APTA's vision for physical therapy is "transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience." How will you embody this vision as a future physical therapist?
My goal as a future physical therapist is to combine my acquired knowledge as a movement expert with my background and passion of health and fitness to bridge the gap between movement and performance. From my experience, there seems to be a "gap" from the time rehab is completed with a physical therapist, to the time an individual tries to work at full capacity or perform sport at a high level. For example, the physical therapist has corrected the injury, muscle imbalances and movement inefficiencies of the injury being treated, however other aspects of health and fitness (nutrition, recovery, other movement patterns) are left unchanged. The majority of musculoskeletal and soft tissue injuries can be prevented with proper self maintenance, mobilization and movement techniques. Injuries are part of human reality, while getting individuals back to functioning properly is the primary goal, I will embody the vision of improving the human experience by educating individuals how to perform basic maintenance on themselves.
First, through my nutritional and personal training certifications, I will also be able to educate clients on how proper nutrition and recovery (bodily maintenance) plays an important role in rehab and prevention. From increasing or adding omega-3 intake to shift the body to "anti-inflammatory" physiological processes, to explaining why insufficient sleep can slow recovery, and increase injury, the fuel we give our bodies depends on how well our bodies function. Since interacting with clients is part of the rehabilitation process, I believe it is important to utilize your time to make sure individuals are informed of all the aspects that can influence their health, movement and performance. It is not my job to force different health habits, rather giving them the information they need so they can learn to make the proper choices on their own, which in turn improves their human experience.
Next, I believe it is important to teach how easy it is to keep soft tissues mobilized, break down adhesions, and to teach proper mechanics of other movements not necessarily part of the current rehabilitative plan. A small investment of a lacrosse ball, and foam roller, with use during break times, before workouts, or leisure time at home, 10-20 minutes a day can keep clients tissues healthy and firing correctly well after rehab. Through interaction and asking about daily habits, I will be able to make simple suggestions on how one should put their body in better positions throughout the day. Simple changes such as focusing on better posture on the commute to work each day, choosing to stand while working instead of sitting, or taking a few minutes each day to sit in the bottom of your natural squat. As subtle as these changes are in a typical day, if I can educate clients to choose to put their bodies in better positions throughout the day, the accumulated affect over time can help reverse movement defects and prevent other injuries from occurring in the future.
Lastly, taking the time to teach individuals proper movement mechanics for common everyday functional movements is important to improving the human experience and preventing injury. Even if it is just by giving additional exercise instructional worksheets or using a PVC pipe for demonstration between sets of rehab movements, every day movements such as squatting, dead lifting, pulling, and pressing will be introduced during a clients time in my care. Obviously, depending on the individual circumstances some of the movements listed above will already be part of the rehab programming, however I feel it is a disservice to a client not to give them basic instruction on the other movements as well, based on their abilities.
In conclusion, by helping clients create a bigger health and fitness base, by plugging in the holes where they lack the information to make proper decisions, I will improve the human experience well after their injury rehabilitation ends. This will help increase their performance in sport, on the job site, with their families, and work towards preventing future movement problems and injuries. Like previously mentioned above, my goal isn't to force health habits on anyone. I believe in order to improve the human experience I need to optimize their movement, restore their injuries in their entirety, and interact with clients in a way that educates and motivates them to make better decisions in their daily lives.