Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Physical Therapy is NOT a Cook Book

Do I look gullible? Tom the Dancing Bug has a great cartoon this week. In it, he says, despite common usage the word Gullible is not in the dictionary. Go ahead, look it up.

I have a friend whom I consider to be very smart. She sent me a link to a web dictionary where she looked it up. Smart people can be gullible.

I used to be gullible about physical therapy. When I first went to physical therapy for my hip arthritis, I thought therapy was therapy. Two months later, I was weaker than when I walked in the door. I'd had the sense that the exercises were useless. But it took that long for me to have proof. I had to go another two months to a different therapist to get my strength back. I still do the exercises he gave me. He listened to me. If I said something was too easy, he modified it to make it harder. If I showed him something I wanted to be able to do, he gave me an exercises that would enable me to do it.

Now I've got a new therapist for my healing collar bone. She did an evaluation. She knows my range of motion and my strength level. But yesterday she gave me exercises that were all within my existing range of motion and that did not push my strength levels. When I commented that they were too easy, she said my doctor gave very explicit instructions about what exercises I should have. I'm not gullible. I read the prescription. It said stretching levels 1 and 2 and strength level 1. That is not a specific list of exercises. Restoring use of a damaged shoulder is not a simple matter of doing exercises in the order that they are listed in a book.


I asked her if this is how she would treat a 30-year-old swimming champion. She said she would make a 30-year-old swimming champion do warm-ups. I want to be treated like a 30-year-old swimming champion. I've taken care of my body and I deserve it.

Finally, at the end of our session she gave me two exercises that work on issues I had told her I want help with. Getting my hand behind my back and moving my shoulders to the back. Those are two exercises I'll do. I refuse to waste my time on exercises that don't improve my range of motion or my strength. Wasting time wastes muscles. I learned that the hard way already. It wasn't just the tame exercises. It was also the microcurrent. But the point is that I know what my body needs. And I want my physical therapist to work with me to make me stronger and more flexible. Not to treat me like a simple dough recipe in a cookbook. Physical therapy is an art, and I want a great chef who goes beyond cookbook recipes.

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