Fracture Fitness

Senior with broken arm regains independence with physical therapy.

Marie Burdett, 82, retired 20 years ago from a 38-year career in banking and relocated to Florida from her native Chester, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia. Married to her high school sweetheart, she and her husband celebrated their 61st anniversary this past May. It was also in May that Marie had an in-home accident that changed her life dramatically.

Marie Burdett underwent physical therapy at Barr & Associates Physical Therapy in Ormond Beach after fracturing her left arm.

With the help of the Barr & Associates team, Marie regained near full range
of motion in her left arm

“I tripped while walking to the front door,” she recalls. “I’m not sure what I tripped over, because it’s a tile floor and there is no rug. It just happened, and it happened fast. I don’t remember anything other than I tripped and fell on my left arm.

“My arm was stretched out when I fell, like I was trying to brace myself for the fall. I went to the emergency room right away, and they said my arm was broken. They put it in a sling, then I went to see an orthopedic doctor.”

With her arm in a sling, Marie’s movement was restricted. Suddenly, she required help doing just about everything, including getting dressed, taking a shower, washing her hair and keeping up with her household chores.

“Having my arm in a sling got in the way of everything I automatically do every day,” confirms Marie, who depended mostly on family for assistance. “My arm was in a sling for about two weeks, then I was able to take it out, and at that point I just had to be careful with it.

“I never had a lot of pain with the break, just some discomfort, which was fortunate. Then the orthopedic doctor who treated my arm said I was ready for rehab. He asked me where did I want to go for therapy, and I told him I wanted to go to Barr Physical Therapy.”

Marie was familiar with Barr & Associates Physical Therapy because a loved one went there previously when he needed therapy for an orthopedic condition. Her loved one had an excellent experience and achieved a positive outcome at the center.

“Barr Physical Therapy did a nice job with him, and I liked the people there, so I wanted to go there, too,” Marie relates.

A Therapeutic Plan

“When we first saw Marie, she had a fracture of the upper part of her left arm,” notes Joni Robertson, PT, the physical therapist who worked with Marie. “Her arm was stiff and weak, and she had difficulty performing activities of daily living. Her ability to use her arm independently was compromised, and she couldn’t get a comfortable range of motion. We developed a therapy plan based on those parameters.”

Joni reports that her goals for everyone in physical therapy are to get them as highly functional as possible for whatever it is they do during the course of a normal day. Her goal with Marie, she adds, was to get her back to functional independence.

“Our aim was to enable Marie to perform her daily activities with greater ease and less discomfort, reduce her dependence on family members, and improve her quality of life,” Joni elaborates. “We wanted her to be able to wash her hair, get her arm into the sleeve of a shirt, and unload a dishwasher and put the plates on the shelf, all on her own.”

To achieve those objectives, Joni created a therapeutic plan that began with manual therapy to gently massage the tissue of Marie’s arm to prepare it for movement. Various exercises were then added to her regimen to improve her range of motion.

“At first, Marie couldn’t raise her arm on her own,” observes Joni. “To regain this ability, we used a wand and let her push it into different, safe ranges of motion. Once she had the strength to do that without pain, she started using her muscles more to get into the higher ranges of motion. Now, she can raise her arm without difficulty or discomfort.”

As soon as Marie was able, Joni moved her to an upper body ergometer, which resembles a bicycle for the arms. When Marie first started, she was unable to move her left arm enough to turn the bicycle wheel.

“I put my hand on the bike and helped Marie move the wheel around so her arm could get used to doing that motion,” states Joni. “As we kept going, Marie was able to do a little more, and I could feel her adding a little more push with her arm. Now, she can bike on her own at a pretty decent pace.

“Currently, Marie is continuing with many therapeutic activities, including exercising, stretching and working the arm bike. She’s also working on increasing her strength in the diagonal plane, which involves moving objects from side to side across the front of her body. We’re also working on getting her to swing her arms when she walks.”

Joni says Marie has made great strides in her therapy, and much of the future work is aimed at building her endurance. With a broken arm, Marie became relatively inactive, so Joni is increasing her activity gradually.

“Marie is now able to dress herself, put away her dishes and do many other activities she wasn’t able to do before,” offers Joni. “She can carry her purse in her left hand and do most of her chores without the help of her family. She’s progressing very well, and our ongoing goal is to make sure she uses her arm appropriately.” 

Reaching Her Goals

Joni and the staff at Barr & Associates have been working with Marie two days a week since the end of May to rehab her left arm. Marie is proud of how much she’s achieved since her therapy session began.

“I’m really pleased with the progress I’ve made and how the staff at Barr handled it,” says Marie. “They did exercises with my arm, stretching it, getting it to move to the side and getting my hand to go straight up, which I can do now.

“Joni measured me last Wednesday and the range of motion in my left arm is now about eighty, maybe eighty-five percent. I don’t know exactly. What I do know is that I can raise it up with no problem. I couldn’t do that when I first started therapy. I’ve come a long way.”

According to the plan Joni created, Marie still has five physical therapy sessions at Barr and Associates left before her scheduled course of treatment ends. Marie is grateful for Joni’s hard work and that of everyone at Barr & Associates. She’s reaching her goals with their help.

“I was a little scared when I started this because my arm was broken, and I’ve never had to do anything like this before,’’ Marie confides. “I didn’t know what was going to happen. But Joni answered all my questions and eased all my worries.

“She’s doing a wonderful job. She’s a really nice person and couldn’t have been more professional. And she really cares. She’s exceeded my expectations.

“The staff at Barr and Associates Physical Therapy have done a lot for me and made me feel human again. I really appreciate them. Everybody at Barr wants to help. I absolutely recommend Barr and Associates Physical Therapy to anyone.”

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