Thursday, 10 June 2021 14:17

The Art of Physical Therapy

By Matt Goodemote, MPSPT, DIP. MDT for Saratoga TODAY | Families Today
The Art of Physical Therapy

First things first...

Thank you for voting for Goodemote Physical Therapy...it’s an honor to be voted “Best of Saratoga for Physical Therapy” for the THIRD YEAR IN A ROW!  From my point of view, the quality of therapy I see at GPT is the best I have ever been a part of in my 24 years of being a PT. 

As the COVID restrictions are being lifted I have been allowing students to return and with that comes an opportunity to, hopefully, influence the next wave of PTs. Having students gives me the opportunity to reflect and consider what principles guide us at GPT. Today I thought it would be a good idea to dive a bit deeper and try to provide examples of what a physical therapist can/should be doing with their patients.

I was the first group of physical therapists that graduated with a Masters Degree in Physcial Therapy and now every PT gets their Doctorate. At my graduation we were told how important it was as a profession to have “more” eduation so we could be better prepared for the changing landscape of healthcare in America. I can say with absolute certainty that this is still stressed and the new generation of PTs learns more than I did in PT school. 

Education is an important foundation for a quality PT...but it’s not the whole story. The other equally important part of being a good PT is what I call the “art of physical therapy.”

When I started my career, I felt like my education had definitely prepared me to see patients and I was raring to go! But one day my surpervisor asked me a question that changed the trajectory of my career because it shifted my mindset. 

He asked me, “why are you doing that exercise with Mrs. Jones?”

I gave him a “textbook” answer...to which he replied, “I don’t care what the book says Matt...I want to know why YOU are doing it!”

This was a defining moment for me and it has stuck with me every since. It may sound obvious, but I had learned to give the “right” answers to get good grades in school, but this is not how it works with patients. The education is the foundation, but there is so much more to actually guiding patients through their rehabilitation. I still review my day and ask myself why “I” am doing what I am doing. It started me on this journey to step outside the “book” answers and find an answer that works for the individual patient. 

As with most medical professions we are taught to use what the most current research shows us is beneficial to patients. I am a big supporter of this philosophy...as a starting point and/or as a guideline...but as with most research there are patients that don’t quite fit into the “typcial” mold. I think it is our job as a physical therapist, to keep our minds open to use what the “book” teaches us AND to interpret the patient’s actual experience to help us decide “why we are doing what we are doing.” 

I call this, “the art of therapy.” 

The “art of therapy” is about relating to patients, using our education to interpret what they are saying and then to guide them to the outcome they want. This is an important part of our role as PTs...to guide the patient to “their outcome.” For me this means remembering that I am treating the whole individual...not just their diagnosis. 

The diagnosis is a helpful starting point for deciding the best course of treatment, it is the “book” part of being a physical therapist. But the person is not a diagnosis...and too often a diagnosis doesn’t take into account the chain reaction that happens to the body, resulting in multiple areas of concern. This is where my job gets fun...interpreting what clues the body is offering to figure out the real source of the problem. 

For example, someone with knee pain from degeneration will often walk with a slightly bent knee (especially when there is swelling). This is because the knee “feels” better when it has a slight bend to it. Unfortunately, this “bent knee gait” often leads to pain behind the knee at the calf and pain on the inner aspect of the thigh. The longer someone walks with the bent position, the more lopsided their hips/pelvis are while walking which in turn will often lead to muscle tension and potential pain in the hips and lower back. So by the time we see this patient, they have 3-4 problems that a diagnosis of knee degeneration simply cannot explain. 

The diagnosis is the “book” part of the condition and the chain reactions are where the “art of therapy is needed. We need to tailor our interventions by taking into account the physical, mental, emotional and social experiences of our patients. The job of the PT is to decipher all this information to understand the “whole person” and then use this to design a program to meet their individual needs and desired outcomes. 

At GPT, we feel that seeing the whole person is the key to success and this can only happen by listening to our patients and helping them achieve the outcomes they want. That is what we are here for and we are happy to help in any way we can!

Winning the “Best of Saratoga for Physical Therapy” is a reminder to keep learning and honing our skills to provide the best care we can and to live up to this honor! Thanks again for voting for Goodemote PT...it is an honor to serve Saratoga!

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