Not All Physical Therapy is Created Equal

If you have ever been to physical therapy and failed to progress or had a poor outcome, you probably concluded that physical therapy was just not for you.

A bad experience may turn you off from physical therapy all together.  What many people do not realize, however, is that not all physical therapy is the same. 
The aspect I love most about being a Physical Therapist is having the freedom to choose from and ability to utilize a wide range of treatments.  Depending on the patient, diagnosis, and presentation, the treatment could vary greatly.  Treatment can range from therapeutic exercise, functional activity, joint mobilization/manipulation, nerve mobilization, soft tissue techniques, and modalities, just to name a few. 

Unfortunately, many clinicians that specialize in a specific treatment method may become narrow minded and try to fit every patient into the same model.  For example, a clinician may try to force every low back pain patient into a McKenzie model, or try to "stabilize" every spine patient regardless of their diagnosis.  While these methods can be very effective, they will not work for everyone.  If you do not fit into their model, you do not get better.  In addition, some clinicians are more/less knowledgeable than others, making them unable to offer treatment they are unfamiliar with. I feel that the more treatment options I am familiar with, the more patients I have the potential to get better.  If a patient is not responding to treatment, instead of saying "Physical Therapy is not working for you", I can say, "This treatment is not working for you, so let's try something different." 

Another factor to consider is the amount of time your Physical Therapist spends with you during a treatment session.  Many clinics require practitioners to treat multiple patients at the same time.  Even if the clinician is excellent, they are clearly unable to give you their full attention and effort in this situation.  The more time your Physical Therapist can spend with you, the more time there is for skilled manual treatment, ability to assess your response to treatment, and ability to identify factors that are contributing to your condition. 

If you were to have physical therapy at 10 different clinics in your area, you will almost certainly have a very different experience at each.  In addition, you will likely have a different experience working with different therapists within the same clinic.  If you are not responding to or not satisfied with your treatment, you should try another clinic before giving up on physical therapy.  Or, if you have had a bad experience in the past, I would encourage you to give physical therapy another try somewhere else.  You have the freedom to be treated by any Physical Therapist you choose, even if you were recommended to go somewhere specific by your doctor.  Put your outcome in your own hands and make an educated choice to get the best results possible.

Posted by Dr. Shaun Vollmer, DPT

1 comment:

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