Physical therapy is a health care profession primarily concerned with the remediation of impairments and disabilities and the promotion of mobility, functional ability, quality of life and movement potential through examination, evaluation, diagnosis and physical intervention.
Physical therapy is a solution to a big nasty problem — pain! No drugs…no surgery…just you and your therapist working together to keep you moving. For some patients that means regaining the ability to get dressed and for others it means optimizing their sports performance. I could list the many conditions physical therapists treat, but that kind of information is readily available on most PT websites. Instead, I’d like to shed light on the unique relationship between therapist and patient and how that special dynamic can foster incredible recovery.Last night I spent the evening assembling our new reception desk, and as I was turning the final screw, I thought it was a great analogy for PT. At the start of the project, you can think of the desk (in 6 boxes, weighing over 900lbs.) as your pain or injury. You can picture yourself as one of the screws (you’re a little screwy, right?) and the physical therapist as the screwdriver. First, I had to really examine the “screw” so I could put it in the right place, otherwise it would be totally ineffective. After all, the package came with 30 different screws in a variety of lengths. Once I found the correct spot, I used the screwdriver to efficiently turn it into place. Some of the shorter screws took only a few turns, while the longer ones took a little more time and effort. At the end of the project, I had a spiffy new desk that was fully functioning and ready for action.
Clearly this analogy is over simplified, but I think it gives an easy snapshot of physical therapy. You might have significant pain, but you can’t determine the problem (there are just so many holes in that darn desk). That’s where a physical therapist’s extensive education and experience can come in. Once you have a proper diagnosis, your road to recovery can begin. The screwdriver (your PT) will ensure that you are on the most efficient and accurate path. He or she will use various techniques and modalities (joint and soft-tissue mobilization, muscle release, electrical stimulation, heat/ice, ultrasound, etc.) to repair damage and exercises to improve strength, endurance, range of motion and flexibility.
The most important part of the analogy is that you are a “screw” NOT a nail. A nail is passive and the hammer does all the work. Instead, a screwdriver is directing and sometimes applying pressure, but the screw is the one actually turning and moving forward. With each “turn” in physical therapy you build physical strength, you tackle mental roadblocks, and ultimately drive your recovery. The physical therapist just taps into the incredible potential of your own mind and body.
The moral of the story is to find a great screwdriver that can help you get turning so you can be the beautiful desk you were always meant to be.