As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ve been dealing with a bout of neck and shoulder pain. This isn’t really a post about me, but since some of you have wished me well, I am making progress and I feel quite a bit better. The reason behind my relief is Physical Therapy. If you haven’t ever had PT, you might want to get a second opinion on some of the opinions expressed here. If you’ve had PT, I’d be interested to know if you agree with my observations.
PT starts with an evaluation. Before the physical evaluation, you fill out a form. One of the things they ask you to do on that form is to rate your pain from 0 to 10. Zero means you have no pain. That’s OK, you’re at PT, you will have pain soon enough. 10 stands for the most severe pain there is. They normally add little faces to help you assess your pain level.
I have a couple of thoughts and one minor change to this chart:
- You don’t really go to PT if you don’t have some level of pain, so I’m not sure if 0 – 3 are really options. I suppose you could have range-of-motion issues without pain, but I’m guessing.
- If your pain is severe enough to interfere with concentration, I hope you got a ride to PT.
- I would associate “bed rest required” with 9 on the scale. 10 is the kind of pain that requires prescription drugs or alcohol in order to achieve bed rest.
- I would also add a level 11 for when the pain is bad enough that, if you were a dog you would gnaw off the body part involved with the pain.
Whatever your pain level is upon arrival, I’d leave a little bit of room for it to increase after the physical part of the evaluation. You’re going to need that.
During the physical evaluation, body parts, your body parts are twisted, bent, pushed and pulled and you are asked to apply force to the therapist and resist the force that he applies to you. This is the point where you start to realize that you have no idea how your body really works. You might think, for example, that if raising your arm up against the therapist’s hand doesn’t hurt, then holding it still while he pushes down on it won’t hurt either. You might be wrong. I was. The complete realization of how little I knew about my body, compared to the therapist occurred when he said:
“I want you to put your arm behind your back and then I am going to press on this spot (near the end of my shoulder). If I’m right, this is going to be very painful.” I was glad that I had saved my 10.
Physical therapists aren’t mean, but they do get paid for doing things to you that hurt. On the other hand, they do tell you to stop doing most things if it hurts to do them. Still, in order to move you along your treatment path, they add more and more sinister elements to the routine. When your therapist says “we’re going to try something new today” you are in trouble. If you can lift a dumbbell, they give you a heavier one. If you can do 10 reps, they will have you do 20. If you can stretch without pain, they will add resistance. Weights, bands and even your own body can be used to make exercises harder.
The most painful thing I am doing these days is lying on a 6” diameter foam tube with my arms in a ‘hands-up’ position. Just. Hanging. There.
Arms weigh a lot. I swear mine weigh 50lbs each.
The best part about Physical Therapy is the level of respect in the room. This isn’t you and your therapist in a small room with a door – this is you and your therapist in a big room with everyone else and their therapists. People are in pain, people are being evaluated, people are being told “let’s try something new” and, every now and then some fortunate soul is being “released” from the program. It’s just like being released from prison. OK, I’ve never been in prison, but that’s how I imagine the feeling. There’s an unwritten but well-understood protocol in the room. Nobody stares, nobody laughs, nobody makes “…suck it up” style comments and nobody whines.
Some of the other things that I’ve learned in PT include:
- 3 pound dumbbells can be impossible to lift under the right (wrong) circumstances
- The design of the human spine is way-too-complicated.
- Doing 2 sets of 10 of anything is easier than doing 20. It’s so much easier to say “seven” twice than it is to say “Sev-en-teeeen” once.
- Massage doesn’t always feel soooooo good.
- Nobody likes co-pays or the insurance companies they rode in on.
Fortunately, my doctor let me refill the prescription for the NSAID gel that does provide relief. My Physical Therapist doesn’t like me to use the gel before my appointment saying:
“Carry the pain in with you”
But I can slather it on afterwards.