My journey as a long distance runner who started the sport later in life.
The First Time Around
My first PT sessions were at a PT center very far from home, and I was so new to the whole idea of broken bones and how to rehabilitate afterwards that I probably wasn’t the best patient. I liked my therapists, but opted for a gentler, less experienced therapist right after the surgery in order to reduce my pain. I also decided that it was so far away that there was no way I could go there five days a week, so I settled on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and sometimes Saturdays. I was told that more PT was better, but nobody really spelled out the consequences in black and white, at least not how certain tendon fusion would be, and then, as you know, that was the outcome.
By the time Vero was telling me that I needed to come to PT five days a week it was probably already too late. I had asked the head doctor if I could switch to her as my therapist because she was more rigorous, the exact reason I had avoided her and opted for Martha early on. Vero would push and pull on my already fused MCP joints, and the pain was excruciating because they were fused. They would not budge. I cried a lot.
The routine was the same: 1) 10 minutes of heat lamp or paraffin (after the wire rods were removed); 2) 6 minutes of ultrasound at a setting of 0.5 to reduce the excitation of the titanium plates; 3) passive bends of each joint separately ten times each and then ten “completos” per finger; 4) active handling of small items like rings and blocks; and, 5) TENS to the level I could stand it for 10 minutes. The whole appointment took about 1.5 hours. At some point along the way, after it was probably of use, I would receive 10 minutes of massage over my scars to loosen the tendons from the skin.
The therapists mostly left me in a small side room alone, occasionally coming to check on me, and sometimes one or two other people would be in there with me. It was so small that any more than two patients was a crowd. There was no music, no TV, and definitely no interaction with the doctor. The only time I saw the doctor was if I expressly made an appointment to see him. I do not reminisce about my time at that PT center with fondness.
The Second Time Around
When second opinion time came I was so happy to have discovered my current PT establishment. It is close enough to my house that I can power walk there and back, getting the dose of exercise I so badly need in the process. Because the round trip is not over three hours I didn’t hesitate to sign on for five days a week, especially with the hindsight of knowing what is at stake if my fingers remain still. Even better for recovery is the fact that I can go Saturdays as well, giving me six days a week of treatment. I haven’t missed a PT session yet since starting.
There are four equally capable therapists, two for day shift and two for evening shift, with a few hours of overlap at mid day. When I was still working I got to know the two evening shift therapists, and now that I am not working I opt to go earlier in the day when there are less customers. I rarely have the same therapist twice in a row, but I like the variety. The pain can be intense, and I am still not convinced of a full recovery, but at least the joints feel like they have the capacity to move. They sometimes make little crack and clunk noises like a rusty hinge on a gate. That sounds bad, but it’s actually a good sign. I am in pain when the passive motions are underway, but I have rarely cried.
The routine has already changed a few times. Now I receive the following: 1) a hot pad with the TENS machine at Level 8 for 15-20 minutes; 2) 5 minutes of ultrasound at a setting of 0.6 and avoiding the titanium area; 3) a massage with coconut oil that I supply; 4) passive bends of each joint separately ten times each; 5) active movements, like thumb to each finger, for a few minutes; and, 6) paraffin for 5 minutes to relax my hand. At the beginning I received cold pads and hot pads in alternation, but the inflammation has mostly subsided. I also received LASER treatment in the place of ultrasound, but I noticed that the pain was instantly reduced once we started ultrasound, and we have never returned to the LASER. I will miss the MIB shades that went along with it, but not the LASER treatment itself.
The therapists and all patients are in a large room divided by an archway, with privacy curtains if a patient’s needs warrant them. There is a TV on each side of the archway, and there are often music videos playing. The therapists sometimes even sing, and they talk freely to each other and to the patients, myself included. The doctor works afternoon hours, and he will come and mingle and check on patients, and he even performed my passive bends twice. I can tell that the therapists like him and that he likes them. It seems like a good place to work if you are a therapist, and everyone appears to be happy, which only helps the patients to feel better. I actually look forward to going to therapy even though I know it will hurt. It’s an all around fun place to be.