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Physical therapy restores confidence, enhances quality of life

At various stages in the course of our disease progression, each of us will turn to physical therapy to improve our quality of life.  

I reached this point when I could walk for only a few minutes at a time without excruciating lower back pain that almost forced me to quit the one sport I enjoy -- marathon shopping. It also cast a pall over my upcoming vacation plans.  

My neurologist wrote me a prescription for PT and I took it to my local hospital's outpatient facility. In my haste to find some relief, I took the first opening they had and asked no questions. This was a mistake. After an initial evaluation, the therapist told me my difficulties were due to "irreversible" structural changes to my spine, likely caused by poor posture related to Parkinson's.

"You understand that you have a 'progressive, incurable' disease, don't you?" she asked.

I was incredulous at her lack of sensitivity. Does she think it is something a person can forget, even for a few minutes?

Her solution was that I learn to use a cane, as walking would become even more challenging with disease progression.

Refusing to waste my time and money on someone who told me she couldn't help me, I set out to find a PT who could. This time, I did my homework. I learned that physical therapists have different educational backgrounds, specialties, and work experiences; and I sought out one with advanced training, practice, and certification in neurology



Physical therapist

That someone was Beata -- a cross between an adoring teacher and a drill sergeant. I knew she would not cut me any slack, and that's just the way I wanted it.

 I told Beata that my immediate goal was to walk pain-free with the endurance of a "normal" person while on vacation. She assured me that if I diligently practiced a series of Pilates exercises at home, I would see steady improvement. I sure hoped so because on day one, I didn't even know I had the muscles she wanted me to isolate and move.

It took every ounce of my strength and concentration to move these muscles an imperceptible amount. As I struggled, Beata yelled, "higher, harder, higher harder" until she was convinced I had nothing more to give. It was only after I had mastered these exercises that she told me how difficult they are even for people who are healthy.

After 12 PT sessions I achieved what had seemed like an elusive goal -- I could again walk and shop for hours at a time without pain. Most importantly, I regained confidence in my own abilities.

And should I falter and start limping or letting my posture slip, Beata's last words ring in my ears… "Remember, I'm watching you."


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blogger partner WPC 2016 in Portland