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Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy

A person who never has to pick up the phone and call a lawyer is probably better off than the person who has had occasion to call a lawyer numerous times in their life. (Sure, I’m a lawyer, but I’m realistic: it’s almost never a fun-filled reason that occasions a person to give me a call.)

In the same way, it’s almost never a good day or fun-filled reason that occasions a person dialing up a physical therapist.

I’ve seen various physical therapists personally over the course of the last 13 years, and I’ve learned a lot along the way.  So, today, I thought I’d share some of what I know about physical therapy. Since, if you’ve never had to call a physical therapist and now find yourself needing one, you might not know where to start.

[pullquote3 quotes=”true” align=”left” variation=”orange”]A good place to start is gathering information. Something I didn’t realize 13 years ago is that physical therapists are like doctors or lawyers in the sense that, they can ‘specialize’ in different kinds of things.[/pullquote3]

Not that they necessarily get an additional certification or degree, but that they will tend to treat more of one thing than another.  For example:  some physical therapists really just practice on people recovering from surgery. Some physical therapists specialize in things like chronic pain. Some physical therapists specialize in certain parts of the body, like the arms or wrists.  So, feel out whether the physical therapist you are talking with has good experience in the issues you are dealing with — sometimes a physical therapist even has personal experience with the same issues you are dealing with, which is an added bonus in my opinion — before you spend a lot of time and money with that particular person.

You also want to find a PT that has as many tools in their kit as possible — or, at least, knows about all the tools available and is actually willing to refer you to another PT to try techniques that PT doesn’t (or can’t) use.

By way of example:  I have “chronic myofascial pain syndrome” and find that my neck muscles will continually flex or tense after either short-intense bursts of effort — like that time I was at the park with my kids and tried to do a pull-up, resulting in massive muscle spasms —  or static anti-ergonomic positioning — like that time I spent 30 minutes weeding my flower beds and strawberry patch, winding up with my neck and traps cemented into the ‘weeding’ position.   When I get into a bind like this, the exercises I do on a daily basis just don’t cut it, so I go see my physical therapist.  She uses deep-tissue release, myofascial release and cranio-sacral along with a variety of other soft-tissue techniques to turn my permanently contracted muscles to the “off” position.  Recently, I’ve even tried dry-needling (essentially acupuncture) at the hands of another physical therapist and found a little bit of a better baseline!  It’s great to have a physical therapist who knows how to use a bunch of different techniques and who will also refer you to others who can help you find your ‘best’ baseline state.

Lastly, after you’ve found a good physical therapist:  listen, ask questions and learn.  When you feel like your physical therapist is out of her mind when she tells you that your neck started hurting because you injured your low back in the wreck, ask her why that’s the case.  She’ll probably tell you that the entire body is connected and your low back acts like a foundation for your upper back and neck — when the foundation gets tipped to one side, the rest of the structure suffers.  I think that any physical therapist should have a good answer for their recommendations – if they don’t, it’s probably time to see what another physical therapist’s recommendations are. I’ve been learning at the hands of physical therapists for over 10 years.  When I found good ones, they knew their stuff cold, and because they shared their knowledge with me,  my life and activities are so much better than they would otherwise be!

So, there you have it, some of what I know about physical therapy.

Rebecca J. Rutz
becky@grizzlylaw.com
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