Monday, November 10, 2014

Feeling strong physically and mentally

Last week, I “graduated” from physical therapy I was having for a pinched nerve in my neck. I didn’t receive a diploma, but I received a cool T-shirt that says “Physical Therapy Brings Motion to Life” and a sheaf of papers showing me the different exercises I need to continue to do on my own.
More important than any diploma is the strength that I found in physical therapy.

Darius, Katie, and Kyle made up my  PT team.

Different people in my family and in Larry’s family have, over the years, given physical therapy a bad name. In my opinion, they haven’t seemed to take it seriously and have seemed to view it as something to get through—to go through the motions—before what was really desired could happen: surgery.
I was determined that I was not going to have that attitude.
Surgery is sometimes needed. It’s sometimes the best option. But if other, less invasive, options are possibly in the end just as effective, why not try them and give them our best shot?
My orthopedic doctor was very clear with me about my options and even wrote out a list: medication, physical therapy, epidurals, surgery. He circled medication and physical therapy and said we would start with those.
I pointed to the word surgery on the paper and told him I had no plans for that.
“Work hard in therapy, OK?” he said.
And I did. I have done the stretching exercises at home and the movement exercises at PT, lifting weights, pulling on resistance bands, lying on my stomach while I lifted my affected arm over and over.
And I received so much encouragement from the staff at the rehab center. They had such positive attitudes. They challenged me physically and celebrated with me as I became stronger.
And I saw how they treated other patients. Sometimes I could see pain in the faces of people as they struggled to get better. The therapists and assistants were partners in that journey.
At the end of each PT session, I used the cervical traction machine. It was in a room off the main area where most of the therapy was done.
As I lay on the table and had my head pulled away from my neck (sounds painful, but it actually felt good), I could hear sounds from the main room. I heard therapists and assistants asking other patients how they were, expressing sympathy, setting out plans, counting out exercises, encouraging them.
What a positive place to be, I thought.
I still have pain. It got worse after I stopped taking prescription NSAIDS. But it’s not as bad as it was. And my muscles in and around my shoulders and neck are getting stronger. I know more about how my posture affects how I feel.
I had a talk with the main physical therapist on my last day, and we discussed future options. He assured me that I could get better.

That helped strengthen my belief that I have a lot of control in my recovery. There is a lot I can do to get better. And isn’t that true with anything in life, physical, mental, and emotional? We don’t have control over everything, but we can do our best with what we do have control over.

Now I’m going to work on my strength at the Altavista YMCA, where Larry and I are members. My plan is to go over today after I finish at the newspaper office and sort out which machines will work the right muscles. I also have elastic bands to work with at home.
And I am going to get even stronger.

In what ways are you trying to get stronger?


  1. Excellent! PT is SO important to a good recovery from an injury or surgery. Glad your efforts are giving you positive results.

  2. how wonderful for you! i think physical therapists are truly heroes to folks who need their encouragement, guidance and plain-out PUSH!

  3. So glad you are a graduate! The work is never done, but to be "released" from the regular appointments is a huge plus! Three cheers!

  4. I was in physio this spring. I didn't do much of what they said. They knew that what they gave me as exercises and stretching would improve my leg. About two months after I finished physio it hit me that they meant what they said. If they told me 12 reps four times a day they meant it and that's the only way improvement would come. I still have to increase but it's hard to find that much time in a day.
    Keep at it! It works.

  5. Good for you, Tina! As is always true, I believe, there are good health care providers and not-so-good ones. Sounds like your physical therapy team was awesome!

  6. Congratulations!! Way to go!

  7. Excellent work. It is not easy but it pays off!

  8. Good for you! I've been trying to strengthen myself, too, with light weights. Going really slowly...I don't want to get hurt, either!

  9. Congratulations on all your hard work. I used physical therapy in my recovery many years ago from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and my mother used it more recently to get off of pain meds for her back. I really think physical therapists are unsung heroes.

    Recently I started to work on understanding how the brain creates habits...I have some habits I want to change, and I'm starting to learn how to do that. I will probably blog about this in the next few weeks. I'm hoping to apply whatever I learn to create a sustained writing habit so I can get my books done. I write regularly but want to make it a greater priority in my day. Stay tuned!

  10. Physical therapy has absolutely helped me several times, most recently with plantar fasciitis. Now if it starts to recur, I feel like I have a "tool box" full of exercises and knowledge on how to help myself. So glad to hear about your positive results, and sending lots of good wishes for a full recovery.

  11. Good for you and red is a good color for you!!

  12. I did the same thing this year, Tina. I think sitting at a computer all day long is very bad for us. I have a yellow elastic band on the table next to my desk and try to remember to get up and use it every hour or so. It's really hard to do that! Congrats on reaching your goals and keep on going!


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