Stocking Up on Ben Gay

My shoulder has been bothering me for a month and a half now.  I finally had gone to the doctor who thought it was bursitis and prescribed anti-inflammatory drops.  I had told her that I did NOT want a cortisone shot nor did I want surgery.  After doing the drops for awhile, there still was no improvement so I bit the bullet and called her again and this time we decided to try some physical therapy.

Now it’s been over twenty years since I last had physical therapy.  My PT had lasted exactly one session.  It was the same day I had my staples removed after the mastectomy for breast cancer.  I’ll never forget that session.  The therapist was a real gem……NOT!  He was actually a bully and about as unfeeling as a rock.  I was taken to PT directly after having the staples removed and the first thing the guy did was have me lay down on a table and then he said, “Let’s see how far you can move your arm.”  Before I could even do anything, he grabbed my wrist and pulled my arm completely back above my head and down to the table.  I screamed.

“Oh, don’t be such a baby!  Do you want that shoulder to freeze up?” he said.

The session went downhill from there.  When I got back to my room, I was in tears.  I told the nurse what had happened and she told my doctor and he pulled me out of PT and that was my one and only experience with physical therapy.  So naturally, I was a little nervous about going into the lion’s den again after all these years.

I showed up yesterday, logged in and sat in the waiting room listening to two ladies in assorted braces swapping war stories.  I was praying that whoever came out to call my name would be a.  female and b. kindly and jolly.  When I heard my name called, they were neither.  It was a big, burly guy dressed in dress slacks, shirt and tie.  Not exactly my mental image of a physical therapist.

We went back to his office and sat down and he went over my completed paperwork.  I told him what kind of movements gave me pain and then he said, “Let’s have you stand up and I’ll check your posture.”

I stood up and before I could even suck in my stomach, he took one look and said, “Oh, oh…..I think I can see what the problem is right now.”  Yikes!  So he pushed and prodded on my shoulder area and the back of my neck and then told me to lay down on the table.

“Um, I don’t do too well lying flat on tables,” I told him.  “You know, it’s the way my back is shaped.  It doesn’t lay flat.”

“It’s called a dowager’s hump,” he replied.

Well, thank you, Mr. Sunshine.  As if I didn’t know what this Quasimodo that I’ve been carrying around on my upper back for the past 20 years is called.

He moved my arm around and took measurements.  Ow!  Ow!  At least this fellow eased up when I’d say OW!

Then I had to sit up and try pushing against his hands in different directions.  I misunderstood him at one point and pushed in a direction he wasn’t anticipating, ending up punching him in the stomach.

“Ooof!”, he groaned.

“Sorry,” I said.  “That’s for that one measurement that really hurt.”

The consensus was that my shoulder pain was NOT from bursitis.  It was actually from several factors.  The scar tissue from my mastectomy years ago and the hunching over of my shoulders from years of bad posture, sitting at a computer desk, and the deterioration of my bones from osteoporosis was causing my shoulder tendon to get pinched during certain movements.  My range of motion in that arm was now less than half of what it should be.

Finally it was time to go out into the main room and try some exercises.  He would demonstrate an exercise and then let me repeat it myself for 15 reps.  I was doing one with this rubberized band that made me think of a left-handed Heil Hitler salute when he came over to ask me how it was going.  Bad timing.  I was right in the middle of pulling my arm up.  POW!  My fist got him right in the jaw.  Oops!

He turned me over to his assistant, a nice young college intern.  Now SHE was a bubbly person.  She showed me how to do an exercise for the upper trunk and I began my reps.  Hmmm, I thought.  This is exactly like one I used to do all the time when I was a teen.  “Hey,” I whispered to her, “This is the old ‘We must, we must, we must increase the bust’ exercise.  Every woman knows this one.”

“You’re right!”, she laughed.

By this time, I had noticed two women peddling away on some stationary reclining bikes in the middle of the room.  They were both reading on Kindles.

“I want whatever exercise THEY’RE doing,” I said to my therapist.  “Then I can read on my Kindle.”

“There’s nothing wrong with your legs”, he replied.

I did another exercise where I stood facing sideways to the rubber band and then was supposed to pull the band straight-armed down to my hip and then back up at a 90-degree angle.

“Um, what if my hips are extra big?” I asked my therapist.  “It seems like I won’t be getting the full benefit of this exercise because I could stop a lot sooner than the normal person.”

He looked at me for a long moment.  “Work with me here,” he finally said.

“It’s the Van Rossum hips,” I whispered to his assistant.  She grinned.

It wasn’t long before we were finished and I was given the option of icing my shoulder there or waiting and doing it at home, if it became sore.  I opted for home.  I could swear that my therapist looked a tad relieved.

I’m heading back over today and tomorrow for more therapy.  Should be interesting.  This is almost as much fun as yoga class and I don’t even have to do that darn Downward Dog.

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Hot Flashed Funk

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