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There was no guesswork involved. They knew exactly where to look and how to help fix the problem.

When Harry Penniman agreed to build a garage for his daughter, he never even thought about potential risks to his body from the intense manual labor.

“I built a couple houses for myself over my lifetime and I guess I thought this was just another project,” he said with a small chuckle.

But Harry, 77, became concerned when the framing and lifting of plywood took a toll on his shoulder.

“By the time the project was done, my shoulder was really shot. I was worried I did permanent damage.”

He consulted with his primary care physician in Southbridge, who ordered X-Rays at Harrington’s main hospital campus. The diagnosis was a shoulder impingement.

“It wasn’t serious enough for surgery,” Harry said. “But it was in tough shape and needed physical therapy.”

Harry, despite living locally in Dudley, had never utilized Harrington for medical care. He was sent to our outpatient rehabilitation department within the Harrington at 169 complex  at 20 Southbridge Road in Charlton, and spent a little over two months receiving treatment from physical therapist Jen Shanahan, and physical therapy assistant Emily Goncalves.

“An impingement can occur from repetitive work, such as the type Mr. Penniman was doing with construction,” Emily explained. “It can create tightness in one area while making surrounding areas weak. What we want to do in physical therapy is increase the flexibility and mobility of the entire area, while increasing a patient’s ability to perform daily activities.”

Emily and Jen worked with Harry to help alleviate the pain and discomfort in his shoulder, evaluating his condition with every visit and modifying his plan of care when appropriate. His treatments included massage techniques, manual therapy, mobilization exercises and therapeutic ultrasound. Harry said within two visits he could feel a noticeable difference.

“It was just tremendous,” Harry said. “You could tell [the therapists] knew what they were doing. There was a sense of confidence, and there was no guesswork involved. They knew exactly where to look and how to help fix the problem. They listened to my concerns and took the time to explain the importance of each type of therapy. An A+ on every account.”

Harry was also given resistance bands to take home with exercises to do in between his physical therapy appointments.

“Emily was determined not to do any more damage,” Harry said. “She would work to the limits of my arm, being careful not to over extend my range of motion. She was excellent in teaching.”

Emily said the at-home exercises are a huge part of a physical therapy program.

“Mr. Penniman was dedicated to continuing his therapy at home,” she said. “The exercises are important because they help us to safely and more quickly progress our patients. It creates less manual therapy when they come to the gym and more opportunity to focus on strength training.”

Harry said he won’t be building more garages anytime soon, but encouraged others to look to Harrington and its outpatient rehabilitation department for physical therapy and sports medicine injuries.

“Any kind of pain or discomfort you might be feeling… They know what they’re doing. The therapists are just fantastic.”

Harry Penniman

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