KAYE’S CORNER: Physical therapy to the rescue

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MEEKER | When friends would tell me about their physical therapy, I used to think it was like going to a spa with massages and warm compresses to soothe you. Now that I have my own sessions, I’ve learned it’s more like boot camp with workouts and cold packs.

However, I’ve become a great advocate of physical therapy as assistance to recover from injuries, cope with aging body parts, receive post-op care, and make our bodies stronger. It’s a medical intervention when the answer is not drugs or surgery.

To me, physical therapists are angels of mercy who can target a specific exercise to a specific body part or ache. These specialists help us discover a healthy way to reclaim declining or painful health conditions.

The therapists are cheerleader extraordinaire. “Keep going!” “You can do 5 more.” “Let’s get you on this stationary bike to warm up.” Heck, I haven’t been on any bike for many years, much less to start an hour of PT. But, with my therapist’s encouragement I manage not to fall off the bike.

Their gym includes many devices to help patients move, stretch, reach, squat, etc. including stairs, mats, walking areas with support rails, bikes, and more. While under care, patients can use the Pioneers PT equipment any time.

Physical therapists also show patients how to accomplish home care such as how do I ice my hips? It’s another torture but with ice packs, a long towel to “strap” them to the body, and courage to endure the cold it does help relieve discomfort.

Think of physical therapy as getting your own personal coach who helps you understand what is wrong, how your body parts relate, and why specific exercises can help. Home treatment plans are determined then it’s up to you to put in the hard work.

To practice as a physical therapist in the U.S., you must earn a physical therapy degree from an accredited physical therapist education program and pass a state licensure exam.

Advanced education is also available via residency or fellowship programs. For example, one of my relatives is an occupational specialist in hand therapy and helps employees like lumber workers regain hand use after work related accidents.

One of my nieces has an advanced degree in speech and language therapy whose work in a hospital includes helping post-op patients recover their swallowing abilities after breathing tubes have been inserted or helping stroke victims regain speaking skills.

Physical therapists have wide ranging expertise and get their own work out every day demonstrating to patients how to correctly perform the prescribed exercises.

On a personal note, I will add that my current need for physical therapy is not seeking the fountain of youth or training for the senior Olympics. I’m just trying to regain the functionality I had last fall, before COVID.

Many months of isolating at home plus two months of suffering from COVID meant I did not exercise enough, or at all. Classes at the rec center were often disrupted and shame on me, I didn’t walk enough. I call it COVID body atrophy. After several months of feeling lousy, I decided I was ready to fight back.

It is an uphill battle to return to the relatively healthy person I was (for my age as they say) back in October. Granted, I am a senior with body aging issues but COVID made all those issues worse and even returned to me pain in my broken ankle area that was supposedly healed three years ago.

I am especially grateful that Meeker Pioneers Hospital offers outstanding physical therapy to cope with issues like mine. Thanks to the outstanding staff for personal service, offering hope, encouragement, and even those tough weekly goals.

To my knowledge, most health care insurance providers require a referral from your primary care physician to receive physical therapy services. It is NOT a walk-in clinic.

If a patient, also understand, that PT provides the exercises, but you need to embrace them at home and continue on your own. Not a spa, a workout with ice packs!

By KAYE SULLIVAN – Special to the Herald Times