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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.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Jannyann
    1 year ago

    Hi Kelly, I am really inspired by your story and how you returned to pt for some refresher sessions. So happy for you that you’ve had a good experience and your pt can see how much you’ve progressed. I can see where you’ve come a long way. My rheumatologist is very encouraging with physical therapy and how it can help us with our daily lives..

    I’ve been going to pt once a week for about a year and a half. Originally it was for lumbar stenosis, as I have a bulging and herniated disk. The treatment was focused on my walking and balance. The balance exercises involved trying to stand on one leg for at least 4 seconds and then the opposite. I’ve still not been able to stand on my left leg and balance as that leg has less range of motion from favoring it. The right leg side is the sciatica side. Sometimes I get frustrated with not being able to balance, but at the same time I can see how much it has helped overall.
    I wish you the best with your treatment, and thanks for sharing your story.

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    1 year ago

    Thanks Janet! Keep up that hard work! It really does pay off. Sometimes our progress can seem small and slow, but it really does help. When I take off too much time not exercising I can quickly see the difference. Also, I’ve learned there will be setbacks and just to take it easy and keep on working. Little by little, progress is made. Thanks for your encouragement and warm words! Best, Kelly ( Team)

  • Ed Burgoyne moderator
    2 years ago

    Kelly, hope you get a positive outcome from your time at the gym and in the pool. The added effort you have been putting in could help a bit with some of the balance and stability issues you have been experiencing. Plus you use the gym as an excuse to have an extra treat each week!

  • Kelly Mack moderator author
    2 years ago

    Thanks so much, Ed! Best, Kelly ( Team)

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