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Step by Step: How Physical Therapy Helped Darlene Overcome a Stroke and Severe Arthritis

Darlene was slowing down, and her adult daughters were noticing. Taking the stairs in and out of the house was challenging; she was starting to have some falls, and she could only walk the distance of a grocery store at the very most.

woman in walker

Darlene had a stroke five years earlier, and she was left with some residual weakness on one half of her body. To add to that, Darlene also had advanced osteoarthritis in both her knees and moving was painful. Even one minute of standing was enough to cause pain and make her want to sit back down.

With a history of a stroke and very painful knees, it makes a lot of sense why Darlene would limit her mobility–it hurt, and it was getting to the point where it didn’t always feel safe to get up and move around. But Darlene had something going for her, something that will always trump a history of illness and injury; she had the willingness to try. She was willing to try to improve her body, her balance, and her life. 

At Darlene’s initial online assessment, Dr. Alex tested her strength, balance, and movement to see where we were starting from. One of the tests she performed is called a “Five Times Sit to Stand.” In this test you stand up and sit down five times as quickly as possible. In addition to this test revealing leg strength, it also gives us an indication of fall risk.

At Darelne’s first visit, it took her 21 seconds to complete the Five Times Sit to Stand. This was below average for her age group, indicating she was at risk of falling.

So we went to work. We started with exercises to activate and strengthen her glutes and the side of the hips. These muscles are essential for balance and play a significant role in the mechanics and health of your knees. We worked on stretching the tight muscle groups we found on that first visit and worked on balance safely but slowly.

And Darlene began improving. A few weeks in, she shaved 2 seconds off her Five Times Sit to Stand. At 19 seconds, she wasn’t at her age group average of 11.4 seconds, but she was getting there.

We started to advance her exercises as her body was ready; we added resistance where we’d previously only used body weight, and we started working on her core strength.

Darlene noticed her improvements; she spent more time outside and doing yard work. Her family could see the changes. At one point, her daughter reached out and said, “None of us knows what to do with her newfound energy. We can’t keep up with her.”

We retested that Five Times Sit to Stand three months after we started. Starting at 21 seconds, Darlene could perform that test in 10 seconds. She cut her time in half, and she was performing better than the average of people her age (11.4 seconds).

Darlene continues to stay active, and the photo you see here is of her on a 1.25-mile walk in the Arboretum with her family. A few months earlier, Darlene couldn’t walk more than the length of the grocery store, and standing for one minute caused her pain. The photo you see of Darlene is a celebration of the work she put in. 

Sometimes, we’re told things by medical professionals like, “You have bone-on-bone arthritis,” “You have a bad back,” or “Your rotator cuff is shot.” Those things can be scary to hear and hard to understand, and frequently, people start limiting their activity because of it. 

We didn’t change Darlene’s history of stroke, and we didn’t change her level of arthritis. But because we improved the strength and function of her body, neither of those things bothered her so much. And in the process, her mindset changed about what she and her body were capable of.

At motivPT, we'll get you moving in a healthy way. If you have pain, weakness, or imbalance, consider booking with us for an online Physical Therapy routine customized to fit your individual needs. Book your free 15-minute consult to talk with Dr. Alex about your concerns and learn more about how we work!

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