Updated: Jan 29
In today’s day and age we usually only hear the bad news instead of good. We wanted to spread a little love and positivity and share some success stories from patients of physical therapy.
I’ve actually had both of my shoulders repaired. Both surgeries happened during my years playing softball in college. I was a pitcher and I tore the labrum — the tissue that keeps the ball of the joint in place — in both of my shoulders. My right one was really bad; it was basically hanging by a few threads and there were tears in the biceps, too. I had five anchors put in to fix it, and was told recovery would be 10 to 12 months. This sort of injury is supposed to be career ending for pitchers, and I was just drafted to play pro softball that summer. The general manager of the team told me that she'd wait for me if I wanted to come back the following year. So I went to PT at home, and the first month of sessions were grueling. I was in so much pain but the PT took it slowly. I cried in almost every session, and I got frustrated every time I tried to complete a task but failed. But even then, the people working with me were so nice and supportive. I was gaining confidence again. After five months, I was able to swing my arm in a circle again, and when I called the PT office to tell them, I could hear them cheering in the background. I cried tears of happiness when, at seven months, I was pitching at the same speed as before my injury. I did so well that I was able to come back and play three years of pro softball. Today, I still coach the sport, I still throw at batting practice, and sometimes I'll even throw real pitches to my girls. I can also guarantee that I would have given up had I not had the encouragement of my PTs after my first surgery.
Two years ago, 49-year-old Roberto was on his way back from the US Open in New York with his father. While on the subway platform, he slipped and fell, fracturing his right shoulder. Roberto was already suffering from spinal stenosis in his back at the time of his injury. Taking anti-inflammatories to treat pain were not an option for him due to an existing diverticular disease. When he had taken them previously, they made him so sick that he ended up in the emergency room. "The side effects of the anti-inflammatories were worse than my back pain," he said. To help manage his intense back pain and rigidity that developed in his right shoulder, his physician recommended that he see a pain management specialist, who found that Roberto had disc herniations in his upper spine, as well. Roberto's pain specialist referred him to a physical therapist, which Roberto embraced. "I was motivated by not wanting to take medication and avoiding surgery," Roberto said. "From the moment I started, [my PT] was amazing," Roberto's physical therapist, Aleksandr Dekhtyarev, PT, DPT, treated the rigidity in Roberto's shoulder and performed pain management exercises for his upper and lower spine. Roberto attends physical therapy sessions twice a week, once for his shoulder, and the other for back pain. His treatments include exercise, manual therapy, stretches, electrical stimulation, and therapeutic massage. "I did not want to be operated on," Roberto said. "I knew with the physical therapy exercises I would improve. "Now that I am in physical therapy, the pain in my upper and lower back has radically improved, and I have much less rigidity in my shoulder. "My physical therapist, who really listens and cares, has enabled me to avoid back surgery and stop using the anti-inflammatories. Instead of using medications, I have my mobility!
In 2016 I lost my balance one day out of the blue and was bedridden for months with nonstop vertigo. I couldn't sit up or stand, read, look at a phone or a TV, listen to music, drive my car, walk without falling, balance on a toilet, or shower by myself. Sleep was almost impossible because it would feel like I was being lifted off the bed on a rollercoaster. After seeing numerous doctors, I eventually found a Neuro-opthalmologist who diagnosed me with a vestibular (balance) disorder with migraines. I was given a prescription for Vestibular Rehabilitation Therapy and I went once a week for a year. The therapist was extremely knowledgeable about not only vestibular rehab, but also about treating a previous injury I had that affected my back, rib muscles, and neck. She taught me what these problems were so that my mind wasn't jumping to the worst conclusions. There are daily exercises I have to do for the rest of my life now, but not as many as when I started doing PT. It was difficult and scary, but I can honestly say physical therapy saved my life. I truly thought I was going to die. I had to train myself how to walk, sit down, turn my head, and move my eyes, and I learned about how core and back health ties into balance. I will never be back to how I was, but large improvements have been made. The hard work is worth it, and finding a physical therapist who is an expert in the type of therapy you need is so valuable.
I was 13 when I got a stress fracture in my lower back. This is a common injury in volleyball, especially if you don’t put in the conditioning time. I was told to limit my physical activity for a year, and once the pain went down, I would start physical therapy. I turned 14. I watched my friends play sports while I couldn't even pick up my own textbooks. I carried a pillow to class. In January, I finally started PT with a sports specialist. She was also a swim coach; I wanted to swim in high school since my prognosis for playing high impact sports was no good. I worked on my core, my balance, and my flexibility, and slowly I became a functioning athlete again. I tried out for swimming after missing a year of practice and made the team. Two days a week I missed conditioning to go to physical therapy, and I started spending more and more time out of the water, flat on my back, because it hurt too much to move. My physical therapist also started coaching me in swimming to get my speed back. I turned 15 and I was still recovering. I would take notes in english class while laying on the floor. My physical therapist told me I probably just needed more time. I ended up leaving the swim team after my coach accused me and my mom of faking my injury. So I took on more intensive therapy. I got stronger, more flexible, and eventually started learning to do everything on my own. My back slowly stopped hurting. I turned 16 and my PT changed jobs, so it was up to me to keep it up. Today, I'm 20 and I walk across my college campus every day with a heavy backpack. I teach friends how to swim when they say they never learned. I go to spin class once a week. I lift heavy weights in the summer — weights my doctor said my back would never be able to support. None of these things would be possible without an incredible physical therapist giving me custom exercises and stretching out my hips afterward. I owe her my mobility and my life without pain. I also owe her my sanity, because without her allowing me to talk about it, and get angry or sad, I wouldn't have gotten through my first two years of high school.
Have your own story you want to share? We'd love to hear it! Email your name and story to firstname.lastname@example.org
*disclaimer these are not stories of patients at our clinic*
Story credits to Buzzfeed and Move Forward PT
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