Return to Physical Therapy
Recently I returned to physical therapy (PT) for some refresher sessions. When I last met with my rheumatologist we spoke about my questioning if my medications were working as well as I’d like and my struggles with fatigue. He suggested I go back to PT and see if mixing up my exercise routine would be any help. At this point, why not give it a try?
I made my appointment and then began the worry. I was convinced my PT would yell at me for not doing well enough and torture me with new exercises designed to target all my greatest weaknesses.
Thankfully, I didn’t need to worry. The last time I saw her was about four years ago and she was happy with how I was doing. While I still can’t do a straight leg lift on my left, I can walk pretty well (with someone to hold my hand for balance) and move around OK. My husband and I described how I do exercise in the pool and also some at home, including walking with a wheeled walker.
The PT asked me to do some knee bends and straightening from a prone position, and a few exercises to measure my strength as well. She asked really good questions to assess where I was when she last saw me versus where I am now. Perhaps the one disappointment is that I have not been practicing doing a stair step because I’m so nervous about my balance.
One aspect of this return to PT that was really helpful was the perspective we gained from an outside source. Richard (my husband) and I are so close to things and the daily grind of my RA, that we couldn’t see how well I was doing as far as advancing in strength and maintaining my abilities. It was hugely informative to have an expert like my PT point these things out and reassure that the exercises and effort have made a difference.
Of course, I also think to myself that I could have done more or better. But this is truly unfair and harsh on myself when I consider all the work I have actually put in (plus the responsibilities of working full time, my volunteer commitments, and having a life!). If I can and want to do more, I can make those changes, but I also need to be careful not to overdo it.
The PT gave me some new exercises to try at home and in the pool. I was so excited that after work we went straight to the pool and tried some of it out. Talk about overdoing it! I was pretty sore the next day. But also encouraged because I did well and could see that trying some different exercises could be helpful over time.
During the first session, the PT spoke about trying to get my body to use different muscles. While doing the exercises I have learned has been good, it is now important to challenge my body in new ways and build strength in different muscles. I’m eager to try and see what I can do, but also a bit nervous about entering new, unexplored territory.
Perhaps the most important lesson from this whole experience is that returning to PT periodically can be really helpful for RA patients. We can use the outside eyes to see how we are doing and where we can improve. Going back to PT can give us new ideas and also help assess where we’ve come from and where we need to go as far as building or maintaining strength and abilities. While it may seem like a scary idea, a PT refresher can be just the boost we need.
When was your last flare?