In Good Hands

“For a Cheesemaker, your upper body is your instrument…”

-Liz Bleakley

I first noticed something was seriously wrong with my right forearm in January of 2022.  I had been turning and washing 20-25 lb cheeses at a local creamery for 15 hours a week for the past 6 months.  I am a 125 lb woman who was manipulating up to 8000 lbs of cheese in a day. At the start of my job, I certainly had discomfort- I wasn’t used to doing such intense physical activity with my upper body and wasn’t naturally a very muscular person.  My coworkers assured me that my body would get stronger and my pain would pass.  But it didn’t. 

I was often in pain, I had difficulty holding my two young boys, and I became really concerned when my arm became weak.  I could no longer perform my job duties, let alone hold up a bag of groceries, and I was forced to quit my job.  I saw my primary care provider who recommended I pursue OT at a local hospital.  I did my own research and decided to go to Cioffredi instead.  I knew that my injury was very serious and I only wanted the most expert physical therapists treating me.  

When I went for my first visit, I was quite depressed about the state of my disability and cranky from constantly being in pain.  I was wanting to pursue opening my own creamery and becoming an artisan cheesemaker.  I am also a small-scale vegetable farmer.  I had pregnant dairy goats at the time and I needed my arm to improve so I could milk them when the time came. 

I was not at all optimistic about my ability to pursue these goals, but Neil MacKenzie was.  I perhaps even lifted an eyebrow here and there when Neil unflinchingly reassured me that this problem was fixable.  I thought that I was either with excellent physical therapists or people who didn’t fully appreciate how bad my injury was!  I’m happy to say that within a few months, Neil, Nick, and Joe proved me wrong. They carefully examined me, listened to me, and provided me with a realistic treatment plan.  The addition of dry-needling was life-saving for me. 

“We have a lot of artisan cheesemakers in this part of the country. For a cheesemaker, your upper body is your instrument. You are stirring large vats of milk, scooping heavy wet curds into molds, turning and brushing cheeses, and constantly scrubbing your equipment clean. When you eat delicious artisanal New England cheese, know that your pleasure is the result of the very physical work of real people.”

-Liz Bleakley, Good Hands Farm

I am so glad I met such a competent and compassionate team of physical therapists who gave me hope and gave me my function back.  The secretaries were also very helpful in helping me navigate a workers’ compensation claim. Thank you Cioffredi for moving me from a place of pain, depression, and skepticism to a place of strength and optimism.  I am eternally grateful.

Liz Bleakley owns and operates Good Hands Farm in Windsor, VT where she produces and sells a variety of organically grown veggies, lactofermented foods, and coming soon… artisinal cheese!

This article first appeared in the September 2023 Cioffredi & Associates Newsletter:


Learn more about the Cioffredi & Associates Orthopedic Physical Therapy Service:

Orthopedic Physical Therapy


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