Let’s get physical

This entry is part 5 of 7 in the series Bicycling: Recovering from being hit by a vehicle


I had to wait to start physical therapy until the cast on my left wrist came off. That took a little over six weeks. I needed physical therapy mainly for my wrist, my left (fractured) clavicle, and right separated shoulder. My neck went along for the ride, though it probably gave me the most problems through the year (2014) I got hit. It didn’t feel “normal” until the end of 2014, maybe the start of 2015. Looking back, I should’ve pushed hard on the doctors to do something about my neck. Lesson learned.

Physical therapy (PT) was a pretty foreign concept for me. I remember spending a brief amount of time in high school getting my knees looked at due to tendonitis, but there wasn’t much “physical” there aside from some ultra sound sessions. In total, I did about eight weeks of PT, with each week including three 1.5 hour session days. Each early morning session started the same: heat, ultra sound on my wrist and both shoulders, and then stretches with the physical therapist. From there I would head over to the fitness area of the facility and do the equivalent of riding a bike with my hands. I’d crank away with my arms for ten minutes before starting any exercises. I felt like a real pro.

Before I jump into some of the details of routines I did to recover from these injuries, I think it’s important to note that I was never big on upper body exercises or weight training. The most I did on a regular basis were pushups and core exercises. My PT sessions became quite challenging at points as I probably would’ve struggled with some of the exercises with no injuries. Spending so many hours on a bicycle is great for getting your body in shape for…spending many hours on a bicycle.

Below are exercises I did as part of PT. I’m providing these to give others an idea of what was involved for me. When I looked around for this kind of information, it wasn’t easy to find people providing their personal experiences with recovering from fractured clavicles, separated shoulders, and fractured wrists. As always, consult your doctor. But, also take note of my treatment if my injuries sound similar to yours. At the very least, you’ll know a little bit of what to expect and can ask better questions if something seems really different.

Exercises and stretches
I did (and still do) these types of stretches. I wasn’t able to do them all initially. I was so stiff and sore, it took four weeks of PT before I could start doing all of them.

The wrist exercises were fairly simple. The focus was mostly on getting the mobility back in my wrist after it had been in a cast for over six weeks. My wrist prevented me from doing certain exercises for my shoulders in the first few weeks. I could only put so much weight on it initially before it would become painful. Eventually, my strength started to come back in my wrist and allowed me to do all the exercises for my shoulders.

Band exercises for my separated shoulder and fractured clavicle were common, especially at the start. There are different color bands, with each having different levels of resistance. When you first start out, you should be using a band with very little resistance, i.e. it stretches without much effort. The band exercises were introduced throughout my PT sessions. Some of them would’ve been impossible to do in the beginning, so it’s important to have someone who understands your injuries advise you on an evolving routine.

Before moving into weights, I did these types of exercises. I continued to do a variety of these exercises mixed with weights towards the end of my physical therapy.

I eventually did a full routine of upper body weight lifting. In addition to that I did work on a pull up bar, including pull-ups and hanging exercises/stretches. I also did some routines with weighted bouncy balls. Sorry, I don’t know the technical name. I just know I felt like an idiot struggling to throw a fairly light bouncy ball over my head with two hands against a wall less than a foot away.

Finishing physical therapy
I’m not sure what I expected when I was “released” from PT. I was done when I had +90% of the movement back in my shoulders and was able to do the full routine of exercises setup for me, including the weight lifting. My wrist and shoulders felt much better. As I said earlier, my neck wasn’t feeling great. I was back to riding my bike, which wasn’t helping anything. I’m kind of like the kid from So I Married an Axe Murderer – my head is like “an orange on a toothpick“. I was advised to continue at least some of my PT routine at home for at least a while longer. I did and continue to do some of the stretches and exercises. Regardless, I didn’t feel 100% until about a year after being hit. It was a lot of hard work and a test of my patience and perseverance. I felt like an idiot the first couple of weeks in PT. I could barely do anything, and the things I could do were so simplistic yet caused me to work up more of a sweat than if I’d ridden 25 miles hard on my bike. When I got out of PT, I felt so much better than before but realized I had quite a bit of continued work to do at home in order to not feel like the days were draining every last bit of energy from me. I stuck at it and it was definitely worth it in the end.

I’m capturing my journey towards recovery after being hit by an SUV while riding my bicycle on February 8th, 2014. I’ve learned quite a bit along the way and want to share those lessons. I’m not a doctor, lawyer, or any other sort of expert in this area. Any insights I provide along the way should be taken as my insights to my particular situation. In other words, seek professional counsel if you find yourself in similar circumstances. See more here.