Wednesday, November 19, 2008


During my second physical therapy session, an older woman lay on the bed next to mine moaning something about "torture." I said that I had felt that way about the work on my shoulder several years ago, and she seemed pleased that someone understood her pain. "It's torture. They torture you," she continued.

I was speaking only from memory, from when my shoulders hurt so much and were so weak that I had to lift my arm with the other hand. Therapy had to be undertaken gradually because anything that caused pain (movement) would make the condition worse.

At first we eased into it, but now I recall that at some point when I felt better the therapist picked up the pace, adding repetitions, new exercises, and resistance—a slow introduction to what my neighbor might call "torture."

During the first session for my knee, I did 10 repetitions; during the second, two sets of 10. Wednesday she told me to do three sets of 10. Not sure that I had heard her correctly with my hearing problems, I said, "You mean 30?"

"Yes, 30. But three sets of 10 sounds better."

Even if it doesn't feel better.

Perhaps hoping to demonstrate that, deep down, physical therapists are sadists, I said, half-jokingly, "So next time we're going to do 40?"

"No," she said.


"No," she said. "Next time we're going to add weights."

I could almost hear the cackle I was sure she had had to suppress.

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