August 13, 2022

My First Experience With Physical Therapy



I guess I shouldn't be surprised; I have just completed my first few visits to a physical therapist. I know people younger than me who had a problem that required P.T. sessions after a car accident or a knee replacement. Frankly, though, I never thought of me needing their services. Indestructible Bob!

After a painful and irritating bout of sciatic nerve pain, my doctor prescribed a medicine to help me manage the discomfort. It did, to a point. But, I suggested a physical approach rather than a more potent pill. My continuing goal is to stay away from prescription drugs whenever I can. Dealing with the symptom instead of the cause is not the way I prefer to go.

Doc agreed and set up a physical therapy appointment at a facility not far from my home. I will admit I was pretty apprehensive. I pictured a session with a tough woman named Helga, who berated my shrinking muscle mass, flabby underarms, and disappearing butt. She would have me sweating and grunting in short order.

None of that happened. The person I was assigned to was a he, young enough to be my son but easy to talk with. He asked all the right questions, typed furiously on his laptop, and began an exam, not unlike a chiropractor with strong hands.

It didn't take him long to determine my hamstrings were too tight, my core and flexibility needed some work, and my symptoms certainly fit the definition of sciatica. Then he answered the most critical question: Medicare would pay for as many sessions as I needed to relieve the pain and regain strength in my leg.

He prescribed four simple exercises to start. I  am to perform each, twice a day, every day. We settled on a twice-a-week appointment time, and I was out the door 55 minutes later, none the worse for wear. I am keeping my part of the bargain by following through on the daily stuff; the nerve pain down my left leg seems to have already improved.

My long-term goals are for these sessions to improve my mobility, decrease the likelihood of falls by improving my balance, keep any surgery out of my immediate future and stay away from pills. Not bad for some exercise and the guidance of a professional.

22 comments:

  1. Bob, the mention of sciatic nerve pain makes me cringe. Good on you for taking the physical therapy route. The sciatic nerve is as big as your thumb and is easily encumbered by surrounding musculature. I've experienced very debilitating sciatic nerve pain in the past. An acupressure therapist offered immediate release awa other exercises. Good luck.

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    1. It has started to feel better. The pain in the hamstring area has lessened. Between the work the therapist is doing and my home exercises I imagine I will be good to go in a week or two.

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  2. I recently completed a course of PT for tendonitis in my ankle. It was amazingly helpful and I have exercises for balance and strengthening that are helping me a lot. That said, I tend to slack off when my appointments end and I need to stick to it this time. I've done PT for both knees after having each one scoped, and I've done it for my shoulder in lieu of surgery years back. All of the PT I've done has been very helpful, and I wish the same for you, Bob. Like you, I will avoid surgery and meds at all cost until I have no other option. Stay the course! :-)

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    1. I have been impressed so far. The bursitis in my shoulders may be the next area I tackle since the cortisone shots don't last very long.

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  3. Bob, did you consider a chiropractor? Chiropractic medicine is older than most medical treatments and they won’t prescribe pills which is good. We’ve been going to our chiropractor regularly for 10 years now and know the exercises to do to relieve sciatic and back pains even if we’re traveling (right now we’re in Ireland). We do our stretches as instructed and they really help! BTW… We are older than you. Good luck with your PT, but do consider a chiropractor.

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    1. I use a chiropractor regularly. One leg is slightly longer than the other, so he needs to realign my pelvis on occasion and work on my spine.

      I tried a few adjustments when the siatic pain first started, but that didn't work. So pills and now PT, which is making a difference.

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  4. Bob, I just started my PT (which I lovingly refer to as Physical Terrorism) a couple of weeks ago. My experience has also been quite good. I think the key is discipline, which you seem to have an abundance of! Good luck with PT.

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    1. I have gone from a skeptic to a supporter in just three sessions. As long as I continue my twice-a-day at home exercises to strech my hamstrings and strengthen my core, I expect lasting changes.

      Fingers crossed!

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  5. It never gets any easier as we age does it? Physical therapy can address many issues and daily targeted exercises are usually never a bad thing. I hope you get some long term relief.

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    1. So far I am pleased with the process and progress.

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  6. I had a similar thing in 2012. A sudden onset of sciatica. I didn't think much about it but I went to the doctor and he prescribed PT. Well, some of the exercises seemed to make it worse. So I went to a spine surgeon who did an MRI. It turns out I had a crushed disc. My entire leg was weak and he recommended surgery. After trying more PT, more drugs, etc etc. I finally relented and had the surgery. My disc was in multiple pieces. it took a long time for the nerve to heal (well over a year) but it the surgery worked and I am back on my bike again and walking long distances. Sciatic pain isn't always what you think it is. Best bet is to have an MRI done just to be sure nothing else is going on. Heal up, Roberta

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    1. The pain was exactly like sciata should have been...starting in the left hip and continuing down to the left foot. Both the chiropractor and PT guy felt the spine and agreed with the diagnosis.

      But, I agree with caution in something involving the back. If things stop improving, an MRI makes sense. Thanks for the reminder.

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  7. PT is modern medicine's miracle drug. I had my first PT session in 1996 for a pinched nerve in my neck. I'm still doing the exercises they recommended ... and my neck is still pain free.

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    1. I am becoming a believer and sticking with both the exercises and gym routines he reccomends.

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  8. Like you, I prefer to work with my body whenever possible rather than medicate it. That is a great description of your first PT encounter. I was laughing so hard about your imagined encounter with Helga! I've had two experiences with PTs for two different issues years apart. Both times, I had a very successful outcome and avoided the need for medication. You hit on the key -- listen and follow the instructions!

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    1. Anything to avoid medications when there are other choices!

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  9. I hope you still feel you're benefitting. My husband begins to look better and move better each time he signs up for a round of PT.

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    1. I am absolutely benefiting from the actual PT sessions, and the twice-a-day exercises at home.

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  10. I have been a true believer in PT since I had my first experience with a herniated disc in my neck at age 50. After my doctor had tried various medications, none of which gave me any lasting relief from serious pain and some of which made me too loopy to do my work, I went to PT. I loved the way the PT not only relieved pain, but gave me physical techniques to relieve the pain on my own when it happened, and exercises to prevent pain in the future. I have some kind of degeneration of almost every disc in my spine, and medical professionals are always surprised that I function so well with very little chronic pain and without any surgery. I chalk that up to PT and to the fact that I carve out 60 minutes a day (30 mins morning and evening) to do all the exercises that I have been prescribed over the years.

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    1. My actual visits to the PT office ended on Friday. But, I was sent home with homework: 3 pages of exercises I am to continue twice a day, until the cows come home.

      I will not hesitate to use PT any time in the future when that is an option instead of pills. I wpuld much rather treat the cause instead of just the symptoms.

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