Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Physical therapy is my current event

You’ve probably heard the George Santayana quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” When it comes to working around the yard, that’s me in a nutshell. For the past few months, I’ve been getting physical therapy from hurting the same shoulder by misusing the same hedge trimmer on the same bushes. With all that sameness, I’m foolishly expecting the same quick results—though I’m five years older.

To be different, this time I have a complication: My opposite elbow now needs therapeutic work as well thanks to the extra duty it’s had in covering for the shoulder. The result? I can’t lift with my right arm and grip anything tightly with the left hand. It’s a development, I have to say, that I’ve taken rather poorly. How would you like, after all, to hear from your orthopedist that for the next six months, you can’t pick up someone by the collar with one hand and punch his face with the other?

So I go twice a week for physical therapy. First comes the STIM, shorthand for electrical stimulation of the muscles needing attention. For 15 minutes at a time, electricity pulses through probes into my shoulder and elbow while I lie on a mat and dwell on the news of the day. Picture someone digging long nails rhythmically into your muscle—yet it feels good—and you have the idea. The therapist, very nice and capable guy, sets the machine’s voltage before leaving the room but waits till I tell him the level feels right. What if I’ve misjudged? I did only once…all I remember is that the lights were flickering.

Next the therapist does some ultrasound to the muscles using a wand coated with a gel. Woman readers who’ve had children, sorry if the very word “ultrasound” invokes memories of having to drink a quart of water before the imaging procedure during pregnancy. And just when you feel ready to burst, the radiologist begins his scan. Nothing like that happens here. In fact, it feels good. After that comes a half-hour or so doing various exercises, concluding with a few minutes of icepack before I go home to resume the usual snowblowing and shoveling.

I like my therapist and his assistants very much; they’re real pros. Which made it all the more upsetting the other day when, during a day off from work, I actually forgot to go to therapy. (I guess my arms felt good that day.) An hour after the appointment should have started, I called to apologize knowing someone would still be at the desk. I got the machine.

In all the years before I married Elena, I never once stood up anyone. So I don’t quite know what to expect tomorrow when I go for my next appointment. My guess? It’s probably not a good idea to stand up someone who, when he first sees you next time, will be saying it’s okay while fondling a voltage switch.

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