Yesterday I began physical therapy on my left shoulder. I’m sure that you’re all thinking “What stupid thing did you say to your wife, and did she hit you with a chair or a two-by-four?” Nothing of the kind took place, I assure you. After eleven years of marriage, I’ve learned to say stupid things when there are no easily lifted, makeshift weapons around.  

In fact, I have no idea how I hurt my shoulder. And that’s the lousy thing about getting to your 50s. You wake up one day and things are broken, strained, or not working properly. I remember when my appendix became unruly and had to be separated from the well-behaved organs of my body. I thought I pulled a muscle doing yard work (hint: once you cross a certain age, you can pull a muscle reaching for the remote control).

A few days later I’m in the hospital with a surgeon smiling from ear to ear telling me the appendix he pulled out of me was, and this is a direct quote, “a State Fair, Grand Prize winner of an inflamed appendix!” It was like he had won some sort of prize himself among the appendix-pulling wing of the healthcare industry. I imagine he has my appendix in a jar and shows it to dinner guests and the guys at his golf club on a regular basis.

Back to my shoulder, it’s been unruly and in pain for weeks, so my doctor sent me to PT. It didn’t start out well as I got there on time (Twenty minutes before my appointment like they asked) and the doors were locked and the lights out. Ten minutes later a therapist arrives, visibly embarrassed that none of the front office staff are at work yet.

Once we worked through that awkwardness, she started treating me. The first step was for her to assess how bad my injury was. I said, “It’s pretty bad.” She said that wasn’t a sufficient diagnosis and that I would have to run through a series of tests. Nobody has ever enjoyed a series of tests. For a moment, I thought she had a Darth Vader voice when she said, “series of tests.”

As you can imagine, the series of tests involved moving my arm and shoulder until they hurt while she took measurements and recorded them. Sometimes, she would say things like, “I see” and “That’s interesting” while she took measurements. She also included the very scientific phrase, “hmm” in there as well.

When she was finished she said, “something something rotator cuff something something inflamed something something partial tear words something something muscle something something and on top of that something something six weeks of therapy.”

As you can see English wasn’t her first language (she spoke Medical) and I didn’t have a Medical to English dictionary. But later I was able to translate from Medical to Jeff and this is what she said: “The mechanisms that make up my shoulder have been compromised by some sort of malfeasance and I will be spending three days a week with the physical therapists so they can reinstate law and order in my left upper torso region.”  

Next, we went to the arm/shoulder manipulation phase. This was fairly easy. She told me to relax, took my arm, and started moving it in all sorts of directions. She kept me distracted with chit-chat so I wouldn’t be on guard when she moved it in some unnatural way that caused me to want to cry (I didn’t). Overall, it wasn’t too bad.

Then she had me do exercises while she entered data about my pain and lack of crying so the next therapist would know how to sufficiently increase the level of torture.

After she finished all the manipulations, movements, and recording of the data, she said we made progress as my arm went from 75 to 100. I wasn’t sure if that was in inches, nautical miles, or hectares so I asked what she meant. She said it was degrees movement and I felt pretty dumb. She typed something else in her computer. Probably a note to the next therapist, “This guy is an idiot.”

Getting old isn’t easy. But it can be entertaining.

Carry on, Citizens!