other people's emergencies: random thoughts of an urban paramedic

For more than twenty years I've worked as a paramedic for the city of Boston, Massachusetts. The opinions expressed in this diary are mine alone, and do not represent the views of Boston EMS. Names, dates, locations, and physical characteristics have been changed to ensure patient confidentiality.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Not So Bad, Maybe

I went to physical therapy today. Already my back was feeling better, so I began to wonder if the nurse practitioner had been right after all. Maybe it really was a muscle strain, instead of the disc herniation diagnosed by the emergency department physician.

When I entered the PT office, I saw a familiar face. Nine years ago, I injured my shoulder in a wrestling match with a heroin addict. The damage was pretty severe. Not only were the rotator cuff and the head of my biceps torn, but the labrum--the structure that holds the top of the arm into the shoulder joint--was ripped apart as well. I needed surgery in three places.

It took at lot of work to reach the point where I could use my shoulder at all. Three times each week, for more than nine months, the physical therapist put me through my paces. Strength workouts, flexibility workouts, manual stretching, ultrasound, heat treatments, cold treatments, deep tissue massage--he used every tool imaginable.

There were times when I felt like giving up. My shoulder ached constantly, and it didn't seem to be getting any stronger. But in the end, his hard work paid off. My shoulder will never be quite as strong, or quite as flexible, as it once was, but it feels pretty good right now. I can throw a baseball, and I earned a perfect score on my most recent Army physical fitness test. Not bad for someone who couldn't turn over in bed for a long time without gasping in pain.

And that's who I saw when I walked into the physical therapy office today. The same therapist who restored my shoulder nine years ago was going to treat my back.

He began with a complete evaluation. While he couldn't completely rule out the possibility of a disk injury--to the contrary, he said that many back injuries involve a small amount of disk herniation, even when that's not that the primary injury--he seemed to think that my injury was primarily muscular, and would respond pretty quickly to treatment. For the next hour, he used many of the same techniques on my back that he'd used on my shoulder.

At the end of the session, I was sore. That's to be expected, I suppose, since ultrasound and deep-tissue massage don't work unless you can feel them. But I feel as if some progress has already been made. I've got a feeling that recovery will occur pretty quickly, and that I'll return to work faster than I ever would have imagined.

Credit where credit is due: The physical therapy center mentioned in this post is The Boston Center for Physical Therapy and Sports Medicine, located at the Boston Athletic Center in South Boston. The therapist is Declan Fennell.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't see yesterday's blog and looked at tonight's. Glad your back is feeling better. And yes, the NP is going to say muscular strain and the ED MD is going to say herniated disc. Both correct. Usually with herniated disc it the bulge of the disc that presses on nerves on one side of spine and thus the reason why you feel the pain going down one side of leg. Sometimes, it's the muscles in the back that are straining and pulling (trauma or "overuse") the bones in the spine, thus putting it out of line thus creating the disc "bulge".

As for the NP's gross ignorance about what you do for a living,(thinking that you have minions doing all the lifting for you) I find it hard to believe that she is effective in what she does for a living.

Or maybe she is because she's trying to get you back asap because they don't want anyone out for long on workman's comp. Time is money and we all know it's about the bottom line....right?

Good luck and speedy recovery.

1:32 AM  
Blogger Herbie said...

Good to hear, TS. Just take your time on the road to recovery; no need to rush and get hurt again.

8:54 AM  
Blogger TS said...

Thanks, both of you.

10:21 AM  
Blogger Norma said...

So nice that you get PT with a therapist you know and trust. Good luck with it & glad you are feeling better!

11:15 AM  
Blogger TS said...


12:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Having a physio who you know and trust is extremely important, glad to hear things are shaping up. Keep at it and don't give up, it'll pay off in the end.

6:17 AM  
Anonymous Gabor said...

Whoops, left my name off the last comment there, Anonymous = me.

6:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wishing you a speedy recovery.

- nate a.

8:12 AM  
Blogger TS said...

Thanks, Nate.

6:08 PM  
Blogger brian said...

Ugh...On-the-job injuries. Hate 'em, but had a couple of them.

In fact, when I was temporarily taken off duty a couple years ago, I got bored of siting around the house and started blogging for the first time!

One of my earliest posts was about physical therapy (http://www.switch2planb.com/2007/09/when-it-comes-to-injury-like-torn.html)

I don't know which is harder: Convincing the necessary people that you're actually injured, or six weeks later convincing them to let you go back to work! :)

You you feel better soon...

1:57 PM  
Blogger MischMash said...

Good luck, TS. You're in my thoughts and prayers.

6:43 PM  
Blogger Linda said...

You're not taking comments on the above post so I thought I would pop in on this one just to wish you well and say that I hope that whatever is going on, all will be well soon.

Hang in there.

9:12 PM  
Blogger C N Heidelberg said...

Hope you are feeling better soon.

5:20 AM  
Blogger Last Angry Man said...

TS, how's the rehab. going so far? You're doing well, I trust?

7:44 AM  

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