The Balance Beam

For the past two weeks, I’ve been doing physical therapy for my shoulder, and though it has usually been exquisitely painful the day after, I have been seeing results–the increase in my range of motion has been worth the pain. I can see that it is making a difference, and when we get to the strengthening portion of the rehab, it will really start bearing fruit.

The two PTs introduce a few new things each time I go, and today they had me sort of pedaling what looked like an upside down stationary bike with my hands, and literally climbing the walls with my right arm. I suppose it was more like “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” but it felt like I was climbing Mount Everest. After that, the male PT had me go over to the training table where he’d placed a piece of foam about the width of half a coffee can and roughly four feet long.

“OK,” he said. “I want you to get on the table and lay down on this. You want one end right at your butt and the rest of it directly along your spine.”

“All right.” I said. It looked uncomfortable, but I supposed he knew more about that sort of thing than I did.

I got up on the table and laid down on the foam. It was quite uncomfortable, but didn’t quite get to pain. It was like laying on my back on a slightly padded, round balance beam. I was alarmed to notice right away that it also made my stomach and nether regions start rumbling in a sinister and terrifying manner.

Oh, no, I thought. Not now. Not here. There’s a room full of people here, five of them women. So I did what anyone did, and I clenched up my works with all my might. I probably could have produced a diamond if I’d been sitting on a lump of coal instead of a piece of uncomfortable white foam.

I got through the five minutes on the balance beam, and then it was time for my electroshock and ice therapy. They put these electrode things on my three surgical scars, and then give me some voltage while icing my shoulder. Supposedly it messes with a person’s pain sensors and throws up a road block between the injury and the brain. And it feels weird as hell, especially when taken with the ice.

Fifteen minutes of that, and the male PT removed the ice pack and electrodes from my arm, and the padded block from under my knees.

“You’re done,” he said. “Let’s go for twice next week, too. Maybe three times after that.”

“Ok,” I said, and began my struggle to get off the table (it’s tough when you can only push up with one arm). I swung my legs over the side of the table, and then pushed against the wall a little to help myself sit up.

And that was when it happened. It was like a burst from a minigun. BRAAAP!!!

“Dear GOD!” I cried. “Excuse me!”

“You’re good,” said the PT.

“No, man. That sounded like one of those mortar tube things they use to launch fireworks on the 4th of July…”

From directly behind me, the female PT said “Really, don’t worry about—“

“I’m just gonna go to the lobby and curl up in the fetal position.”

The other three older women getting worked on looked around the room, at the walls, the machines, the door.

“So see you next week, then” said the female PT.

“I don’t know if I can come back,” I said. Then I had to laugh, because life (and my guts)  is just ridiculous sometimes.

“Some of the stuff that happens on these tables…” she said.

“Oh, God, don’t talk about it,” I cried. “I’m gonna be a dinner table conversation tonight.”

“Maybe after dinner,” she said.

I made my appointment and vowed to do anything to stay off that balance beam next week.

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