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Karen: Physical Therapy

Image of Karen on motorcycle.

A 2020 snowplowing accident led to so much pain in Karen’s arm that she struggled to eat and sleep and couldn’t enjoy any of the activities she loved – drawing, painting, riding her motorcycle, or working as a personal trainer. She tried to push through but suffered for about a year during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic before seeing a specialist. She then decided to see an orthopaedic surgeon who concluded that she had tears in her rotator cuff, as well as biceps tendonitis. The surgeon repaired her injuries and recommended physical therapy to follow in order to reach full recovery.

Several of Karen’s personal training students turned to Brian Caricato, PT, DPT, OCS, at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute location in Allison Park to help with injuries, so she wanted to see him, too. Karen shares that Brian, “respected my knowledge of anatomy and communicated very well. He respected me when I expressed what I thought could be beneficial during treatment. He was professional and also worked as a team with me. We were partners in therapy, and it always felt like a two-way street.”

What to Expect in PT

Karen shares that most of the exercises Brian prescribed were functional and directly related to the activities she hoped to get back to. Other therapists who collaborated (including physical therapy student Alec Hoover who was a big help in her recovery) were adaptive and genuinely interested in getting her back to the activities she loves.

In addition to the traditional range of motion and strength exercises used to help heal after this surgery, Karen shares that she was given some creative functional exercises to help her handle her motorcycle again.

“I explained what I needed to be able to do, and the therapy team responded with targeted movements to develop those skill sets for me,” Karen says.
“An exercise ball was used – pushed up against a wall – imitating the movements of my handlebars. A lat bar was pushed away from the lat tower, imitating steering a motorcycle through a series of heavy curves. Timed hand exercises were developed so that I could hold the hand grips/brake on my bike on a hill for the length of a red light. And they had many more wonderfully creative ways to redevelop my hand strength and fine motor skills.”

She says that great care was also taken to restore her drawing and painting abilities since her injuries were in her dominant arm. And the stretching that Brian did each time Karen was there restored the range of motion needed to perform her job as a personal trainer. She started PT in June 2021 and ended mid-October. She still practices range of motion every other day and strength development in between.

“As a Master Personal Fitness Trainer, I am able to pursue with confidence a 100% recovery,” Karen says. “Outpatient rehabilitation at UPMC is far superior to everywhere else and has individuality among the therapists. The entire staff there is very caring.” Thanks to Brian and team, Karen is back to riding her motorcycle for 2+ hours at a time and enjoying the things she hoped to do again.

Outpatient Therapy in Allison Park

Our Allison Park location is conveniently located in the UPMC Outpatient Center in Hampton Township. The location offers free on-site parking and is handicap accessible. Services in Allison Park include:

  • Amputee program
  • Balance therapy
  • Hand therapy
  • Limb Loss Program - Lower Extremity
  • Neurorehabilitation
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Sports rehab programs

Read more stories from physical therapy patients.

Learn more about the Physical Therapy Program.