A First Hand Patient Account: How Physical Therapy Changed My Life

"Physical Therapy after injury is imperative. (Your doctor may disagree, but don’t listen.)"

Article

As a busy mother, writer, and teacher, I appreciate the ability to find reliable information when making important decisions, especially those regarding my health. I’m writing this testimonial for three reasons: (1) to provide you with insider information from someone who has suffered an injury, (2) because I wish I’d had this article to read a few months ago, and (3) to acknowledge that Alec Levesque and the fantastic team at HARTZ Physical Therapy Lancaster East have restored my mobility with their expertise. My only regret is that I waited too long to seek their services because my doctor told me that physical therapy wasn’t necessary.   

Back Story

On July 23, 2021, I broke my left foot (it was not roller derby related, but that’s what I told my students and they believed me). After speaking with my orthopedic doctor who diagnosed it as a Jones Fracture, I decided to try natural healing even though I knew it would take longer to mend than most other breaks, and I might have to resort to surgery if it didn’t heal on its own. I left the office with an Aircast and crutches, high hopes, and instructions to not bear any weight on my foot for at least six weeks which turned into ten weeks.

My x-rays on October 1, 2021, indicated that I could begin walking on my Aircast and slowly transition to a sneaker.  By October 29, my foot was completely healed, and I no longer needed the Aircast. Walking without it after wearing it for so long proved difficult and a little terrifying.

At the last appointment with my orthopedic doctor, I inquired about physical therapy.  I had done the “deep dive” online and read that PT was a good idea since I had been in my Aircast for 14 weeks and was obviously walking differently than I had before.

His simple reply was, “You don’t really need that.”

I pride myself on being tough, so I responded, “Okay.”

Excited to finally be free of my Aircast but a bit nervous, I walked gingerly around my workplace, a sprawling 50-acre high school campus. Because I worked with students all over the building, I walked a lot and climbed many stairways. By the end of a school day, I was frustrated and in pain. Going down stairs was especially troublesome; I opted to do one step at a time in order to avoid pain in my knee which was tedious and embarrassing. I researched YouTube videos again for helpful exercises. While there are some informative videos, it’s not the equivalent to one-on-one care from a physical therapist with a plan designed especially for me, but I didn’t want to appear weak or suggest my orthopedic doctor was wrong.

As weeks passed and the holiday season arrived, I was still not back to my pre-injury condition.  I attempted low impact HIIT workouts, but many of the exercises still hurt, especially squats and jumps. In addition, I still couldn’t walk normally on staircases, and long distances were nearly impossible. I chaperoned a field trip to Washington, D.C. in late November and walked five miles. On the way home, I was in so much pain that I decided to call HARTZ the next day.  I had been a patient a few years back, and they had been awesome. I felt better once I made the decision and acknowledged that it wasn’t about being impatient or babying myself; it was a logical step because my quality of life was diminished.

In December, I consulted with Alec at HARTZ Physical Therapy Lancaster East. At this point, I needed a prescription from my family doctor for insurance purposes which required an appointment and an office visit. It would have been so much easier had my orthopedic doctor just recommended the consultation in October when I had inquired. He could have at least easily made a recommendation for me to consider PT.

So now it’s February, seven months after my injury, and I’m finally back to where I began in terms of strength and mobility. In addition, I have a complete set of exercises to continue at home with proper mechanics that I learned from professional therapists (sorry YouTube!). I can easily accomplish any of the workouts I did before I broke my foot without pain or fear. I would venture to say that my form is even better now as I’m more conscious of exercises that improve my balance and flexibility as well as strengthen the muscles necessary to keep my knee pain free.

If you have any pain, whether it’s the result of injury, surgery, or strain – listen to your body (instead of your doctor) and seek help. You should retain the deciding vote on whether or not to try physical therapy. Finding the best therapist is quite simple. 

Everyone at HARTZ is friendly, knowledgeable, and kind. I will never hesitate to return if I ever need care in the future. After all, roller derby is a dangerous sport (wink, wink).

~ Dana K., Past Patient, Lancaster-East office