Health: The secret's in the fingertips

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Julia Kaminski had no idea what a physiotherapist could do for her, until she discovered Greg...

Dear Greg,

I just wanted you to know that I danced last Friday, for the first time in six months. I know you'll be pleased, because it's all thanks to you.

When I limped into your physio department a few weeks ago, my anterior cruciate ligament torn, my confidence in tatters and my sex appeal down the drain, one of the first things you asked me was what did I want to achieve? Did I want to play sports again? Did I want to ski again? (A resounding no, since a bad fall was what got me into this mess.) I wanted to dance, I told you...

So you set to work, a little massage oil here, a length of masking tape there, and put me to work on the cycle and the wobble board. You waved a plastic knee at me and explained how it works, and told me what I'd done and why I would never be whole again, and what I could expect if I worked hard.

Until this time, my knowledge of what physios do had been sketchy, to say the least. I knew they manipulated joints, that they were often brought in to work on post-operative patients, like myself, but that was it. You explained how misunderstood is the poor old physio: how they can cure back and neck problems; correct almost every mechanical fault in the body; ease the suffering of arthritis; solve mysterious cases of RSI (repetitive strain injury); get people mobile again after surgery and months in plaster or on crutches. I met the young lads with knee injuries like mine, desperate to get back on the football field. I met elderly people who had endured amputations after blood clots or accidents, being re-educated to make them as mobile as possible. This was a real eye-opener, for it is easy to forget that this happens here, too, and is not just the vile result of landmines in some distant war zone.

You put masking tape on my chunky knee and made me walk in front of a mirror, critical of every step. But you knew exactly what would hurt, and where, and how much, and I quickly learned that in your expert hands the pain eased rapidly. Through massage and manipulation, you got my wooden leg working again. Before long, I was using the trampoline. With any luck and a lot of hard work, you told me, I may never have to face the big ligament-reconstruction that leaves you with a scar about a foot long.

My knee will never be perfect, so I have to compensate for the lost ligament by building up the quads and hamstrings, and this means exercising fiercely several times a week, for the rest of my life. You told me I would still have to frequent the gym even when I'm 60.

What joy when, on only my third visit, I left my crutches and my limp at home. Only a few weeks later, and I was cycling, lifting weights with my legs, bouncing up and down on the trampoline, and the elderly patients were saying I looked about ready for the marathon. And I knew I couldn't have done it without you.

You told me once about how you got your hands on Baby Spice while standing in for a sick friend in private practice. In the NHS, you only get fallen skiers like me.

I asked you once if it ever got depressing. No, you said, when you see how much help you can give patients, it makes it all worthwhile, and when you're feeling sorry for yourself because your rugby isn't going well, you look around and realise how lucky you are to be healthy (aside from the odd broken nose).

So I just wanted to tell you, dear physio, that you've given me back my knee and my confidence, and next time I'm out dancing, I'll drink a toast to your health.

Love, Julia