To my dismay, I have become way too familiar with the physical therapy clinic. Because I am a highly active person who also happens to have inherited arthritic tendencies, I have become a fairly regular visitor at PT over the past ten years. The sessions have sometimes been related to the arthritis issues but sometimes are a result of overuse or accidents that have occurred because I like to move. No matter why I am going there, I am grateful that I have access to physical therapy (even if it is a literal pain and a disruption to my day). I am also finding the clinic to be an interesting classroom for the study of human beings.
When I walk in for any appointment, I take in the big room with all the equipment and the various combinations of therapist/patient at work. It's odd to me that, although this is a medical establishment, privacy is not a priority. The room is open and the conversations are accessible for anyone in the room. My current therapy is entirely related to the joint replacement surgery that I had on my right hand in early March. I am primarily ensconced at a table in the "hand section" of the office. I mostly sit at the table while my hand is massaged and manipulated, electrified and examined, heated and cooled. I do WWF, or make with the chit chat with the therapist or sometimes other patients who are also having their hands entertained. But mostly? Mostly I just watch the people there.
People come in with their broken body parts, each broken in its own way and each significant to the owner. But to the physical therapists, each body part seems to be just that - a broken part of the machine. Isolate the problem and attack. Most of the PT's, frankly, look bored. As in, here I am repeating these same old knee exercises for, what, the 5th time today? the 10th time this week? the 100th time this year? They stare off out the window or make jokes with the other PT's while their victim groans their way through the exercises.
The patients are a diverse lot. They are a collection of bodies, more over 40 years old than under 40. Most seem perplexed or uncomfortable with the exercises. It's almost as if they don't know that part of their body very well. That last description includes me. The patients come in all sizes and shapes. Very few fit the cultural profile for attractive but they all come with bodies that are functional and in need of some kind of repair. I observe some patients just resting on tables or enduring (enjoying?) some hands on therapy. Awkward. Some are working out on machines or with big exercise balls or long rubber tubing. Yes, you read that right. Long rubber tubing that you use to stretch and strengthen muscles (it has been part of some PT sessions in my past). Most appear not particularly graceful nor comfortable with what they are asked to do but they plod their way through it. I am more interested in what their faces say than in what their bodies do. Faces say things like, "You want me to do what?" or "Well, this is fun!" or "Is it time to quit yet?". Or maybe those are just the thoughts in my own head.
When I walk into the room, I tend to distance myself from the others, as if somehow I am above this. What's that about? I am self conscious and wonder what other people watchers are noting about me. I don't know why this place makes me highly uncomfortable. Perhaps it speaks to vulnerability and flaws? That makes sense to me.
What's your take on physical therapy? Thumbs up or thumbs down?