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Back in Action

From Physical Therapist to Patient Back to PT

I had surgery almost 3 months ago. Personally, it was one of the scariest experiences of my life because it was the first time I was going under general anesthesia. As a PT, I had no idea what to expect as it was me being a patient. The first day being home was tough. I had pain and all I wanted to do was sleep. The next few days I was getting the hang of going from laying down to sitting to standing. What we call in the physical therapy world: therapeutic activities, or transfers. It was one of the times where I felt what would be considered mundane to the average person was a lot of work and I had some serious questions. The ‘safest’ way to perform a transfer is the most painful with abdominal surgery. (Sidenote- stay safe first and pain-free next) I also learned that the threat of pneumonia is real after surgery; having congestion in your lungs/a productive cough 3 days after surgery is no bueno, so make sure you get off your butt and move. Days passed, the pain came down. My first follow up with my surgeon, and I was allowed to lift 10lbs and cleared to return to work even though I had lifting restrictions.

After the whole debacle of my timeline to return to work was cleared up, I was not allowed to exercise but I was ‘encouraged to walk’. I’m a physical therapist and I used to dance, sitting still is terrible. I took it upon myself to walk… and walk… and walk. It started with a goal of 3k steps a day and then it escalated to a total of 30 miles in one week. (Note: I don’t recommend that, get advice and clearance from a PT or an orthopedic MD before you do that.)

The time finally arrived and I was cleared to resume normal activities. I wrote myself a program to get myself back in shape. Yes, in shape is relative but after no activity for 2 months, I needed to get myself back ready to work and treat patients. I need to be able to perform manual therapy, guard people for safety on stairs and drive between patient’s houses as well as be in the clinic. My first week back to work I also started my exercise program; I was dog-freaking-tired at the end of the week. (I did drive to Connecticut on Saturday but that was my poor judgement) It’s week 3 post-op and I’m sticking with my program and I feel so much better than I have in a long time. I even took my first ballet class since January. I only took barre to keep myself from overdoing it. I have to say, because I walked a lot and I’ve been diligent with my workout program, I did pretty good. This is where I’m annoyed that I had restrictions. I was not able to extend my back in class; my degages to the back were a challenge as it stretched my abdomen and anything above the ballet 30 degrees to the back was pushing it. I would be frustrated that I didn’t take the entire class but I went to ballet today and that’s all that matters.

It's not reasonable to think I could have started exercising immediately, but telling your patient they’re not able to lift more than 10lbs is not just limiting but not realistic. This is where being allowed to rehab myself or go to a clinic would have been helpful as I could have slowly worked up to lifting 50lbs instead of going from a 10lb restriction to no restrictions. I know that I need to slowly work up to lifting 50lbs. Everyone can lift heavy, but it takes time and planning to achieve that. 0- 100 is where people get injured.

As I stated before, your MD doesn’t know everything and I wish my surgeon understood what PT is and what we know as clinicians. If I wasn’t a physical therapist who understood moving is vital, I shudder (an exaggeration) to think how deconditioned I could have become.

Moving is vital. Don’t stop moving.

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