While I waited for the green light to get an MRI in Japan, it was recommended that I do “リハビリ” “rehabiri” or physical therapy to get movement back in my knee. The 3rd floor of the clinic has a PT room, while the 2nd floor is, well, I’m not sure how to describe it. As you get out of the elevator, there is a curtain that patients wait behind until called. You walk through the curtain and are sat next to an electric pulse machine that can deliver mini shocks of electricity to about 6 patients at a time. I get strapped to the machine and they put the timer on for 2 minutes. While letting the electricity course through my knee, I take note of the room. It’s a wide open space with 12 massage tables and 10 therapists massaging patients while other patients wait off to the side for their turn. Along the perimeter, there are 4 beds that are adjacent to cupping stations. Then off to one corner, there are 2 contraptions that I can only imagine help stretch your neck? After my 2 minute electric shock treatment, I am called to the corner bed where the lead therapist takes measurements of my range of motion and pain levels. Then he sends me to the 3rd floor (what? no massage?) for physical therapy.
The 3rd floor is another open room, with 1/2 the room dedicated to a raised platform with mats on it. It is also packed with people doing various stretches and exercises. I can’t help but notice that the majority of patients are in the 65+ range. They’re chatting with one another, some just sitting and gossiping. Apparently I’ve made it just in time for senior social hour.
The first task the PT gives me is picking up different sized marbles with my toes. He explains that with each marble, I need to use a different toe to pick it up. Then he opens up a cupboard, takes out a basket of marbles and dumps them in front of me. I first had to reassure myself that the marbles he has laid out in front of me are sanitized. Perhaps, it’s done at night and I’m the first one to use them for the day at 10 a.m. Next, he laid a golf ball on the ground and, again, I had to pick it up with my toes. After I was done with the marbles and golf ball, he scooped them back into the basket and then put them back in the cupboard. It has to be a magical self-sanitizing cupboard of sorts I tell myself.
Then I’m off to another corner of the room, sandwiched between the stationary bikes and the stretchboards. I sit in a chair and strap my foot onto a board with wheels on the bottom. I am to wheel my leg back and forth 20 times. When I extend my leg all the way, I almost make contact with a column in front of me. As patients go to and from the bikes, I have to stop so they can pass through the tight space. I admire how every inch of the place is utilized. It evokes a sense of ebb and flow, a rhythm, a dance, if you will; of which I have not been taught the steps–I almost clip a patient as she shuffles past.
The last task is to sit on the raised flooring, strap a resistance band around my left foot and extend my leg as far as I can for 20 reps. Again, when I extend my leg, I am invading the space where I picked up the marbles with my toes. Now this space is used for the next patient whose arm is in a cast. 1 therapist/nurse is laying down a drop cloth, while the other is plugging in a tool. It looks like a cutting tool. Looks like I’ve got a front row seat to her cast being sawed off. I try not to stare, but it’s like a train wreck is happening before my eyes and I can’t look away. I’m surprised they are performing this right there in front of me and my senior posse. I look around to see their reaction, but they don’t have one; it’s as if its a normal occurrence for them.
I finish my 20 reps—more like 30 since I was so engrossed in the cast removal procedure that I lost count– and am informed that I’m done for the day. My homework is to do these exercises at home and come back whenever I feel like it. They are open 9:30 am – 5:30 pm, Monday -Saturday. I am told appointments aren’t necessary and that I could go everyday, if I felt inclined. It was up to me. That’s so different from my physical therapy experience back in Seattle. My insurance covered 20 appointments and I had a set time twice a week. I felt a little uneasy not having a schedule, but when in Rome, right? I head back to the first floor to check-out. Grand total: ￥480 ($4.50). At this rate, I could afford to go back everyday, heck, even twice a day!