Despite popular belief that has been perpetuated by popular TV, you do not need to be a barfly, womanizer, or functional alcoholic to maintain a healthy circle of friends; you need only injury yourself and find the nearest physical therapy office. After only a few sessions, the reception staff, therapists, trainers, interns and other patients know you and many details about your life quite well. Perhaps it is the caring nature of those who choose rehabilitation as a career or the innate empathy that is offered to injured people that creates and atmosphere of acceptance and serenity.
The typical Physical Therapy office is a magical, mystical place filled with colored putties and odd machines, the purpose of which you can only loosely surmise. There are kindly wizards who will zap your injuries with lightning and other benevolent assistants clad in identical vestments, presumably undergoing some sort of neophytic wizarding ritual. Aside from those who provide the care, the office is normally filled with the everyday citizens of all the neighboring kingdoms; trolls, goblins, gremlins, kobolds, gnolls, creeping oozlings, ogres, bandits, brigands, nameless horrors and even a unicorn or two.
Combining a bunch of strangers experiencing varying amounts of pain in one small location seems like a bad idea. I can imagine a scenario where someone would go ballistic from acute pains causing more pain to themselves and nearby pain sufferers. The person going berserk might topple some heavy equipment and scare the older patients. The cataclysmic cascade of pain would create a veritable chaos unseen since the dark ages. Fortunately, despite mentally debilitating pain and discomfort, the patients in a PT office are generally benign. Whether it be the the overtly friendly staff, bright lighting, or subtle background music, something keeps the place surprisingly upbeat. I tend to stay optimistic as I know that wallowing in a mire of sadness and self-pity won’t make my arm any more flexible; maybe this is the prevailing mentality for all patients. Maybe the wizards cast a happy spell every morning; I don’t know, I’ve never caught them in their robes.
The exercises you are given are tedious and irritating, mostly because you feel so awkward doing them. Normally, bicep curls would not bother me, but when you are grimacing and awkwardly jerking around a bar that weighs a paltry 3 pounds, you feel quite silly. You are also provided a little timer that beeps when you are supposed to stop/switch an exercise. This is your inanimate guide to a PT session, chirping loudly when you are to move along. The therapists actually do very little during the first 80% of each session and spend most of their time floating about like factory foreman, pointing out flaws in technique or suggesting you, “slow down”. I think some of the wizards underestimate my magical aptitude.
During this time, you are often doing a repetitive motion that requires almost no cognitive processing power, leaving your mind to wander and think about the mysteries of the universe. My metaphysical pondering is often interrupted by a nearby goblin asking me how I got injured and then launching into an unsolicited 22 minute rant about how they got injured. I am usually bored/tired enough to play along, commiserating and saying, “aww” when appropriate. This seems to be the M.O. for the unchaperoned portion of a PT session. Patients ramble quietly too each other, reminiscing about pre-injury days until their beeper goes off/runs out of batteries. The wizards do not like it when the beeper is not silenced immediately which is understandable, as it is pretty damn annoying.
This week, I met a man who has been in therapy for 8 months because, and I quote, “someone tried to kill him but didn’t”. His story is quite compelling; he was mugged at a gas station for the $8 in his wallet and left bloodied for 2 hours until another customer found him. He had trauma to his neck, back, left forearm, and right leg. He is a fan of Real Madrid and told me he lost $500 to his nephew in a holiday-time bet that they would beat local rivals Barcelona. He is a pretty nice dude and I don’t know why someone would want to kill him. I hope the wizards fix him quickly.
Another woman, who seems to have a schedule identical to mine, is recovering from back surgery. She slipped a disk in her back at work (she is a registered nurse and probably has the worst bedside manner on the east coast) and now claims to have horrible burning sensations in both her legs. She moves quite well despite this claim, but does a fine job of whining non-stop throughout her entire appointment. When asked why she wasn’t taking her pain medication, she told them to, “stop trying to make her an addict” and said hydrocodone (Vicodin) would let the doctors, “control her brain.” The wizards clearly dislike her.
I also met the local commander of law; he had injured himself in a high speed horse chase or something. He had already had one knee replaced and was planning to have the other replaced as soon as he recovered from the first. His son plays hockey which, according to this man, was superior to soccer in every possible way. I did not argue with him, because he had a gun and handcuffs. The wizards seemed dismayed that he only came to appointments when he felt like it (which apparently was not very often).
After the social time is over, one of the therapists comes over to you to cast some healing spells and zap you with lightning. The lightning is not too painful, but the other things they do are very, very painful. They will apply heat and then bend your injured extremity at extreme angles. They will make you resist their attempts to bend your joint all about to “test strength”. They will even squeeze, rub, and otherwise man-handle your poor, sore appendage to stimulate nerve activity and blood flow. This goes on for about 25-30 minutes. When they are finally finished with their work, you kind of don’t like wizards for a while, but that feeling wears off when you realize they were actually hurting you for your benefit…somehow.
Twice a week you visit the wizard and meet your new, odd friends in the clean-smelling office. Twice a week you are told the same stories or get minor updates on how many degrees a person can bend something or other. Twice a week you spend money to let someone physically hurt you. It’s a very weird phenomenon, but given my progress thus far, a very necessary one.
The wizards gave me some magical clay to help speed my recovery. It is hard to sculpt, but I tried anyway (since that is probably good therapy). I have included some pictures of its awesomeness below: