January 8, 2024
Getting physical therapy at Tzu Chi enhances patient’s treatment experience
By Joy Rojas
Most of us don’t give a second thought to washing dishes or walking down a flight of stairs, but to Minnivetch Reyes, such simple tasks come with excruciating pain. “I feel numbness in my legs. And when I do the dishes, I’d be in so much pain from just standing for a minute,” says the 50-year-old former online seller from Sampaloc, Manila. “Sometimes when I wake up in the morning, I’d be hobbling as I go down the stairs.”
At first, she tolerated it, thinking she was just tired. But when the pain persisted and the tightness and discomfort made her feel like she had the body of an old person, she decided to see a doctor.
Tests revealed she had herniated nucleus pulposus or multiple herniated disks. Located along our spine, and serving as cushions between our spinal bones, disks allow us to perform movements like bending and reaching, says medlineplus.gov. Lifting heavy objects, repetitive bending and twisting, being overweight, poor posture, or prolonged sitting or standing can cause the disks to be herniated (or slipped). Once all or part of a disk is forced through a weakened part of the disk, it places pressure on nearby nerves of the spinal cord. This results in pain, weakness, and numbness on the legs, hip, and buttocks.
Physical therapy (PT) sessions, first in a private hospital, and then at the Philippine Orthopedic Center (POC) last year yielded some improvement. When the pain recurred and Minnivetch couldn’t even sit or stand for long periods, her doctor suggested surgery or more PT. She chose the latter.
Unable to work due to the pain, she searched for more affordable places to get treatment. Recalling how an aunt availed of services at the Tzu Chi Eye Center, she checked out Tzu Chi’s Facebook page and found what she was looking for.
Since October 2023, Tzu Chi Foundation has been offering free physical therapy sessions on Pain Management, Injury Rehabilitation, Mobility Improvement, Post-Surgery Recovery, and Muscle Strengthening. Intended for indigent and financially challenged patients, the program requires registrants to present a one-time Certificate of Indigency on the day of their appointment, for recording purposes.
“Her case is at the point where the disks are impinging on her nerves,” says physical therapist Mikaela Trazo, who oversees Minnivetch’s PT sessions. “This makes her experience pain that is radiating through her legs. It can prevent her from performing daily functions like carrying and lifting.”
In two sessions, Minnivetch has felt relief with treatment that employs multiple methods. “We followed her rehab doctor’s prescription of applying [electrical stimulation] through the TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Neuromuscular Stimulation) Machine, hot compress, and therapeutic ultrasound,” says Mikaela. “We’ve also done leg raises, clamshell exercises, leg folds, and other basic range-of-motion exercises for the legs, where most of her symptoms are focused.” The physical therapist plans to add more strengthening exercises—the better for her legs and back to help support her weight and lessen the impact on her spine.
For Minnivetch, who needs four more sessions before getting an x-ray and being reevaluated by her doctor, undergoing PT in Tzu Chi enhances her treatment experience. “I know Tzu Chi to be very generous and compassionate to the poorest of the poor, those in need. I’m impressed. I’m grateful to the Tzu Chi Foundation. Imagine feeding patients waiting for their turn. I’m amazed. You won’t experience that in any other organization.”
The program benefits those who run it as well. “I’m very glad that I’m able to work in Tzu Chi,” says Mika, who was the physical therapist of Tzu Chi Philippines CEO Henry Yuñez when he was recovering from his stroke. “It’s a privilege and a good opportunity to learn more about what Tzu Chi can do for the community. To be part of that, to be able to help the community, is such a great honor.”
Visit Tzu Chi Philippines’ Facebook page to know more about how you can avail of Tzu Chi’s free physical therapy sessions.