I remember meeting Sang in the cafeteria of Broadview Junior High School in 1989. How refreshing it was to get out of elementary school and start meeting people I actually wanted to talk to. Sang was the Asian kid who played tennis. Always wore bright white sneakers with shorts and white gym socks pulled too far up his calves. And that huge toothy grin. Oh that grin.
Lucky for both of us, he lives in Seattle now. I got to see him this evening as he passed through Oregon on his way from California to Washington. He got the obligatory 30 second tour of my food cart then we headed up Morrison for India House. Towards the end of dinner my sciatic nerve was really pinching from the sitting and I was starting to squirm. Suddenly it dawned on me! Sang’s a Physical Therapist, I needed to pick his brain on this issue.
Well, Sang did much more than just talk to me about it. After settling the bill he insisted I drive him to my house (or should I say my miniscule converted two-car garage studio apartment that is jam packed with things like excited dogs who jump on friendly newcomers and a hungry screaming cat) so he could give me a full exam and figure out what the heck was going on.
It took him twenty minutes.
Here’s the miracle: within those twenty minutes he came to the valid professional medical version of what I had been trying to articulate in the form of an uneducated personal theory all along. And he did that without knowing what I had been thinking.
What he came to is that my pelvis stays tilted back when I move to stand from sitting. It doesn’t tuck under like it should and so also doesn’t allow me to bend forward properly. This is why my lower back is always curved in a slight backbend. Yoga teachers have said things along this line to me in different language that hasn’t been as clear and their solution is always to work on tucking my tailbone in order to get more flexibility. The obvious problem with that is tucking my tailbone hurts like all hell and guess what… pinches my nerve! According to my friend, my tailbone is tilted to the right and doesn’t allow proper space for the nerve on that side. This is a mechanical problem I have had my whole life. Why has no one else ever seen it?!
Sang’s solution is focused on strengthening the muscles around my hips and buttocks in order to support my hips which he says swing around way too much in all directions. When they hit specific directions they push on the nerve and cause the pain. He said the problem has nothing to do with flexibility. If anything I have too much from so many years of dancing and yoga. The problem is centered on lack of stability. He says don’t stretch. Strengthen.
He moved my legs in all sorts of ways, explained everything he was doing as he did it so I can continue on my own and in less than half an hour had me on my back (hello!) with my right leg in the air (I swear this is PG) flexed and stretched farther than it has in years. The best part is that afterward, and still now, the pinch is reduced even more. I feel no residual pain. In fact, I can honestly say I feel better than I have at any moment since I fell in July.
Sang’s not just a PT. He’s a rock star, renegade PT. He’s the kind of guy who goes against his boss and tells a pregnant lady to start lifting weights in her eight month and turns out to be totally right. All her headaches, neck aches and symptoms go away. He’s the kind of guy who says stop stretching, the last thing you need is more flexibility. Sang belongs on Grey’s Anatomy: a Resident at Seattle Grace Hospital with at least a recurring role next to McSteamy.
The professional opinion, detailed description of my problem and strengthening routine he so generously offered are worth far more than all the combined money I paid out to acupuncturists, chiropractors and massage therapists.
Sang Truong, I love you. Thank you so much. You’ve given me a fresh new dose of hope as well as a day and a half to comfortably and effectively work my glutes before my date with the hot triathlete I found on OKCupid. Yes you read that right. I have a date with a hot triathlete on Sunday. Wish me luck 🙂