I’ve only been to physiotherapy a few times in my life. That’s probably because exercise was completely alien to me until I turned 30 and realised I had to get in shape before my knees started to collapse under my weight. You’d think exercise would make you stronger, healthier and less prone to injury. At least, that’s what I always thought until I discovered that the fitter you get, the more likely you are to experience all sorts of strains, sprains and back pains.
So when the office was invited to try out the services of the Revive Physio Centre at Hilltop Gardens in Naxxar, I was the first to volunteer. And it wasn’t just to inform the office that I do exercise now. It was because I genuinely had several aches and pains that I had been ignoring for way too long. Once I got there, however, I found myself asking questions I didn’t expect.
1. How does this place smell so good?
As soon as I stepped out of the carpark and into the Revive Physio Centre I was blown away by the fragrant smell of the place. I guess freshly cut jasmine wasn’t exactly the odour I was expecting from a clinic that’s built underground adjacent to an elderly care home. But every room I stepped into (I got the full tour), was incredibly well-perfumed.
In fact, the place is immaculately well-kept and inviting. The physiotherapists who work there are house proud AF, and went out of their way to give me the full rundown of facilities and services offered. I listened to most of it. There’s a hydro-pool, a dedicated Pilates studio, every piece of rehab equipment you can think of and really spacious clinics for one-on-one sessions. But the whole time I was just wondering: what is that amazing smell?
2. Why did my pain disappear as soon as I walked into the clinic?
I guess going to physio is a bit like going to get your hair cut. You spend weeks thinking you look like Robinson Crusoe, but then your hair suddenly looks amazing the second you sit down for your cut. In my case, I had a shoulder and forearm injury that was defeating me for months and had really started to limit my workouts. (Did I mention I work out now?) But as soon as I stepped in for my one-on-one session, my injury miraculously disappeared.
So I had to think on my feet: How can I make use of this session? Of course! Back-pain. That’s something that never goes away.
3. How naked are you expected to get for a treatment session?
So it turns out physiotherapy isn’t like getting a Chinese massage. You’re not told to undress and wear those weird disposable panties. Which is why you should probably not show up in jeans and a tight belt like I did. Lying down on the treatment bed is not very comfortable unless you’re in good gym clothes.
4. How do you even know all your knowledge?
Maybe it’s because I never studied even the most basic of biology, but I’m endlessly fascinated by how a physiotherapist is able to make such accurate judgements about your body just by looking at how you stretch and react to super basic movements.
Marco Vella, the lead physiotherapist, who also happens to be the nicest guy in the world, gave some really compelling feedback about what’s causing my chronic pain and how to fix it. Can you believe he didn’t pretend it was just ‘stress’?
5. How do I feel about acupuncture? I don’t know, how am I meant to feel about it?
After examining my back and identifying some issues that were probably causing me pain, Vella asked me a question: “How do you feel about acupuncture?” I guess some people are instantly freaked out by the idea of having giant pins stabbed into their muscles. I was just like ‘bring it on’.
“We do both types: Traditional Chinese Acupuncture and Dry Needling. I suggest Dry Needling for you,” he said. It turns out both methods involve placing very thin needles into your body, but while acupuncture is placed along the body’s meridian lines to treat various ailments, dry needling is a Western adaptation where the needles are placed in your muscles to elicit a trigger that treats the pain. It’s painless, though you feel slight shocks when they’re moved around. Pretty slick stuff if you ask me.
6. Do I really have to do these exercise?
That’s the thing with physiotherapy. There’s always homework. You want it to be something you don’t have to think about again until your next visit but it always ends with a quick rundown of exercises you need to do to keep pain at bay. Even though I haven’t felt any more back pain since the dry needling, apparently I need to work on strengthening my core. I guess i’m going to have to start attending the Pilates classes next door. Or force myself to actually do some of the exercises at home. Or ignore them and return with more chronic back pain shortly!
7. When can I come back and try out this awesome hydro pool?
They don’t call it Revive for nothing. I’m not sure if it’s the no-hassle parking, the tranquil surroundings of Hilltop Gardens, the hypnotic smell or those needles, but I left the place feeling like I had just done three hours of Savasana yoga. All I needed was some hydrotherapy in the heated pool which apparently is used by almost every top athlete in Malta for recovery. And now that I fancy myself a bit of a top athlete, I think I deserve it.
Recognise these guys from the national football team?