Chi & Qigong.
-Brian Trzaskos, IRQTC