Advice needed re physical therapy
July 17, 2013 7:39 PM   Subscribe

I am a 42 year-old who needs to get into shape. After trying and failing numerous times, I finally found a methodology I really enjoy. It is a boot camp at the local park. It is fun, different every time, encouraging, and worth getting out of bed at 5:15 am for. However, I've tweaked my knee, need physical therapy, and I have some questions.

I've never been to physical therapy. I saw my GP yesterday who assured me it is just a severe case of tendonitis, and that PT will actually make it possible for me to get back to boot camp, which is great.

However, given how bad my knee hurts every time I try most an kind of exercise, is this a reasonable expectation? I just don't want to get my hopes up. Also, what can I expect from PT? What is it like?

Thanks for your help.
posted by 4ster to Health & Fitness (6 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
PT is amazing. It's like what I want doctors to be. My DPT (doctor of physical therapy) hangs out with me for a while (45+ minutes per hour session) to massage and adjust things I can't do myself, then hands me off to a team of people to lead me thru some exercises. You'll spend some time moving things around in a way that will be hard, but (mostly) not painful.

I recently broke my shoulder, and literally could not lift my arm over my head after the initial bone healed. After the *first visit* to PT, I could lift it with minor discomfort. It is still (after 4 months) sort of sore, but I can use it normally without hesitation. I have a month or so to go in PT.

These are doctors that really *only* help people, and they get to do it all the time. It's a jovial experience for you and them, and like being at a gym with someone who loves you.

Your milage may vary, but I can't say enough good things about my experience. I had the same hesitations as you when I began, and wish I had known.

If you are in the Seattle area, PM me and I'll give you a hearty recommendation.
posted by bensherman at 8:03 PM on July 17, 2013 [2 favorites]

I really don't think it's reasonable for you to go straight back to boot camp without completely treating the tendonitis first. It may help for you to find a specialist to treat the tendonitis first since all GPs I've seen for sports injuries were total crap. Their responses ranged from: Rest and hope NSAIDS work! (One doctor even told me, "Good luck!") to oh it's nothing serious (listening to this one landed me in a walking boot cast for 3 months). Also, "just" a severe case of tedonitis?? Sometimes I wish I had broken a bone instead of getting tendonitis... To put it in perspective, it took me longer to walk properly again than a friend of mine who managed to break both her fibula and tibia.

Physical Therapy, for me at least, was really great. I went to an amazing physical therapist after I spent about 3 months in a walking cast due to a terrible case of tendonitis in my foot. She helped me regain my range of motion in my feet/ankles, actually figured out why I kept accruing weird feet/ankle injuries, and helped me strengthen my entire lower body to help stabilize my joints.

When I first started my PT sessions, I spent quite a lot of time with electrodes attached to my calves to help me strengthen the tendon I seriously screwed up. After that, she had me work on calf specific exercises, feet specific exercises, then slowly worked on hip stabilization and just overall balance.

I saw my physical therapist for about 9 weeks before I was finally okayed by both the doctor and her to try any sports again.

You really should go for it. I don't even want to know how much longer it would've taken for me to heal if I skipped the physical therapy.
posted by astapasta24 at 8:10 PM on July 17, 2013 [1 favorite]

My experience with physical therapy has varied widely. I think it depends on what your issue is, and how good the therapist is that you get.

I had PT for pain in my wrist and a pinched nerve in my elbow that ranged from helpful to seemingly ineffective. Most of that consisted of massage, hot wax, electrical stimulation, and some ergonomic advice.

However, I had a different experience when I had a painful hip flexor. The therapist was great and helped me figure out that my walking gait was causing me problems, and worked with me to correct my posture and gait, which has been very effective for me.

Go in with an open mind and don't be shy about finding a different therapist if it's not working for you.
posted by overleaf at 8:10 PM on July 17, 2013

My experience with PT has also varied widely - less on the actual therapist and more on the body part/injury. Unfortunately, I found PT for my knee very ineffective, but my issue was vry different from tendonitis.

For my hip (torn labrum) and my feet (plantar fasciitis), I found PT to be VERY effective. I didn't get my labrum fixed and was running again in weeks.
posted by Pax at 5:47 AM on July 18, 2013

I love physical therapy. I play a sport that is rough on the knees, so I've had a few ligament tears and sprains that required PT. I wasn't very physically active until adulthood, so PT is where I learned a lot of cool new (to me) stuff-- how to squat correctly, how to engage my core while exercising (srsly, I didn't know I had ab muscles below my belly button...)

One of the first things I learned was that physical therapy doesn't heal you, it makes you stronger. For my knee injuries, we worked on my core and the muscles around my knees to make sure those areas were strong enough that my injured ligament wasn't getting extra stress during and after healing.

The hardest thing for me was remembering to do my assigned exercises at home. Be sure to schedule some time in your daily routine for PT. Also don't be afraid to ask your physical therapist questions, there is so much to learn!

Good luck and know that you can always get healthier and stronger. Physical therapy and boot camp sounds like a good plan.
posted by stompadour at 8:34 AM on July 18, 2013

I had physical therapy for pain in my hips (due to IT band problems) and back troubles (herniated disk, sciatica, and arthritis). In both cases, it was super effective in reducing some pretty terrible pain to almost nothing. The therapists used different techniques, including hot packs, cold packs, massage, exercises, and different kinds of electrical stimulation. With the therapist I saw for the IT band issue, we did a bunch of different things, and I never knew what each appointment would involve, though we usually did start by him asking me to warm up on the exercise bike for a few minutes first; the therapist for the back problems always started by having me do the exercises he'd given me to do, then he'd have me lie on a table and put electrodes and a hot pack on my back for a bit, then he'd give me a massage.

My advice for getting the most out of it is to be sure and do your exercises at home because they will help you a lot. Also, give the therapist feedback on how you're doing, what movements hurt, and that sort of thing so he or she can adjust the treatment and report results to the doc. And be patient; in both cases, I got impatient and almost quit therapy because I wasn't seeing results. It took at least a month to see improvement. With my IT band, I kept doing the exercises after I had finished PT because I just didn't know what else to do; to my surprise, I started to see results after 5 or 6 weeks.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 12:04 PM on July 18, 2013

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