The Physical Therapist: A Professional Profile
Physical therapists, or PTs, are health care professionals who perform examinations/evaluations and provide interventions to people with health problems resulting from injury or disease. PTs assess joint motion, muscle strength and endurance, function of heart and lungs, and performance of activities required in daily living, among other responsibilities. Interventions include therapeutic exercise, cardiovascular endurance training, and training in activities of daily living. More than 198,000 physical therapists are licensed in the U.S. today. The median salary for a physical therapist is $76,310 depending on position, years of experience, degree of education, geographic location and practice setting.
Read the heartwarming stories of people from New York who have improved their quality of life with the help of a physical therapist.
When I first came for physical therapy I was somewhat skeptical that exercise rather than rest and medication would be the best course of action for treating my back injury. Being a very active person, a fact that certainly contributed to my injury, I thought I knew all the proper techniques for stretching out before training and any dummy knows proper posture. What possible help could a physical therapist be to a weekend athlete?
In about 2 seconds, the physical therapist pointed out that I was slouching instead of sitting up straight...and boy were my joints and muscles tight.
She began my first session with a comprehensive exam to benchmark my physical condition and devise a regimen of stretching and exercise. She explained that her goal was not merely to alleviate my pain by using massage, heat therapy, and electric stimulation, but also to give me a basic knowledge in body mechanics and posture.
While I do have a permanent spine injury, My physical therapist has shown me that with proper daily stretching and exercises targeting my core muscles, I can still participate in the activities I enjoy.
My Physical Therapist made what could have been depressing, dreary therapy sessions quite enjoyable. It was definitely a worthwhile learning experience.
At 23 years old, I had been diagnosed with pelvic floor dysfunction and prolapse, through months of tests, and in and out of doctors offices. I had even tried biofeedback with my gastroenterologist in a very high tech hospital.
I was told by a surgeon that I would eventually need surgery but could put myself at risk of childbearing complications if I did so at my age. The only other option was physical therapy and if that did not work- I was incurable.
Boy do I wish this was my first, not last, stop! After ten months of doctors telling me to try different things, and having nothing work- I came to physical therapy discouraged, frustrated and feeling like I was wasting more time. Luckily for me, physical therapy could get me back to my normal self! It was a miracle!
At the age of 72, I keep forgetting what I can do and what I cannot do without hurting myself. My latest injury was to my shoulder.
It started at the gym. I thought I'd try the chest-press machine since it had been so long since I'd worked on such a device. I thought it felt as if it might be set too far back, but since it seemed to be not-adjustable, I went ahead and did just a few repetitions. My shoulder felt a bit sore on the last one, so I quit.
The next few days there was just a bit of soreness. I figured it would go away.
It did not go away. It got worse. I went to my doctor, who sent me for an MRI, then called and told me of many small tears here and there in a few places in my shoulder. - He used the phrase really torn up, and gave me the name of an orthopedic surgeon who specialized in shoulder injuries. I went there.
When I saw the surgeon, he informed me that I had a frozen shoulder, and that I should go to a physical therapist.
My daughter recommended a physical therapist to me. He was professional with a bright, pleasant office featuring all kinds of equipment and parking right in front, happened to have a great combination of warm supportive personality and authoritative style that I wanted in a physical therapist. So we went.
We went every week for about a month, then due to both our schedules, our visits began to be every other week, then once a month. My physical therapist gave me exercises to do during the week, and would also apply a deep-heat therapy and some message to my shoulder. Gradually, my mobility returned.
Even though I was unable to come in for the several-times-per-week therapy sessions that are the usual procedure, this system, although taking longer, worked out quite well. It's been over six months, and I now have near complete function in this arm and shoulder. There is still a tiny area that needs work, and I now have the tools for finishing it.
It has been a positive experience.
Jessica had known she was going to be a ballerina since she was 4. Growing up in Rochester, NY, she spent countless hours at the Timothy M. Draper Center for Dance, training and pushing her physical limits. Jessica began her career with the Rochester City Ballet, eventually dancing with the Houston Ballet and Ballet San Antonio, before returning to her hometown and family to dance with the Rochester City Ballet once again.
During her time in Houston, Jessica had grown accustomed to what she considered was normal "tendonitis and bursitis" in her left foot. She continued dancing, taking Advil to get through six hour long rehearsals and dance classes. She finally heard a "pop," which forced her to take her pain more seriously. Periodically, when she was home on breaks, she sought treatment. However the pain never completely went away because she was unable to spend enough time on her rehab before returning to Houston.
When Jessica returned to New York to dance with the Rochester City Ballet, her symptoms took a turn for the worse while dancing for the seasonal production of the Nutcracker. For the first time in her career she was forced to make changes to the choreography in order to perform in the show. Concerned about her symptoms, Jessica returned to physical therapy. She began working on rehabilitating her foot.
Over the next 4 months, Jessica's physical therapy incorporated traditional orthopedic treatments with functional dance movements to address her pain, however she became frustrated when the pain and ROM did not fully resolve. In order to make it through rehearsals she was warming up her ankles longer and limiting how much she was wearing her pointe shoes. She began to worry that the quality of her performance would diminish and people would notice a difference in her footwork. Jessica's physical therapist (Heather) urged her to return to her orthopedic physician, and further imaging studies revealed a bone spur. Jessica was faced with the decision to have the bone spur surgically removed, along with the considerations about the effects of surgery and rehab on her dance career. Jessica worked closely with her physical therapist to devise a plan that would allow her to return to performing in her most important roles.
After the surgery, Jessica followed a customized rehab plan that facilitated a safe recovery, while maintaining her strength and technique for dance. Jessica's program consisted of therapeutic exercise, hands on work to minimize scar tissue, dance specific functional training, and education regarding limitations. Jessica admits that the rehab process was "frustratingly slow," because she could not return as fast as she wanted to, however credits her physical therapist with "helping [her] find things [she] could do to keep moving without irritating the ankle." Jessica also feels it was essential to her care that Heather "knew exactly what was required of her ankle specifically for dance movements and not just discharging her after she achieved what would be considered "within normal limits." As a result of her physical therapy experience, Jessica feels she has a better understanding of her body, a decreased risk of injury, increased independence with self-care, and enhanced dance performance.