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Not all Physical Therapists are Created Equal

Imagine visiting your orthopedic surgeon for an intestinal issue, or your dermatologist for an eye problem. As silly as this sounds did you ever think when someone suggested that you would benefit from Physical Therapy, which type of Physical Therapists would be most appropriate for you?? I wonder if people realize that just like MD s, Physical Therapists specialize too?? Physical Therapists may specialize according to age groups: pediatrics vs. geriatrics; injury type: sports injuries vs. work injuries or even physical setting; outpatient clinic, gym settings, hospital, nursing home, school, pool or even the patient’s home.

Luckily for the Sandpoint community there are many skilled Physical Therapists in town to choose from. Many of these therapists specialize in sports injuries. They may use modalities such as Ultrasound, Electric Stimulation, Interferential and Iontophoresis to promote pain relief, decrease inflammation and promote healing. Many do gait analysis to see if the knee pain is actually starting with a foot problem which may benefit from orthotics. Exercise equipment often helps their patients with strengthening. Home program of icing, stretching, and/or strengthening is often part of Physical Therapy during and after treatment has ended.

Some therapists specialize in treatment of children, sometimes via horses or Hippotherapy. Some therapists use the warm water providing Aquatic Therapy which is often helpful following total knee or hip replacement and soothing for patients with osteoarthritis. One therapist specializes in feet, making most of the custom orthotics in town. Home Health is a specialty area that provides in home therapy for patients that are temporarily home bound following joint replacement, stroke or recent discharge from the hospital or nursing home. The nursing homes also employ Physical Therapists to rehabilitate patients who are deconditioned due to age, have joint replacements or stroke.

Personally, I consider myself a manual therapist. This means I use only my hands to treat patients. I use no machines. I have spent my career of 21 years treating neck and back pain. I have taken well over 30 continuing education courses on the various treatment techniques related to the treatment of the spine. I have taken many courses on joint dysfunction which may be treated by mobilization, directly pushing up and down on the joint to decrease stiffness and pain by allowing the surrounding soft tissue to relax and improve joint lubrication by inviting synovial fluid. The Osteopathic approach I use isolates a dysfunctional joint then uses a slight contraction of the surrounding muscles to pull the joint back into proper alignment. I use CranioSacral Therapy for treatment of TMJ, headache, migraine and Vertigo. Visceral Manipulation is my current area of interest. This technique allows me to use a gentle pressure to release fascial restrictions or scar tissue around organs which may occur following surgery, trauma or infection. Theses patients may have abdominal or pelvic pain their physician has not been able to identify,or may have back pain due to restrictions in their abdominal or pelvic cavity. Women who have issues with organ prolapse or incontinence are greatly helped by Visceral Manipulation. I have never in my 21 years of practice taken a course on Stroke rehab, Pediatrics, Aquatics, or treatment of sports type injuries. These areas have never been of interest to me.

I encourage you to educate yourself the next time you are in need of Physical Therapy services. Ask your prospective therapist what their specialty area is, and how they would propose treating your type of problem. Always remember that we are trained to assess each patient and establish a treatment plan with functional goals. If you are not showing any progress within a reasonable period, 3-4 visits, you may not be seeing the right therapist.

Mary Boyd, MS, PT has a BS in Biology and Psychology, a BS in Physical Therapy and a MS in Health Education. She is the owner of Mountain View Physical Therapy and can be reached at 290-5575.

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