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By Staff | May 8, 2009

Many have asked how my shoulder is doing, so it must be time for a progress report.

Some weeks ago my left shoulder was subjected to arthroscopic surgery. This is a procedure that was invented by a guy named Art, which is good because “ralphoscopic surgery” doesn’t sound nearly as spiffy.

I visited my orthopedic surgeon two weeks after the surgery. One of his comments really stood out.

“Now, here’s what I want you to do,” he said. “When you get home, I want you to find a thick chunk of leather and put it between your teeth.”

Being possessed of a naturally curious nature, I asked the doc what’s up with the hunk of leather.

“Because you’ll need something to bite down on when you do your in-home stretching exercises on that shoulder!”

He then uttered some of the most loathsome words known to mankind: “You’ll also need some physical therapy.”

I am not unfamiliar with the concept of PT, a set of initials that actually stands for pain and torture. I endured several sessions of PT after my manure pit accident 21 years ago.

I found that half an hour in PT passes at about the same speed as a week.

The accident landed me in a hospital bed for a solid month. PT was prescribed to help bring my body back to its formerly rock-hard, triathlete-trim condition.

Just kidding! I have never even been close to such condition. But it seemed that no one in PT was aware of this.

Physical therapists are among the kindest, most tender-hearted people in the world. Their top priority is to prevent even the tiniest atom of suffering from reaching their patients.

Ha! That might be true in some parallel physical therapy universe, but not in this one. I was constantly told by my PT people to “suck it up” or to “shake it off.” The phrase “no pain, no gain” is tattooed on every physical therapist’s arm.

The equipment physical therapists use on their victims is as ghastly as their methods. They employ stairs, weights, exercise balls and – horrors! – a mini-trampoline!

In a matter of days I was deemed “good to go” and was basically told to go home and “suck it up” and “shake it off.” Which I did, although the first time I carried a salt block I couldn’t help but notice that it was a lot heavier than its advertised 50 pounds.

This latest round of pain and torture is different.

Instead of general strengthening, they are focusing on a particular joint. Which one? My left shoulder! The one that the surgeon mucked around in and hurts enough already!

I dutifully reported to my local PT person, a guy I’ll call “Larry.” Larry appears to be a kind and genial man, the sort of guy you might invite to a backyard barbecue. But looks can be deceiving.

“This is great!” exclaimed Larry when I related my doctor’s comment regarding the thick hunk of leather. “We’re going to work the bejeebers out of this shoulder!”

I don’t know much, but something told me that Larry’s enthusiastic response wasn’t exactly a good omen.

Larry had me lie on a padded table. He grabbed my left arm and cranked it around in an unfamiliar fashion. I winced.

“Does that hurt?” asked Larry. A little, I said.

“Good!” boomed Larry, “Because we’re going to do it three more times!”

As he cranked my arm the second time, I said, “I’ve changed my mind about this whole ‘therapy’ business! What say you just waterboard me instead?”

During the third crank, I blurted, “OK! I’ll tell you where Bin Laden is hiding! And I’ll give you the nuclear launch codes to boot!”

In the midst of the fourth cranking I mumbled hoarsely, “My wife is part of a sleeper cell! I swear, it’s true! She’s the only person I know who takes pre-bedtime naps!”

I mentioned to Larry that we have a niece named Sarah who has always been the sweetest, most even-tempered child.

She is also currently working toward the goal of becoming a physical therapist.

“Funny,” I said to Larry, “We never figured Sarah to be a sadist.”

“You’d be surprised,” he replied, twisting my arm in another new direction as he grinned like a Chucky Doll. Good thing I am civilized and gentlemanly else I would have leapt from the table and wiped that Chucky grin right off his face.

As I left the pain and torture session, Larry advised me to keep the affected shoulder active. “Hang from monkey bars, play a game of catch. Anything that makes it hurt is good!”

I didn’t bother to tell him that having a game of catch is out of the question. It seems that someone has bitten a hole clean through my trusty old fielder’s glove.

Nelson is a freelance writer from Volga, S.D. Reach him by e-mail at jjpcnels@itctel.com

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