Published in the Rains County Leader on August 27, 2018:
Physical therapy began Wednesday, one week after rotator cuff surgery on my right shoulder. I was excited when we received a call from the doctor’s office informing me that it was time to begin and asking where I wanted to go. I was also excited to learn that Lake Fork Physical Therapy is one of their approved providers, both because they are local and because I’ve heard great things about Paul and Angie. On the other hand, I was apprehensive.
When people hear that you are having a rotator cuff repair, they all have a story to share, either a personal one or the story of someone they know. Most of the stories I heard were encouraging, but a few not so much. The ones about how painful recovery would be didn’t bother me too much. I was already in pain, so I assumed the pain of surgery would be bearable. I wasn’t too worried about the discomfort of the therapy either, because many years ago I had several months of PT to treat a disk problem in my lower back. Nothing Paul did could be as painful as an elbow on a cramping muscle with the full weight of the therapist behind it – or could it?
The stories that really bothered me were the ones about re-injuries and second surgeries, some of which were supposedly caused by therapy, so I was a little tentative when I walked in the door of Lake Fork bright and early Wednesday morning. Angie’s smile welcomed me, and I relaxed a bit. She said she already had everything she needed in the computer, so I was happy that I didn’t have to dig out my Medicare card with one hand.
Paul and I sat for a few minutes while he asked me some questions for my chart and explained the objectives for our time together. The long-term goal is to regain strength and flexibility, but during the initial sessions, we will be doing passive movements only. That means that Paul will move my right arm, or I will move it with my other arm or with the help of a pulley or other equipment. I relaxed, thinking this was going to be easier than I thought – and it was at first.
The first thing I had to do was remove my sling which was a bit of a challenge, since David had helped me the few times I had been out of it to take a shower. I put on my big girl pants, though, and wrestled it off. The arm, still tender from the surgery, was also stiff and sore from a week of immobility, so I cradled it with my other arm as I followed Paul over to a massage table. The first exercise was simple. I leaned at the waist, rested my good arm on the table, and let my damaged arm hang loose. Once I was able to relax, the pain lessened and I was able to do the small circles and swings as prescribed. In fact, my shoulder felt better as it loosened up. I can’t say that I enjoyed the next three exercises, but I didn’t mind them too much. Then Paul showed his evil side.
He had me lie down on the table, and he stood against the table even with my shoulder. He lifted my arm straight up until it was at a right angle to my body. He held it against his chest and rocked back and forth and side to side. His movements were probably no more than a couple of inches either direction, and the whole exercise probably lasted no more than three minutes – but it felt as if he spent an hour trying to wrench my arm out of its socket. Earlier he had made a comment that, at first, his clients didn’t like him much, but by the end of their treatment, they were bringing him pies. At that moment, bringing him a pie was the last thing on my mind.
He ended the session with a cold pack and some electrical stimulation, so my attitude softened a little. My homework was to do the hanging movements three or four times a day, and I have to admit that my shoulder and the surrounding muscles feel better after I do them. However, while my attitude is softening about these strange exercises, Kitty isn’t sure what to think about them.
The kitchen island is the perfect height for my homework, and that is one of Kitty’s favorite places. Her food and water bowls are against the front edge of it, and when I cook, she likes to anticipate when I will move to the island and lie down right where I need to stand. I guess it should have come as no surprise when she showed up the first time I leaned there to do my exercises. As my arm dangled and moved from side to side, she appeared and walked under my hand, rubbing her back against my hand. Then she did a kind of double take, turning back and sniffing my fingers thoroughly. She must not have liked what she smelled because she bared her teeth and hissed several times before marching out of the room.
Since then her attitude has softened a bit. She usually shows up and walks under my fingers for a scratch. Sometimes she sits and watches to make sure my form is correct, and occasionally she gives me an encouraging love bite. By the time this is all over, she’ll probably be lying right where I need to stand while I make a pie for Paul and Angie.