2007-01-19 / Columnists

Eye On Physical Therapy

Commentary By Dr. Tim Rohrs, DPT


Happy New Year! A few years back my wife, son and I would take my mother to the mall on Friday evenings. We would get a bite to eat at the food court and do a little shopping. Not so much buying but window shopping and walking around.

After awhile, my mother started to beg off claiming increased knee pain from arthritis. Well, the first two times I let her slide and let her stay home. Finally, I gave her my opinion on her decision to stay home.

I told her that each time she decided to stay at home because the pain in her knees was bad, she was making a decision about where she would be in five years. Each time she made the choice to sit and relax instead of walking, shopping and living, she was letting her knees, legs, heart and lungs get weaker; her joints stiffer. In five years time she would either be in a wheelchair or using a walker. She finally decided to get back to the mall and living, despite the pain

Arthritis pain is not going to go away magically. If you are waiting for the day when you wake up and the pain will have disappeared, you will be waiting a long time. It's just not going to happen. But, while you are waiting for it, and sitting and resting, the rest of your body is losing strength, flexibility, lung capacity and endurance.

I often use this tale to motivate my patients to do what is necessary to maintain their independence. I can usually tell when my story has been successful and when it has not. I told it just five minutes before sitting to write this column.

After finishing my story, my patient said, "Well, how much shopping can you really do? Many people don't have that much money to shop every week." That is when I realized that this pa-tient did not have the first clue as to the moral of my story.

I know that arthritis pain can be bad. I also know that with treatment it can be managed. For those reading this article and who are suffering with arthritis, your motivation and willpower can keep you living the lifestyle you want longer.

For those with loved ones who suffer, don't let them give up. The progression from walking to cane to walker to wheelchair can happen in as little as three years. If they are still walking, now is the time to push them.

Today, they have a choice to walk or rest. A few years from now they will no longer have that choice.

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