October is National Physical Therapy Month! Bilingual Information Specialist Marta Garcia had plenty of professional experience with PT but this Summer, she got to know PT from the patient side after having a hip replaced. We sat down with Marta to talk about what role PT played in getting her back on her feet!
Before your surgery, what did you know about PT?
I had quite a bit of professional experience with PT. Before I joined the NARIC team, I worked as a recreational therapist in a skilled nursing setting working with both older adults and young children. I worked closely with the PTs in the centers, as recreational therapy can support physical therapy. I felt that I had a good understanding of what they did and I have always had a deep respect for the PTs I have worked with over the years. After joining NARIC, I learned quite a bit about the research and development of new therapies and interventions!
So this was your first experience with PT from the patient’s side. What were those first sessions like?
Within hours of waking up from my surgery, the PTs came to my bedside, got me out of bed, and had me walking! Every day that I was in the hospital, the PTs would come to my room, help me walk, and help me complete exercises that would strengthen the muscles in my hip and thigh. After I moved to the acute rehab center, I worked with PTs for 1-3 hours each day – either going through specific exercises like squats or practicing walking up and down stairs. They would also constantly remind me to keep my limitations in mind: Not bending my hip beyond 90 degrees, keeping my surgery site dry, no twisting of my torso, and I also could not cross my legs.
Could you tell you were making progress?
Yes! Thanks to my PTs, I was able to progress very quickly. Part of my physical therapy was working towards the golden ticket. To receive my golden ticket, I had to be able to perform certain tasks safely, without help from a therapist, and without breaking my limitations. This ticket let the staff know I could get dressed, walk to the dining room with a walker, and use the bathroom on my own. The golden ticket was also a sign that I was progressing quickly and safely enough to go home. I was determined and was able to get that golden ticket a little over two weeks after my surgery.
When you got out of the rehab hospital, what role did PT play at home?
Once I arrived home, I received therapy twice a week for two weeks from a PT associated with home rehabilitation support services and a nurse came by once a week from a home health care organization to monitor my incision. The PT showed me new exercises and how to do things around my home without breaking my limitations, including getting in and out of the car and entering and exiting the shower.
How was outpatient therapy different from the therapy you received in the hospital?
In outpatient therapy, I continued to strengthen the muscles around my hip and in my thigh. The therapists gave me new assignments every week so that my healing would continue to progress. They also would stretch my muscles not only to alleviate soreness and tenseness in the muscles themselves, but to also help increase the range of motion in my leg. Eight weeks after my surgery, my limitations were lifted and the therapists were able to increase the amounts and types of exercises we would do. They also pushed the stretching further than they had before.
How long before you were able to get back to your “regularly scheduled programming?”
With the help of my care team, I was getting back to my favorite activities within a few weeks. I was able to start doing certain things independently again within three weeks after the surgery. At about five weeks, I eased back into driving myself, first around the parking lot then venturing out farther. I returned to NARIC within 7 weeks after surgery. I switched from a walker to a cane in 5 weeks, and by 12 weeks I only used the cane for long walks. Fourteen weeks after my surgery, I only use the cane for situations where I will be walking a long distance in a crowd, such as at a recent NFL game or if I am unsure of my footing, such as when I was walking around a grassy field in Antietam with friends recently.
Sounds like you had a great team to work with!
Not only am I grateful for the hard work of all the PTs I have met in the last few months, but my respect for physical therapists and how hard they work has grown exponentially. Yes, they made me work hard, but they also made me laugh and look forward to my sessions. Having the total hip replacement surgery helped to relieve the pain and helped with the osteoarthritis and degenerative bone disease. But, the physical therapy helped me to heal faster and to get back to my regular routine at a quicker rate than would have been possible otherwise.
To learn more about physical therapy, visit the American Physical Therapy Association and make sure you #ChoosePT. Don’t forget to check out this edition of reSearch on the use of physical therapy in rehabilitation.