Despite what you may believe, all physical therapy is not created equal. Too many people would rather live in pain than go to PT because they had a bad past experience. The truth is, physical therapy does work, if it’s done right. PT Jonathan shares his checklist for exemplary physical therapy.
BY JONATHAN MELTZER, PT, DPT, RAUSCH PHYSICAL THERAPY
Being a physical therapist is truly the best job; I get to talk sports, build meaningful relationships, and heal hurting people. Even after seven years, I still get excited every day to go to work and help people get back to doing what they love. Some of my favorite cases are people who wind up on my table because they weren’t getting better at another clinic. Not only do I like the challenge, I love changing their view of my profession by showing them what quality physical therapy looks and feels like.
Too many people would rather live in pain than go to PT because they had a bad first experience. The truth is, physical therapy does work, if it’s done right. So how do you know if you’re getting the quality care you deserve? Here’s a short list of things that—when all boxes are checked—makeup exemplary physical therapy.
▢ Hands-On soft tissue manipulation
If you’ve been a patient at Rausch Physical Therapy, then you know every one of your appointments consists of at least 20 minutes of hands-on treatment with your physical therapist. What you might not know is that this is not common practice! It’s mind-boggling how many PT clinics give little-to-no attention to this critical component of care.
Manual therapy doesn’t just provide specific healing, it also allows the PT to assess the tissue and its current condition to check the patient’s progress in their recovery process. For example, if I’ve been treating someone’s shoulder and they come in one day and it feels swollen, hot and restricted, this immediately tells me they’re in pain and I shouldn’t progress their exercise program until addressing the flare up.
By performing 20 to 30 minutes of manual therapy at the site of injury/pain, your physical therapist is providing the relief and care you need to get better at every single appointment. If your PT never puts her hands on you, it’s probably time to find a new PT.
▢ Specific Therapeutic Exercise Program (TherEx)
A big pet peeve of mine is clinics who make patients suffer through “THE shoulder program” or “THE knee program.” When you end up doing the same type of exercises as everyone else with no specificity or individuality, then it’s no longer therapeutic exercise, it’s just… exercise.
To me, this is just pure laziness on the part of the PT. Our profession needs to be better and commit to providing individualized TherEx programs for every single patient who walks through our door. This requires organization, planning and monitoring of the patient during their exercises; I’m always watching, coaching and training my Physical Therapy Aides as they guide my patients through each exercise, guaranteeing everyone is going to be beneficial and healing. While this may take extra time and work, it pays off in patient success and demonstrates the value in what we do.
▢ Appropriate modalities
Using modalities in replace of manual therapy is not effective (Again, this happens way too often and is a lazy approach to patient care.) However, modalities that are up-to-date and applied appropriately are great complementary tools to advance patient healing.
Hot and cold packs help your muscles and mind relax before/after manual therapy and really bring an appointment full circle. Cupping is designed for lifting up restricted soft tissue to decompress and allow for blood flow into the area to improve healing and movement. Kinesiology tape is another way to create decompression of tissue, but it can also be used for stability. Laser is directed infrared light designed to penetrate the energy systems to increase the body’s natural inflammatory system. We utilize all these modalities here at Rausch PT, but which one we use and when depends on the patient and their specific injury; so again, individualized care here is key.
▢ Personal connection
Even if your physical therapist is doing great at all of the above, you will not get better if you don’t feel valued, respected and taken care of. The human element often gets overlooked in medical settings, despite it having a huge role in treatment success and being the biggest part of patient experience.
It’s the things like being greeted warmly by your name when you walk in the door, or being treated by the same physical therapist at each appointment who knows what you and the kids did this weekend. It’s having your favorite PT Aide walk you through your TherEx program, gently correcting you and taking the time to explain why you’re doing each exercise. It’s the human connection that propels your recovery, because you’re safe and confident knowing your rehab team truly cares about you and wants you to get better just as much as you do.
Research shows that manual therapy alone is not enough to achieve the full benefit of physical therapy. Neither is just doing therapeutic exercises or relying on modalities. That’s why quality physical therapists combine all of the above into their patients’ treatment plans.
I know of too many patients who had bad experiences at another PT clinic, who only got one or two of the four qualities of great care, who left less than 100% satisfied or healed. I know them because they wind up on my table, and while it’s hard work to get them to trust in me and the process, seeing them achieve goal after goal is what makes my job so rewarding.
So next time you need physical therapy, be sure you receive a combination of these elements at every single appointment. You deserve quality care, and I guarantee you’ll always get it here at Rausch Physical Therapy.
Jonathan Meltzer graduated from the University of Redlands with a bachelor of arts in biology and a minor in physical education. Following graduation, Jonathan discovered his passion for physical therapy while working as a Physical Therapy Aide. After graduating top of his class from Loma Linda University in 2012 with a Doctorate in Physical Therapy, Jonathan began his career at Rausch Physical Therapy and Sports Performance. Jonathan’s goals are to identify limitations and treat his patients with the most recent and innovative techniques in order to maximize functional independence and obtain his patients’ individual goals.