Physio Talks – If You Don’t Stop Hurting It, It Won’t Get Better

I’ve told this story to clients so many times I’ve lost count, and it still is true. It is a ready example of the outcomes from the topic of last month’s article, Listen to Your Body.
In 2004, just after beginning work part time in the Stratford Physio Clinic, a fellow came in complaining of shoulder pain. Now, I can appreciate the efforts he went to in order to get to the clinic; then, I had sort of an idea. He lived out past Tahora, way out in the wops, as I’ve learned to call it. He was a sheep farmer (still is as far as I know), and a farm contractor, building fences on that land out there. He was the epitome of the stringy, tough as nails hill country farmer, and beside himself because he could not fence due to the shoulder pain.
Well, we had a session in the clinic, then I sent him home with some exercises to do and an appointment for a week and a half later, the soonest he could make the trip again. At the next visit I asked him how it was going and he said the exercises may be helping some, but it still hurt a lot. In fact it hurt every time he tested it (bends his elbow and raises his arm in front of him, grimace on his face). I asked him to raise his arm as far as he cared to go, and he got his hand to about eye level with facial expressions and squirming. Then I asked him how many times a day he tested his arm. He said, “Oh, I don’t’ know, some.” So I asked, “More than 5?” “Sure.” “More than 15?” “Maybe.” “More than 20?” “I don’t know for sure.”
So, I said, “Here’s the deal. You are a very disciplined guy, so I am confident you can do this. Between now and the next visit, don’t test you shoulder once, not even once. OK?” He agreed and a week and a half later he came in all smiles saying, “Look at this!” and raised his arm completely over his head. We then started working on returning his strength to what it was before he was hurt. Over the next month or 2, he gradually returned to fence building, and I haven’t seen him since, except on the street, or the supermarket, where you see every body.
If you don’t stop hurting it (testing it 15 or 20 times a day to see if it still hurts, twisting and lifting with a bent back, or whatever you do that continually aggravates the injury), it won’t get better. Listen to your body….
These comments are general in nature. Be sure to check with your physio or doctor if you are not sure whether they apply to your situation.

Dave RoheDave Rohe is a recently retired physio having practiced in New Zealand since 2004.  He originally qualified in the USA, subsequently practicing in Malawi, Egypt and Cambodia prior to emigrating to New Zealand in 2003.  He has enjoyed management positions in pediatric and adult outpatient facilities as well as taught physiotherapy for 15 years at the University of Georgia.  He is currently living in Parakai with his wife, Sharon Robinson, a local midwife, near his adult children who are working, and one of whom is studying to qualify as a physio through the programme at the University of Otago.  His articles previously appeared in local newspapers in Taranaki and on the blog site sponsored by NZSPT.

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