Patient Story: Dottie Discovers Physical Therapy is All About Healing

Dottie Angier is a woman of action. To find relief when she experienced shoulder pain, she saw Dr. Amy Lewica, an orthopedic surgeon at Northern Orthopedics who does surgeries at Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd. After a year of cortisone shots, the pain returned. Dr. Lewica suggested reverse shoulder replacement because 20 years earlier, Dottie had had extensive rotator cuff surgery.

"My first impression was that he's kind and gentle and sweet, and I thought, 'this is going to be OK.'... He had me doing something and explained what that was preparing me for in real life—like pretending to push a button like you would on an elevator. He showed me the muscle it was helping. It was incredible."

Dottie became a student of reverse shoulder replacement and did her homework. Her surgery was Oct. 20. "For me, the thing I had to accept is that Dr. Lewica said they do the reverse shoulder for pain, and the fact was that I was going to have some limitation," she recalls.

Dr. Lewica included physical therapy in her recovery plan. Dottie thought she would be fighting her way through it in discomfort, grinding her teeth. "I didn't know anything about the physical therapy part of it," she recalls about that first day. "I walked in and my physical therapist, Greg Wiger, said it wouldn't hurt, and I thought 'yeah, right.' I thought it was going to be horrible."

Greg quickly built Dottie's trust. "My first impression was that he's kind and gentle and sweet, and I thought, 'this is going to be OK.' What I liked about him was that each week he had me doing something and explained what that was preparing me for in real life—like pretending to push a button like you would on an elevator. He showed me the muscle it was helping. It was incredible. Greg's funny and professional. We've formed the mutual admiration society," she chuckled.

Now, Dottie knows physical therapy is not about pain, but about healing. "I've done serious surgery without physical therapy, and serious surgery with physical therapy. Without the physical therapy, I was doing what I would normally do and it hurt. When I did what I learned through physical therapy, there was no pain."

Dottie says she's glad she didn't put off the surgery or the physical therapy. "I'm as happy as a clam," she says.