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Juan: Physical Therapy

Juan lived for years with the lingering effects of a hip injury. He came to UPMC Rehabilitation Institute for outpatient physical therapy.

Juan P. lived for more than 30 years with the lingering effects of a hip injury he suffered in a car accident.

Because of his bad left hip, he couldn't do things that many people take for granted. Putting on his socks and pants was a daily struggle. So were washing his feet and bending down.

Juan finally got hip replacement surgery in October 2023. After that, he came to UPMC Rehabilitation Institute: Uniontown for outpatient physical therapy.

Working with Jim Burns, PT, regional director, UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, and his team, Juan made quick and steady progress. Within a few months, he could do many of the tasks he struggled with before.

Even as he continues his therapy, Juan says he's thankful for the role Jim and his team have played in his recovery.

“Some people do not believe in therapy; I believe in it very much," says Juan, 53. "I don’t think I’d be where I am right now without the therapy."

A Hampered Lifestyle

Juan's original injury occurred in a car accident in his native Venezuela when he was 19 years old. The accident caused Juan's left hip to become fused to his femur.

Because of the injury, Juan had a limited range of motion on his left side. He said he didn't experience much pain, but it was inconvenient. He had to find alternative ways to do daily tasks like washing his lower legs and putting on his socks and pants. It was even difficult to sit down.

“It was very difficult to wash my toes on the left side because I had to use a long brush to get to it," Juan says. "Because it was impossible for me to bend all the way down to pick something off the ground, or wash my own feet, or cut my own toenails. It was a challenge."

Juan moved to western Pennsylvania in 1999, about 10 years after his accident. Despite the challenges his condition caused, Juan decided against having hip replacement surgery. He says that when he was in his 20s, he met with a doctor who told him a hip replacement at that age wouldn't be a permanent solution.

Because of his limited hip motion, Juan ended up putting more stress on his lower back. When he began to experience pain in his lower back in his late 40s, Juan realized it was time to get his hip replaced.

"At that point, I wanted to have a better quality of life," he says. "I wanted to be able to do a lot of things that I could not do before for years." Juan did his research and had hip replacement surgery in October 2023.

A Motivational Therapy Team

Juan spent about 10 weeks recovering from his hip surgery before beginning physical therapy with Jim Burns, PT, at UPMC Rehabilitation Institute: Uniontown. Juan says he had known Jim for years before beginning therapy with him. But he wasn't sure what to expect.

“He told me the first time when I started: ‘Sometimes you’re not going to like me, or you’re going to think I’m pushing too hard. But if I don’t do it, you’re not going to get to the goals that you want to get,'" Juan recalls.

Jim and his team worked to build up Juan's strength, flexibility, and range of motion. They focused on his hip and surrounding muscles.

Very quickly, Juan began to show progress. Soon, Juan noticed he had better range of motion and could start doing some of the things he couldn't do before.

“Of course, I hadn’t used (my hip) for 30 years, and my muscle was very weak," Juan says. "But the progress I made in such a short time amazed Jim and amazed me."

He credits Jim and his staff for the progress.

“They push you in a good way, but at the same time, they encourage you and show you how much progress you make," Juan says. "It’s good. You go to therapy in there, and you feel like you’re family."

He says Jim lived up to his word from their first meeting — he pushed Juan to reach his goals.

“He was very understanding, but at the same time, he was pushing," Juan says. "He wanted me to do the things that I have to do to get better. He had me do things to get out of my comfort zone, that I thought was not possible to do, and I did it. I’m very thankful for him."

Goals for the Future

In just a few months of working with Jim, Juan now can walk much better. He has a slight limp, but he can walk 3 miles on the treadmill. He uses a stationary bike — which he couldn't do before.

Daily tasks are no longer a struggle, either. He can sit normally in a car without having to put his seat all the way back. He can wash his feet, put on socks, and cut his toenails without having to compensate for his hip.

Juan says he also no longer has lower back pain.

"It’s just amazing," he says. “I’m very pleased with what the physical therapy did for me.”

Juan says he does get tired sometimes. He uses a cane at home and at work when he gets especially tired, but he is using it much less. He hopes he will no longer need the cane at all by April 2024.

Juan is continuing to work with Jim and his team at UPMC Rehabilitation Institute: Uniontown. He is thankful for what they've helped him do so far, and he hopes to continue improving.

“I would recommend them," Juan says. "My experience has been good. They were very understanding, and they wanted me to reach my goals.”

Read more stories from physical therapy patients.

Learn more about the physical therapy.