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Kirby: The truth about physical therapy pains me

Published September 17, 2013 9:38 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

It's been seven weeks since my shoulder surgery. I just started the physical therapy part. It's like paying someone to beat me up.

My therapist — whose identity I will protect here by referring to him only as Shaun Schulz, MSPT, Beyond Limits Physical Therapy, Herriman, Utah, 84096 — attends to my rehabilitation through a vicious regimen of bondage and contortion.

Tuesday morning, Shaun tied me to the back of a door and hoisted my wounded arm aloft with a system of ancient Chinese dungeon pulleys. When I pleaded for mercy, he just smiled.

OK, except for the words "physical therapy" (and the part about protecting Shaun's identity), I made all of that up. It was what I had been led to believe PT would be like.

At the beginning of August, Charles Beck surgically repaired a considerable amount of idiot-related injury to my shoulder. It hurt a lot, but I expected that it would.

Since then, I have trudged about in a cumbersome shoulder harness that binds my arm to a large piece of foam rubber. I look like someone attempting to shoplift a love seat.

In addition to being uncomfortable, the harness is also conspicuous. It lets everyone know that I had shoulder surgery and encourages previous shoulder surgery sufferers (PSSS) to wind me up.

PSSS No. 1: "Rotator cuff? Yeah, me too. Sucks, eh?"

PSSS No. 2: "Worst surgery ever, and I've had my head cut off."

PSSS No. 3: "I'm still not over it. You got any extra Percocet or morphine?"

I could handle all of that. I've had lots of surgeries. They all hurt. But shoulder supposedly hurt the worst of all. They're complicated and attached to every other part of your body.

What I could have gone without were the well-intentioned (but nonetheless horrible) warnings about physical therapy.

Virtually everyone whose shoulder had been touched by someone in the medical profession assured me that I would want to kill myself during the first five seconds of PT.

PSSS No. 4: "I screamed for three days."

PSSS No. 5: "Seriously, I peed myself."

PSSS No. 6: "Dude, take a gun."

When the day came that I finally saw Shaun, I was terrified and ready. Not only did I double up on my pain meds but I also alerted the police regarding who to talk to should I be found later in a Dumpster.

You know what happened at PT? Nothing. Shaun moved my arm around. It didn't hurt much. He measured my mobility. He got me to do some simple exercises. He explained how often to do them at home.

Finally, an attractive young woman came in, hooked some electrodes to my shoulder, plugged them into the wall and left. It made my teeth twitch but didn't hurt much.

Note: Keep in mind that since being shot with a Taser by the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office several years ago, my position on electricity and pain is considerably skewed.

Fifteen minutes of mild zapping and I was done. That was physical therapy? I laughed all the way home.

There's a lesson here. It's ridiculous how we allow ourselves to be frightened by the experiences of another. Sometimes they're right, but quite often what they're afraid of doesn't apply to us.

Experience is relative to the person having it. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be held hostage by the fear of others.

The following morning, I couldn't get out of bed without help. My shoulder felt like a bear had changed his mind halfway through eating it. I crept around like Quasimodo until the meds kicked in.

Maybe pain is a lot like thought — it comes slower to some people than others.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.