More benefits to physical therapy than meets the eye

Megan Crawford

As people streamed in and out of the physical therapy department Monday at St. Francis Hospital in Maryville, Mo., therapists showed different types of exercises while teaching about the various ways in which physical therapy can help.

October is National Physical Therapy Month. To recognize this, the department decided to have their first open house and invited the public to come in and ask questions. Everyone also had the opportunity to see examples of various exercise stations and ways in which certain injuries and conditions can be treated.

Jason Haer, a physical therapist at St. Francis, said they use stability balls, leg press machines, treadmills, bikes and other equipment specifically used to train balance in patients. A big part of their therapy is encouraging muscle activation.

“People that have had an ankle injury or a knee injury for instance – we do exercises to build their strength,” Haer said. “But it's another thing to take that person to standing and get them to have the stability to be able to do the activities in their daily living – returning to jobs, things like that. We do a lot of balance training at times with people.”

Haer said the six physical therapists and two physical therapist assistants see a wide variety of conditions to which they provide treatment and therapy.

Those conditions range from sports injuries to those with neurological injuries stemming from strokes or Parkinson’s disease. Haer said that as many people get older, they begin having balance issues. A large part of their therapy process is spent working on those balance issues, and showing those patients how having stronger muscles can help.

Still, many people don’t realize that certain injuries can result in overuse of specific muscles or other joints and result in further injury to other areas of the body, said St. Francis Physical Therapist Chad Jackson.

One example pertains to Anita Greeley, a patient working with Jackson and a nurse in ambulatory surgery at St. Francis. Jackson was able to determine that because of ankle sprains that occurred several years ago, Greeley had changed the way she used her foot and began walking on it differently. Because of her injury, she had a loss of movement in one direction of her foot.

Through measurement, Jackson determined that the 7 degrees of lost movement was affecting the way she walked, even though that may seem like a relatively small number.

Greeley, who is on her feet all day as a nurse in ambulatory surgery, said her aching foot was affecting everything in her life, both at home and at work.

“If you’re feet aren’t good, you don’t have a good day,” she said.

Now that she has been working with her doctor and with the physical therapy department, Greeley is already gaining that motion back, and she said she feels the improvement. Jackson said the exercises she is doing and the two to three-week taping process should help her body adapt back to where it should be.

Through various exercises and now taping, Jackson is trying to help Greeley in a more conservative manner to possibly prevent any surgery.

“When you think about the options we have for her kind of pain, we have the conservative options management,” he said, “but also if we wanted to be aggressive, we could say ‘hey we’re going to go in and do surgery, cut some things.’ But obviously this is a lot less invasive and if this can correct the root of the problem, maybe we can avoid surgery. Not to say that surgery isn’t an option, but try this first, and get her functioning better.”

Haer said that with the wide variety of diagnoses comes a wide variety of treatment plans and each individual can start with the same warmups. After a while, the therapist will alter each plan to the individual’s needs and injuries. 

Maryville Daily Forum