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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

When Three Degrees Can Mean So Much

The two main areas that the physical therapists have focused on are knee flexion and knee extension. The picture above is an example of a knee extension exercise: you place the heel of your foot on a surface like another chair or a table and then relax the knee, let it hang there. Then push it down even farther, using your hamstrings. The aim is to get the leg to zero degrees - straight.

I have no idea when either of my legs was ever straight. I am guessing it's been 20 or 30 years at this point. Now I have a chance to get it there and keep it there. But it's been hell, the getting there. When I left the transitional care center I was at -8 degrees - eight degrees from zero. By the time I met with the at-home physical therapist, Wade, I had gone up to -12 degrees. That's the wrong direction. We worked on it and worked on it and last Friday it was back to -8 degrees. Over the long weekend I have been working it and it simply does not seem to get straighter. I admitted a feeling of lack of progress to Wade when he arrived this afternoon.

You do know that "physical therapist" is another name for "torturer"? Just so you know.

As Wade put it, his friends said, "you're in physical therapy school? I bet you give great massages!". He said they never asked a second time, because "we accomplish something". When he pushes on a muscle you know it, and it makes a difference.

So today we worked on various techniques to loosen the joint: moving the patella back and forth, up and down, and wiggling it when it got to each place; pulling on different parts of the joint (this was Wade's action); massaging the leg to loosen up the edema, massaging the wound, and then lying on my back and pressing my knee into the mattress to a count of five breaths, working harder with each breath (then letting it relax and doing it again, ten times, 11 times, I forget how many). The first time I pushed into the mattress Wade pushed it further and I gained another three degrees - for a measurement of five degrees from zero. After that, I had to keep doing it to maintain those extra degrees.

It feels so good to get that little bit of extra movement! I'm newly energized.  And did I mention - no pain meds today??

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