I CAN BE EASILY MANIPULATED
12 August 2003
"Following a home exercise program...what a concept!" she said.
I was lying on a table in the physical therapist's office and she had my arm held aloft as
she gently (yes, gently!) pushed it to the opposite side of my body.
I've had my second Physical Therapy appointment and I think I'm bonding with Ann, my
This is no beefy Bertha with frizzy hair, Popeye-like muscles, and a gleam in her eye the
more pain she inflicts.
Ann is very sweet. Very gentle with her manipulations. She explains everything. She takes
time. We actually chatted at great length about "Seabiscuit," which I am
currently reading. (If you want an eye-opener about what it's really like to be a jockey,
I strongly encourage you to read Chapter 5. I've been a "horse person" [i.e.,
I've liked horses] all my life and it was a real revelation for me! I'll never read
Dick Francis in quite the same way again!)
She was very impressed with the progress I've made in mobility with my arm. It's
significantly better than it was last week. We have two more sessions before I leave for
She also checked my knee and noted, which I already knew, that there was still some
swelling. She thinks that when I fell the second time I probably bruised the back of the
patella and it will just take more time to heal. I'm OK with it. It's not as bothersome as
it has been. I'm still not ready for any 30 mile bike rides (or rides around the block,
for that matter!) but it's definitely improving.
This whole experience has been an interesting one. Never having had an injury before, it's
like embarking on a whole new voyage of discovery.
I've learned how effective the exercises are. There are a number which all involve
stretching the arm in various ways -- the hardest one is pulling the arm behind my back in
the "fastening the bra" position--can't quite do that yet, though it's getting
When I first begin, it's uncomfortable (I won't say "painful" though there is
pain involved, but it's not bad at all). Each position I am to get into I am to hold for
10-20 seconds ("The longer you hold the position, the quicker it will improve,"
she told me last week). The thing is that as I begin the count to 20 (sometimes I have to
stop at 10), the pain generally subsides, and usually the longer I hold it, the farther I
can inch the arm up, out, or however it's supposed to go. By the time I do the fifth
repetition of that particular stretch, it feels significantly better.
What I'm doing, of course, is reminding the arm of the way it used to be. Coaxing all the
old responses back. Getting past the bruising and closer to "normal." If I could
do the whole thing without the "discomfort" part it would be fun!
But it's obvious that I'm going to live and I'm going to get back full, or almost full
(I'm aiming for "full") use of the arm. Right now I'm constantly surprised by
the things I can't do. I pretty much use the arm normally until a twitch reminds me that
maybe it's not a good idea.
Clapping, for example. I go to theatre all the time. That's my job. But I can't clap. It
sets up vibration in my arm that travels to the shoulder and it starts to hurt. (Ann
nodded her head at that one--"shoulders don't like the vibration," she agreed.)
I tried slicing an onion the other day and that hurt like the dickens. The pressure of the
knife against the firm flesh of the onion was more than I could handle (of course Walt is
thrilled about that, since he hates onions).
I can drive again now, but I can't get the driver's side door closed without some pain.
It's again that "weight bearing" that I can't quite do yet. But I've gotten real
good at taking a quart of milk off the top shelf of the refrigerator. It's a different
angle and it doesn't hurt quite so much.
A silly thing I can't do easily is pull a heavy chair to the table. When we go to a
restaurant and I sit in the chair, I can't quite pull the chair forward. I have to use one
hand, and that gets the chair at an awkward angle.
I also discovered the other day that using the mouse on the computer can also be
problematical. Ann just nodded her head in agreement again when I was explaining it to
her. I had volunteered to put some information onto the Internet for Ellen & Shelly.
It involved filling in a form with the demographic information on a stack of cards they'd
given me. I wasn't aware at all at the time that there was a problem, but the form I was
filling out was one of those where there are multi fields. I wasn't filling in all the
fields, so it was faster to move from the field I had just filled out to the next field by
using the mouse. After doing about 200 of them, I got up and went to move my arm and
suddenly I had this electric shock in my shoulder that I hadn't had since the accident.
The rest of the evening I'd get my arm in positions where it felt as if two parts of the
shoulder were rubbing together and causing an electric shock. Ann says that was a perfect
explanation of what was happening.
Needless to say, I've given up the volunteer job. I can type. I can use the mouse. I just
can't do that much mouse work.
As I said, it's just an interesting voyage of discovery, how this whole rehabilitation
process progresses. But I'm determined to get better as quickly as I can (I want to be
able to wear my new backpack when I get on the plane!), and, based on Ann's assessment
today, I guess I'm doing an OK job.