Former dancer Gabby Porcaro is no stranger to powering through pain. But when the price of her pain was her mental health, she knew that it was time to get help. She had been through physical therapy many times as an athlete and dancer, but her experience with Dr. Lindsey Harris at Performance Physical Therapy changed the way she views her active lifestyle.
Why She Entered PT
Upon waking up with a swollen and discolored right hand, Gabby knew that she had to be seen by a medical professional. She was originally diagnosed with a grip strength injury and was told to take steroids, rest it, and return in two weeks for further evaluation. During this time, her pain worsened causing her to visit her PCP where she was given a second diagnosis of “Tennis Elbow.” Gabby’s PCP referred her to physical therapy for this injury. During this time, her pain spread throughout her arm so quickly that it resulted in the inability to drive or hold even the lightest of objects without increasing the already present pain. This consistent, radiating pain was impacting her mental health as she couldn’t engage in her normal exercise routine due to her inability to do any normal household chores without pain. “I realized that I needed help and I was doing as much as I could on my own,” Gabby said.
When she began physical therapy with Dr. Lindsey Harris, it became very apparent that both previous diagnoses were incorrect. Dr. Harris shifted from the elbow up to the shoulder and neck as she believed this was the root of Gabby’s pain. Gabby was working with other doctors simultaneously to find out her true diagnosis, which was determined to be Cervical Spondylosis thus confirming some of what Dr. Harris thought. As Gabby had been seeing Lindsey throughout the process, she knew that she could trust her with her next steps. “As soon as I got my MRI results from the surgeon, I wanted to see what Dr. Harris recommended.”
Although Lindsey initially thought that Gabby could avoid surgery, the new diagnosis meant that Gabby would have to undergo surgery to get her quality of life back. She was happy to return as a patient for her post-op recovery.
From In-Clinic to Telehealth
The Coronavirus pandemic skyrocketed in the time between Gabby’s pre-op and post-op appointments. During her pre-op appointments, Gabby was able to see Lindsey in the clinic, but when she returned, she had to use telehealth. “The experience was amazing, and Lindsey was so attentive and helpful. She would model exercises and was really creative with the type of exercises she prescribed me.”
“It can be totally scary to have surgery and not be able to be seen in person, so many times patients are left with unanswered questions or concerns at home. We needed to use pictures to get a good look at her healing incision and make decisions about any hands-on care I needed to teach her to perform herself. We also used videos for technique feedback from exercises that were a part of her home exercise program when any questions came up outside of our visits” said Lindsey.
Keeping Her Motivation
Gabby’s past experiences with physical therapy made her realize that if she worked hard at her appointments, she would eventually be pain-free. She was eager to get back to her life and the activities that she loved, so there was only one option for her: to give physical therapy her all. Her mantra throughout her recovery was “I can fix my injury and get stronger.”
Lindsey recalls that “Gabby was an amazing patient because during such a difficult time as she took charge of her care and rehabilitation. Knowing she was having surgery, Gabby made sure that she planned out the resources she needed including gym equipment for home, so I could provide her the best care possible and get her back to doing the activities she loved!”
Lessons from Physical Therapy
Now that Gabby has graduated from physical therapy, everything has changed for her. She can now go back to doing CrossFit and going to the gym without fear of pain. Her experience being treated by Dr. Lindsey Harris taught her to listen to what her body needs in the moment and adjust from there. Even as she returns to her activities, she now understands that it’s okay to pause and listen to her body to prevent future pain and injury.
Advice to Patients
Gabby advises people in the same position to not be afraid of surgery and to not cheat yourself on post-op physical therapy. “Even if Lindsey didn’t know, I would know if I had cheated myself by skipping the recommended exercises each day. But now I feel amazing – my shoulders and my arms can move again without pain! The reason why my recovery happened as well as it did was because I did the homework that I was assigned by my physical therapist. She was so smart and immediately could tell that even though she was told to treat my elbow, she realized that it wasn’t the right diagnosis and shifted course – to the right course!”