Diary of a Physical Therapy Patient by Jenny Walters - WebPT Marketing and Events Coordinator
The day of my doctor’s appointment I spent all morning running every possible scenario through my head. I’m a bit of an over-worrier and kept thinking that I was soon destined for surgery. The x-ray showed it clearly, my right knee cap was crooked and tilted to the left. There it was in the black and white light of the x-ray, I was a freak! This would mean surgery for sure, right? How can you fix bones without getting in there and operating on them? Yep, this was it. I turned to the doctor and asked him, “So does this mean surgery?”
My first encounter with a PT
He smiled at me and shook his head, “Nope, just physical therapy.”
My world is filled with physical therapy lingo, blogs, articles and research every day. Yet, I had never even stepped foot in a physical therapy clinic; that all changed this past week.
Staying active has always been a part of my life but the past few months I’ve admittedly slacked. It was time to get back in shape. I’ve never been able to run long distances without my knee killing me. A few 5Ks here and there but I once tried to train for a half marathon and around mile six my knee would begin throbbing. Every time I attempted to run long distances I would end up injured, frustrated and back on the elliptical. Needless to say, that half marathon hasn’t happened yet.
Ambitious to get back into my favorite jeans and forgetful about the last time I tried running consistently, I hit the treadmill, hard. I started running 2-3 miles every morning before work. Life was great; until my knee started flaring up again. What started as a dull throb became a sharp pain with any weight bearing activity. Lots of pain killers later, I decided that at my age (late twenties) I should be responsible enough to go to a sports doctor and get it looked at. I wanted to be able to run, dang it!
I was honestly nervous walking in to the clinic for the first time. C’mon, I’ve seen the t-shirts; “PT Stands for Pain and Torture”, “Physical Therapy: Only the Strong Survive.” I’m not a big fan of pain and I’m not exactly a body builder. What would I be getting myself into?
My therapist came around the corner and introduced herself. She was about my age and incredibly friendly; she didn’t seem like the torturing type so I walked back with her. Within the first 20 minutes of my exam she noticed that I tended to drop my hip when walking and doing some of the strength exercises. (Apparently your hip muscles are really important in running.) I’m sure all of you PTs reading this are laughing at me right now, but this would have never occurred to me.
I’ve had over ten years of knee pain, have seen multiple general practitioners about my knee, have had discussions with every coach from dance to tennis in high school and even have discussed my knee problems with two personal trainers I’ve worked with in the past.
All “health experts” but not one conversation has ever mentioned strengthening my hips or any other muscle for that matter. It usually ended with; “Ice it”, “Take aspirin and rest” and “Someday you’ll probably have to have surgery but let’s work through it for now”. Finally, someone had a solution and strategy to reach that solution! No medication, no surgery; just exercises. She was speaking my language and I liked it!
I’ve now had two sessions with my physical therapist. My first session was quiet and peaceful, just myself and my therapist. My second session was a whole new experience. I counted twelve patients and only three therapists at the same time. They were outnumbered and trying frantically to ensure every one of their patients received the care and attention they needed. I was stressed for my therapist, bless her heart! Working for WebPT, I was excited to see the therapists in action and watch them document the visits but was surpised at the workload she periodically encountered.
It’s easy to sit in my office and read PT blogs and research about what PTs do and think I understand the profession. Becoming the patient has given me a newfound appreciation of the art and science of physical therapy. I’m excited to get stronger and better with my therapist and so thankful to finally be in good hands.
I thought I knew what PTs did but I really had no idea. Thank you to each and every physical therapist and every PTA out there! You may not have every one of your patients tell you how much you mean to them so I’ll speak on behalf of them. You are changing lives for the better every day, and it is truly appreciated by those who benefit from your expertise. In the spirit of National PT Month, THANK YOU from a patient, a WebPT staff member and one day a half marathon runner.