The proprietors call it “PT,” meaning “physiotherapy,” but many clients call it “physical torture.” PT is the way “therapists” treat people with physical ailments by manipulating their bones and joints and use various objects and machines to aggravate the sore muscle, tendon or joint. It is all done scientifically and with degrees of empathy.
Our doctor decided that she needed PT, so we went to this facility, which is approved by our health insurance. Many, if not most, of the clients here have sports injuries—rolled ankles, distended knees, inverted elbows—that sort of thing. They are trying to get in shape for the next main event. However, some are here because they are fat and need to slim down before the next heart attack.
So today my wife, Joice, is having PT and she holds to the ‘torture” description. Her “handler” is Dan, a young man who is very devoted to his work. He begins Joice’s session by having her lie down on a bed—actually a padded table top—and lift her legs and twist her body until he can note what gives the most pain.
Joice is in the main PT room, where about 6 other PTers have assembled their victims. In addition to the “beds” there are tables and chairs, stationery bikes, balls and chains, web belts and electronic measuring devices. The patients are there to push and pull, pedal, ride, walk upright and lie contorted, with the assurance (or at least hope) that their muscles and tendons, bones and sinew will reformulate themselves into youth-like variations.
My wife’s trouble started when she had a fall in the middle of the night—no broken bones, but black and blue buttocks and lower leg, which turned purple and yellow with streaks resembling graffiti and Mayan hieroglyphics. I took a picture and considered entering it into the local art show contest. It would have won some particular facet of the show, I am sure. Perhaps the abstract category would have suited it best. But I didn’t enter it—I was worried what interpretations the judges might have of the vein protrusions and impaired epidermis.
My wife was not training for the Senior Olympics. She just needed to get both hips and legs moving in the same direction at the same time. Her therapist, named Dan, has exercises designed for people that have problems like hers. I am familiar with some of them because I have had PT here as well.
Dan starts off with a friendly chat and then has Joice lie on the table and, as I indicated, makes sure he can find which leg hurts the most. He does this by having her lift a leg toward the ceiling and rotate her back toward the floor. It is supposed to hurt and she will judge the pain intensity on a 1 (for little) to 10 (for ouch) scale. She folds and bends the leg and rotates her back until the pain reaches 6 or 7. Any smaller number is a sign of weakness and is discouraged. For best results the pain should get up to the 9 level, right before she might yell and say “I quit.”
Of course the PT starts way down the chart, at about a 3 or 4, so the patient will think “this isn’t so bad.” It is all part of the sports PT psychology. Professional PTers know how far they can legally twist a torso without being sued for torture.
I am sitting in the “waiting room,” where there is a table filled with typical Texas magazines: hunting (the big guns are best), women’s cosmetics and skin care, home decorations and, of course, a Bible (King James). I have brought my own reading materials but watch the activity of the PT room out of the corner of my eye. I don’t want to appear as too interested.
Patients enter limping slowly and exit limping more briskly. Some act as if the pain is gone, but the smile on their face is forced and you can see the level 6 or 7 twitches if you look at their eyes or chins. They may have fooled the therapist and left a bit early, but he will get them next time.
My wife is almost done. She is pedaling the stationery bike—very slowly—while Dan makes some notes and copies some exercise pages for her to take home.
I hold her hand and steer her towards the car. “How did it go?” I ask. “Do you feel better?” She grabs ahold of the right side of her rear end. “It hurts here,” she says. “But it hurt on the other side when I came in.”
So there has been progress: the pain area has shifted. Perhaps next time she will have pain in the left side again and he will be able to shift it to the right.
I know that PT is partly psychological, so I ask her: “And how does it make you feel?” She looks at me briefly and says, “Why don’t you open the door and help me in?”
I do and later I help her out. She goes to the sofa and immediately falls asleep. I am hopeful she will have pleasant dreams and will be ready to go back for her PT again.
I think moving the pain about: left to right, knee to back, elbow to forearm, is important and that PT will eventually do the trick.
In the meantime, I’ll hold her hand and open the door.
Provident Sports Therapy Center