Let’s get physical therapy

I’m back in Busan, back to a flurry of activity. It’s graduation time, so the streets in my neighborhood were packed with people. Girls giggled with bouquets and boys ran around in fancy black suits. Lunch with co-workers, some administrative stuff about my contract/visa, a few texts and phone calls, lots of hallway conversations.

But the reason I ended my vacation early was to get this rotten shoulder of mine worked on. So first thing in the morning, I went to the hospital to get a more proper diagnosis. This doctor did much more poking and prodding than the one in Malaysia, both physically and verbally. I also showed him my disgusting little elbow trick. When I threw my arm back and it made a loud, multitimbral CRACK the two girls in the room — the nurse and the interpreter — recoiled and yelped. The doctor just laughed, more out of their reaction I think than the sound. Then he kind of nodded, poked around some more, and asked me a lot of questions through the interpreter. He specifically wanted to know more about my drumming.

After all was said and done — I think I’m okay using that cliché in this context — he came up with the same diagnosis as the Langkawi doctor: torn rotator cuff. But he also said I have some unrelated nerve damage that needs to be treated. My drumming and my age have taken their toll. The good news is that both can be treated at the same time with physical therapy. If all goes well, I shouldn’t need surgery.

So right away I was off to PT. I was led by the therapist to a bed behind a curtain. Her English wasn’t great, but we soldiered through. Her: “OK, we’re going to hit.” Me: “Hit? Okay, what do I hit?” Her: “Here, lie down and we hit for 15 minutes.” Me: “Oh, you mean heat. OK.” After 15 minutes with the heating pad she climbed on the bed and twisted my arm around, asking me a bunch of questions and telling me things about my shoulder. I understood about half of what she said and pretended to understand the other half.

Then she hooked me up to a godawful machine — the Neuromed II, model TT-300. She attached five or six cups to all the points where I was hurting. She told me it would give a readout of my nerve activity. If you’ve ever touched an electric fence, the kind that keep cows on a farm from escaping, it was kind of like 20 minutes of that. It doesn’t hurt, but it’s not fun. I closed my eyes and imagined that there was some alien creature, made of pure electrical energy, using its fingers as little needles and jolting me with electricity to see how I tick.

She came back and massaged my shoulder in various ways, asking me to tell her when I feel “sick.” It’s kind of an intimate thing, this physical therapy stuff, so we started making small talk — where I work, where she went to school. But she also told me a bit about my body. I’ve got abnormally rounded and unusually muscular shoulders, apparently. I wasn’t sure if that was in relation to Koreans or other waygooks. In terms of the damage, my shoulder is… not separated, but out of balance with my torso, so she was kind of working it back into a comfortable place. She also said that I’ve likely done a lot of damage through drumming and that I should be more careful with my body.

I’ve never had this kind of treatment done, so I don’t know how good it was. But she seemed to really know her stuff, never hurt me once, and appeared to have a good feel for what was going on under all that skin and muscle. That was Day 1. We’ll see how it goes.


4 Responses to “Let’s get physical therapy”

  1. Sounds interesting. Some of her machines aren’t ones I’m too familiar with.

    Keep us posted on your progress.

  2. Physical therapy is weird. They give you heat, then they bash you around, and then they give you the electric stim. By the time you leave, you feel pretty good. I’m glad you’re home safe. What are you going to do about the drumming?

  3. Yeah, I got the heat, then the electric, then the microwave, then the poking around.

    I got the name of the machine wrong. It’s not Neuromed, it’s Physiomed. Yesterday was the TT-300. Today was the Jubilee…

    Not sure what to do about drumming. I’m going to have to see how therapy goes, then what the doctor says when it’s done. But I can’t imagine playing for another three months at least. Beyond that who knows, but it does have me worried. I think I’d have to have a significant change in lifestyle to keep going, by that I mean take better care of my body.

  4. Nice site!! Will definitely visit soon..

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