Physical Therapy and the Big Picture

Yesterday I went to my first pre-surgery physical therapy appointment. I didn’t want to go. Like a lot of this stuff I’m going through, I’ve “been there; done that.” But not really.

Last time I had physical therapy (2005) it was to address a condition I didn’t have. I went twice a week for three months and my hip (the right hip) just got more and more painful. Why? Because my “doctor” at the time had not diagnosed the problem correctly.

This time is NOT last time.

Every time I drive to the slough with the dogs I pass the gym which is known as “Monte Vista Athletic Club.” It looks like a barn which is not notable as the most popular building style where I live is big buildings with steel siding; lots of buildings look like barns including barns. It’s beautiful inside; it’s a gorgeous gym. I’m not a gym person, but I’ve been in several and this one is great. I told the person at the counter I was there for physical therapy and he guided me back to the corner of the “barn”. I was checked in and met my therapist — I like him! — a guy named Ron Muhlenhauser (good Swiss name). He sat me down.

The first thing he said when he looked at my chart was, “You don’t look that old.”

I thought, “Huh? Flattery? But why?” I think I look old, but maybe not. It’s a comparative thing, anyway. I explained I’d had hip surgery already on the other hip eleven years ago.

“You’re kidding,” he said.

“No. I…” I didn’t finish. We talked about accidents I might have had that could have caused the hip problem, and I rattled off a litany of sports related injuries.

“So sports, then,” he wrote on his paper. Then he asked me questions about the pain in my hip and how long I’d had it. I don’t think I was too good at the answers, but finally he said, “What are your goals?”

I said, “Hip surgery and the ability to walk better.” I still didn’t know what I was doing there other than fulfilling Medicare requirements. I didn’t think there was any reason beyond that, but I was very, very wrong.

“Here are your doctor’s goals,” and he read them to me. Of course, they were better, clearer and more articulate than mine. They are improving my posture, gait and the the development of good muscles and tendons in my hip. This means, basically, lengthening them so they will work with a new hip joint and so I can stand up straight. “You want to be good from the getgo after your surgery. Your left leg might be a little longer afterward, too. It’s likely.” It’s 1/2 inch shorter at the moment.

I was taught some exercises, and Ron gave me great explanations all the way along. I paid attention, practiced, and, all the while, thought about what I was being told. It began to sink in.

Then he said, “You’ve got the best doctor. Dr. S is the one who can handle the really tough cases. He’s the best there is.”

“Dr. Hunter (surgeon in Salida) recommended him.”

“See?” said Ron. “We’re going to try to teach your joint and your back to straighten up, to lengthen those muscles and teach those tendons to quit protecting your joint.” Ron showed me an exercise to lengthen thigh muscles and said, “You know runners. When they run, the back leg kicks way far back, so far it seems like it’s flying behind the runner, right?”

I visualized that and saw running in a completely new way.  We kept working and Ron explained how the tissues in our bodies replace themselves so that every three months we have all new tissue. I then understood that the purpose behind the cortisone shot is so that these exercises will not hurt me, because, otherwise, I couldn’t possibly do them.

I understood then why the surgery will be three months from now at the soonest. With that realization, suddenly, I got it. I really wanted to cry. My surgeon and the physical therapist are working together to help me emerge from this crysalis of pain and disability into a, yes, older Martha who can still be who the eternal Martha (inside herself) knows herself to be.

The shoes? Well, they’re trail running shoes. I got them on eBay last week. I’ve been wearing Salomon trail running shoes since the early 2000s. They were developed for people who race in the mountains. They were amazing, but they lasted me only about 3 months. Toward the end of the 2000s, Salomon sold the shoe to Adidas, and Adidas changed the way they are made as well as making various models. They are more durable, but less responsive (IMO) Still, they’re the best I know. I didn’t want to fork out the $$$ for brand new ones because I don’t know how this is going to pan out, and they’re expensive. When these arrived, I just hoped they’d have some time left. It turns out they are almost new. I think the previous owner might have worn them twice. I wore them yesterday to PT. They’re going with me the whole way. 🙂


18 thoughts on “Physical Therapy and the Big Picture

      • It’s been difficult for me — the patient — to put all the pieces together. I’ve thought a lot about that. I imagine every patient comes to a complex situation like this with some backstory and fear. I think one of the things I liked best about the surgeon is that I felt comfortable telling him about my previous experience which dragged on for 3 years before the right diagnosis, and that now I was irrationally afraid. I think he understood I was afraid of not being heard. At the same time, though, my fear made it hard to listen. I’m glad he did.

  1. The hard work you’ve done putting the pieces together is paying off big time. You may be older when it’s all done, but you’ll be a lot stronger! Good doctors want to make certain that their outcome is be best possible for their patients — it sounds as if you’ve found the right people!

    Over the last 7 months, I’ve had 3 eye operations, two basal cell carcinoma surgeries (all on my face), and was told I should have another eye operation. In conversation, I told the surgeon yesterday that I was at a point that I wanted people to leave my face alone — he had already described what he was considering, but backed off (the next one doesn’t involve the urgency of the last one) and offered a delayed solution. I feel as if I can change my mind over the next few months, but will allow the current one to heal before going into more!

    • That basal cell carcinoma procedure is bizarre. I hated it. I hope not to have to go through that again. I hope you get a break and it doesn’t turn “urgent” on you. ❤

      • I think the next eye procedure is not too terrible, though they’re all scary. It’s to correct an astigmatism, which can wait, and won’t become urgent. I’m just not wanting to pile healing on top of other healing!

  2. It sounds like you are working with really good people. It’s easier to find a good surgeon than a really excellent PT guy. I’ve had some really bad ones, some SO bad that they made everything worse. I’m so glad you’ve got the right people. That can make all the difference in the world.

  3. OMG you have a wonderful caring team looking after you!!!!! I’m touched beyond touched at heart! I’m thrilled for you, absolutely thrilled! You have a positive happy outcome and it’s so wonderful they are taking the time to prepare your body properly so that it will be a success. Martha, this is such amazingly good news. OMG

    • Thank you. It really is. I’m glad my little brain wrapped itself around it all and I get to enjoy it, and contribute my part (which is major) ❤

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