Puppy Love

Physical therapy rehabilitates shoulder following surgery.

After nearly 50 years in the music business, which included singing professionally in England and hosting karaoke DJ shows in the United States, Denise Baxter, 74, finally retired last year. She wasn’t able to enjoy retirement much, however, due to a bum right shoulder, which she injured further during a puppy-
sitting incident in January.

Photo by Nerissa Johnson.

(L to R) Andre Lacerda; PTA;
Jonathan Wright, PTA; Denise Baxter and Jennifer Young, DPT, discuss Denise’s rehabilitation following shoulder surgery.

“I had trouble with my shoulder for a long time, but I didn’t know what was wrong with it,” Denise relates. “Over the years, I underwent various treatments, including epidurals and trigger injections, but I had been putting off additional treatment.

“Then one day while my husband was out of town, I was watching our little puppy, and he got away from me and started heading for a lake behind our house. I wasn’t thinking of anything except saving my puppy, and when I went down to grab him, I felt my shoulder go. The pain was immediate.”

That immediate pain was the result of a torn rotator cuff, which the Mayo Clinic defines as “a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint and keep the head of the upper arm firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder.”

The muscles of the rotator cuff include the supraspinatus, which holds the upper arm bone in place and keeps the arm stable; the infraspinatus, which allows for extension and rotation; the teres minor and the subscapularis.

Injuries to the rotator cuff generally occur from repeatedly performing overhead motions. They often occur in people who perform jobs that require that motion, such as painters and carpenters.

Injuries to the rotator cuff are also common in sports such as baseball and tennis. The risk of a rotator cuff injury increases with age, and as Denise found out, they often require surgery to repair the damage.

“After I suffered the injury to my shoulder I went to a neurosurgeon, who ordered an MRI,” Denise relates. “He called me afterward and said, I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but you’re going to need surgery.

That surgery was performed on February 14. Following surgery, it was recommended that Denise undergo physical therapy. Thinking ahead to that phase of her recovery, Denise already had a place in mind for her therapy when her doctor recommended it.

“I realize surgeons have places in mind to send their patients for physical therapy after surgery, but I had heard about Barr Physical Therapy and asked my surgeon to let me go there,” Denise remarks. “I felt blessed when he agreed.”

Meeting Challenges

“Denise first came to us on March 28, six weeks after her surgery,” recalls Jennifer Young, DPT, of Barr & Associates Physical Therapy. “Her range of motion was very limited, and her pain was six on a scale of one to ten. That was with pain medication.

“At that time, Denise couldn’t reach behind her, comb her hair, dress herself, do housework, drive or do other daily activities. And she couldn’t pick up her puppy. She also worried about her husband, whom she cared for. Those things were big challenges for her.”

Dr. Young began Denise’s rehabilitation with manual therapy, including passive range of motion exercises that stretched her shoulder through all directions of joint movement. Eventually, Denise began using a wand to help condition her shoulder for overhead activities. As Denise progressed, Dr. Young began adding resistance to her therapy routine.

“We used resistance bands and weighted bars to increase Denise’s strength,” Dr. Young reports. “We also used tools designed to help stretch her shoulder joint. While we worked on her strength, most of her therapy was dedicated to stretching and improving her range of motion.

“Some of the exercises we used with Denise worked specifically on her shoulder flexion and external rotation and internal rotation. Her doctor really emphasized those movements as well because delays in motions such as rotation are pretty common with rotator cuff repairs.”

Goals Reached

Denise’s last day at Barr & Associates Physical Therapy was June 5. By that time, she had made significant progress with her shoulder rehabilitation.
“Denise’s range of motion was close to eighty percent, which is excellent, and her pain was down to two while using her right arm,” Dr. Young reports. “She was able to groom herself, get dressed, pick up her puppy and do all the things that are important to her.”

“When I first went to Barr Physical Therapy, I explained to Dr. Young that my goal was to regain the ability to drive, to be able to take care of my husband, who had just had knee replacement surgery, and to take care of my puppy,” Denise remembers.

“I also wanted to get off the pain medication. Barr Physical Therapy turned me around. I’m doing really well now with my rebuilt shoulder. My experience at Barr and Associates Physical Therapy was rewarding and a blessing.

“I’m so pleased with the people I worked with. They’re all about their jobs in the professional sense, but they care about people as well. They knew how much I needed to reach my goals, and they got me there.”

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