Today was my first physical therapy appointment. I forgot to take photos so you’re stuck with diagrams of the exercises! Let’s blame it on the meds.
Many people have asked if I plan to just rehab it myself since I am a physical therapist and I normally do treat this type of injury. Sometimes it’s a good idea to treat yourself and sometimes it’s not. It’s true that I usually do rehab my own injuries when I’ve got a muscle strain, a little tendinopathy, or when my shoulders feel a little unstable and cranky. It’s also true that I can figure out what exercises are appropriate at which stage of my recovery. But I can’t do low grade joint mobilizations on myself to help reduce pain and muscle guarding (when muscles reflexively tighten around an injured joint to protect the joint). And I’m not in a position to be able to see and measure the joint angle. My proprioception and joint position sense are TOTALLY thrown off by the injury and reconstruction. So I need another set of expert eyes to tell me where I am. And simply based on the severity of this injury, reconstruction, and rehab I need someone to walk through this with me. Even teachers need teachers. PTs sometimes need a PT.
There is thinking out there that all PT is the same and it doesn’t matter who you see. That PT is PT and all PTs are interchangeable. That couldn’t be further from the truth. As in all professions, you need to choose your PT wisely and if you start with someone that doesn’t work for you, find someone that does. So today I went back to Mt Lookout Chiropractic & Sports Injury Center, where I worked for about five and a half years before I started my current practice, to see my former coworker, Dave. He’s an excellent, experienced PT and knows me well so I feel comfortable having him help guide me through this recovery. This is where I’d normally throw his photo in, but he’s not one for photos, or social media for that matter!
Before PT today I was feeling very discouraged. I was feeling kind of stuck, like nothing was getting better or changing. I’m still needing all the meds for pain management, although I’m only taking the muscle relaxer at night rather than 3 times a day now and I did stop taking ibuprofen. And I still can barely tolerate being out of the sling. I’m still sleeping in a recliner because it hurts to lie flat for too long. I stilñ use the cold therapy unit pretty much nonstop. And of course I’ve noticed my muscles of my right arm starting to atrophy (shrink) from disuse. My biceps looks particularly sad and floppy. As I tell my patients, everyone wants to get better yesterday.
At PT with Dave’s help I was able to start getting it moving. We got it to about 80 degrees of flexion (the goal at this point is 120) and got it to externally rotate a little bit. Even just doing that little bit made me feel like this isn’t forever. I know my shoulder will never be the same as it was. I don’t want it to be like it was, clearly it was too unstable! But my shoulder will be “normal” in a few months, whatever its new normal winds up being.
I’ll be working on some exercises a few times a day: shoulder shrugs and shoulder blade squeezes, elbow range of motion, table slides for shoulder flexion, using a cane for external rotation, and some pendulums using a therapy ball for support. It’s going to be hard but it gives me something to work toward. I’ll see Dave once a week for the work he can do with it that I can’t and to make sure everything is on track. As we get it moving some of the pain should start to ease too!
Stay tuned for more on my progress!