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Aug 29

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Physiotherapy – A Peculiar Science and A Painful Art

Physiotherapy is that branch of medicine which is singularly unique and painfully peculiar. It is a form of grave but legitimised torture which is subtly masked by the clever and thoughtful usage of terms such as ‘promotion of mobility’; ‘restoration of functional ability’; ‘enhancing the quality of life’; and ‘physical intervention’. But for the term ‘physical intervention’ lending a suspicious impression of being a wolf in sheep’s clothing or the proverbial cat amongst the pigeons, the rest of phrases are wisely conjured with an objective of instilling a sense of well being and even a quiet semblance of confidence. After all, when a Physical Therapist states with extreme assurance that he would be ‘enhancing the quality of your life’, one might as well be forgiven in nursing a joyous hope of being greeted in an expansive lobby by a beautiful damsel, comfortably placed in the lush confines of plush upholstery and being served with the drink (preferably not non-alcoholic) of his/her choice. While all the time an enthusiastic and sincere school of fish keep nibbling at willing toes to enrich the whole idyllic setting. Throw in a favourite Pink Floyd LP into the fray and one possesses a crystal clear understanding of the paradise that Milton lost! On the whole an experience that would well and truly qualify as being at once uplifting and quality-of-life-enhancing!

Alas if only wishes were horses, beggars would surely not just ride but gallop! When a physiotherapist (he/she is the same as a physical therapist) exclaims your ‘functional ability’ would be ‘restored’, be warned and be very afraid. When you hear that you are going to receive a ‘promotion of mobility’, it means that you are just a few days or even a few hours (depending upon the vigorousness and intent of your physiotherapist) away from attaining ‘Nirvana’ in immobility! ‘Physical intervention’ constitutes an unwanted intrusion by rock-like hands over various creaky joints and brittle bones. More often than not this exercise is undertaken with the sole objective of testing the dexterity and competency of a surgeon who has just completed a surgery and has referred the unfortunate patient to a physiotherapist (a blatant and explicit case of controlled and emotionless sadism). The primary or key feature of this manoeuvre involves the most diligent, devoted and dedicated efforts of the physiotherapist to break a bone that is in the process of being set (having once been unsettled), or one that has already been set.

The act of physiotherapy is inevitably rendered incomplete and inadequate without the accompaniment of piercing voluntary and involuntary shrieks, volley of innovative abuses, out-of-tune prayer notes and impressionable wails. Invariably these assortment of sounds are produced by the person whose body is being ravaged and not by the physiotherapist, unless in a fit of uncontrollable rage, a tormented soul sums up great courage to chew off the nearest part of the anatomy of his/her torturer. Recorded cases of such imaginative instances are almost non-existent, even though the author has made sincere efforts to unearth them. For example, upon typing “Physiotherapist bitten by a patient” (of course without the italics), the Google search engine responds in a jiffy with results on Page 1 which have “The Clinical Management of Snake Bites” at the very top; “Rehabilitation of a Paraplegic Kitten with Acute Depression” in the middle and “Temporomandibular Joint Treatments & Procedures” at the very end. “Temporomandibular”, might in all probability be that very tempo in which Mandrake and Lothar absconded to Xanadu!

Some of the utterances in agony produced within these torture chambers are worth recording for posterity. At once blasphemous and bewildering; silly and sympathetic, they all are the necessary and essential outcomes of remorseless pulling, twisting, pushing, bending, and other indescribable convoluted manoeuvres. The most commonly heard, accepted and admired woes of anguish include “Bloody hell, you are squeezing them”; “For the love of God, stop pulling”; “You are supposed to give me a hot compress and not dump me inside a boiler”; “That one hurt…it hurt..hurts…it is really hurting”; “Don’t tell me you just pushed it in”!! Some of the more deeply affected patients have even attempted to get themselves a practising degree in this violent field purely with the motive of giving back what they have received, discounting the near impossible probability of even one of such determined individuals meeting their own tormentor at some point in time – lying quivering on the bed with eyes opened wide and silently begging for mercy.

At this point in time, it would be apposite to direct our concentration towards the imparter of pain – the physiotherapist himself (himself includes herself as well). These people are trained to ignore pleadings, imbibe expletives and induce fear. Possessing a saintly smile at the worst of times (an aspect which is thoroughly nightmarish), they are the masters of inappropriateness when it comes to the usage of words. While trying to interchange the position and placement of your left leg with the right leg, a physiotherapist will liltingly, lovingly and laughingly murmur “RELAX”, while you would be howling, and hollering the fact that it was nature’s fault in positioning your right leg where it originally was and that it cannot be shifted to the left (and vice-versa) with or without immense discomfiture. Twisting your hand behind your shoulders and trying to hyper-extend the same so as to try and make them touch the floor (even the legendary ‘Stretcho’ of the Fantastic 4 fame would be hard pressed to achieve such a feat), a physio therapist, employing a motherly voice will genuinely enquire as to whether “you are in pain”, even as tears of unbearable ache and uninhibited anger will cascade down your cheeks. There are some occasions when words just fail one!

There are some physiotherapists of the musical genre. In the author’s humble opinion these are the trickiest ones to tackle and the ones about whom one has to be extremely wary. Converting their therapy rooms into veritable music studious, they would be immersed in the strains of a medley of melody enveloping the room in all directions. When a favourite peppy number makes a sudden and glorious entry, these connoisseurs of music are known to break into a spontaneous dance which would put to shame even the exploits of the late great Patrick Swayze in ‘Dirty Dancing’ and the very much alive John Travolta in ‘Grease’. Woe betide the poor creature lying in the bed, whose arm, leg or any other body part happens to be in the hand of the music lover at that very moment. Terrified fellow sufferers have described such scenes in great detail and philosophical depth. One such account is narrated here:

“All of a sudden, the soothing and mellifluous strains of Mehdi Hassan made way for the raunchy rendition of “In And Out Of Love” by Armin Van Buren. The doctor (there is a raging debate in the medical world currently on the applicability of the term ‘destroyers’ to these individuals as opposed to ‘doctors’), who was in the process of twisting the wrist of his screaming patient at an improbable angle with his eyes firmly and serenly closed, suddenly opened his eyes wide. As a beaming smile decorated his otherwise sombre face, his whole disposition underwent a remarkable transformation. Pointing at the ceiling with the index finger of his free hand, he slowly started to wriggle his hips first in a clockwise and later on in an anti-clockwise movement. All the while he was firmly holding onto the hapless wrist with his other hand. Then much to my horror and shock, he executed a move of unbelievable dexterity somersaulting twice and with a wild yelp finished this calisthenics by standing on his head. The wretched creature who just a few minutes back was at least lying on the table, even though crying out in pain now found one half of himself hanging out of the bed. His position was exactly the inverse of what he had earlier occupied. He now was staring at the crazed eyes of an upside down face while the lower half of him from below the torso was precariously perched on the bad. The maniacal doctor was still holding on to his pained wrists”

I can surely sympathise with the unlucky sufferers as yours truly is also one amongst them. Having undergone a corrective surgery to treat a rare auto-immune disorder going by the exotic name of ‘Synovial Chondromatosis’ plaguing one of my elbows, I am now subjecting an unhappy, unwilling and unforgiving elbow to myriad methods of torture. And yes, being human, I am also bestowed with a threshold limit for gritting my teeth and bearing pain. When the pain barrier breaches the said limit, words having hidden imports and ingenious connotations escape my lips.

It was only yesterday that I yelled “It is already misshapen. Do not twist it further!”

About the author

Venkat

maniacal penchant for books, more books, still more books and lot more books - When I am not watching cricket that is! Love my Scotch and scribble for fun!

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