Physical Therapy

When talking to people about Tan’s life after injury there’s this sense that they believe spinal cord injury is static, never changing, and in need of a miraculous cure. Family, friends, complete strangers all “hope for a cure” and then compare what they “see” and “know” of Tan’s injury with the next nearest person they’ve met, heard of, or seen on t.v. who’s also a wheelchair user. It’s an association process we all use in our attempt to better understand and relate to a situation for removed from our own experiences, but in spinal cord injury this is often very, very wrong assumptions. 

Life after injury is anything but static. The first few months to year after injury is when the injured see the most regain. Medical professionals all told Tan that after three years that would be it, what he regained by then was all he would regain. Organizations like Project Walk have spent the last decade proving that prescribed belief wrong when there is access to continued and specific physical therapy. 

Everyone, and I mean everyone, we talk to all look at the end goal as being regaining the ability to walk, but physical therapy is something that happens intermittently throughout the lifetime of the individual with spinal cord injury. Not as often as it should, thank you insurance, but one of the basic tenets to qualify for additional physical therapy is for the individual to demonstrate their is a need, and need comes in a variety of ways. For Tan it was a drastic change in his medication to control muscle spasms that opened the door for a physical therapy evaluation. 

Evaluation delves into the individuals past, present, and future in their injury: what physical therapy was focused on and achieved at past therapies; what brings the individual to therapy now and their goals for treatment; and what kind of therapy may be needed in the future. Just like any consultant, physical therapists and their organizations may include other questions, facets, or philosophies in their evaluation to create a fuller picture for treatment, but you get the idea.  Because it can be difficult to get an evaluation Tan and I like to include past goals that may not have been achieved or were partially achieved in with our new goals for him. The reason for this is simple; we see any change in his condition, whether it’s organic (like regain) or manufactured (such as changing his medical treatment), as an opportunity that changes his possibility for function or independence. 

Recently, Tan underwent one of these evaluations after drastically lowering his medication for the treatment of muscle spasms has made daily function more difficult and with it brought painful, fatigued muscles. The evaluation was a mixed bag of good and bad news. Perhaps the best news was meeting a new physical therapist, a transplant to our community, with extensive experience working with the rehabilitation of people with spinal cord injuries. That news was quickly followed up with the bad news that his facility isn’t equipped to take on the physical therapy required for spinal cord injury. On the bright side, the physical therapist signed off on all our goals and requested therapeutic treatment and is working with us on the hunt to find a facility where Tan can complete this therapy with the properly trained professionals. It could be a long hunt. 

In the meantime, hopefully this latest battery of tests will tell us what we need to know about Tan’s kidneys. We have begun the doctors orders for creating a new, more independent cathing program for Tan, starting with trying out a plethora of both open and closed catheterizing systems. 

As always keep sharing our mission on Follow us on Facebook at for great links, resources, and news about life with spinal cord injury. And don’t forget to catch up with us on Instagram @quadout for great insider pics of the project and our home life. 


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