I often have thought to myself, Bob Dylan had it right… “The times, they are a-changin”. We see it everywhere, including in healthcare.
Physical Therapy has long been a part of the health care community, but the growth and change that we have experienced over my 16-year career have been phenomenal. Patients are more apt to seek care to correct problems versus just “living with it”. They want to move, they want to work, and most of all… they want to get better.
As a back and neck specialist, I have seen these changes acutely. Based on current research, the use of passive modalities, bedrest and bracing has given way to exercise and manipulation. We strive to restore normal mobility by stretching and repeated movement activities, often combined with soft tissue mobilization and joint manipulation. As mobility, pain and function improves, we then transition towards the prevention of recurrence. Recurrence has been a common thorn in the side of individuals dealing with back and neck pain and has been shown to lead to imaging, frequent medical visits and sometimes surgery.
As physical therapists, our role in prevention of recurrence takes many forms. We provide core strengthening and stabilization of the spine by engaging our natural “girdle” of muscles to reduce the impact and forces imparted on our spinal structures. We provide correction of posture, proper work and lifting mechanics, and activity modification to allow our patients to stay functional and active without causing a recurrence. We focus on what our patients CAN do, versus what they cannot do, to help them be less afraid of activity worsening their pain.
Our role has also been adapting to be the “eyes and ears” of the care team, looking for patterns and signs that may indicate the need for other interventions.
Our final role is that of an educator. We educate patients that the natural course of back and neck pain supports continued activity and movement, and that we need not live in fear of a diagnosis. Almost all of us will have some degree of back and neck pain during of our lifetimes, but we need not “live with it”.
If you are currently dealing with pain or limitations and are interested in what Physical Therapy can do for you, talk to your primary care provider, and request a referral to physical therapy. For questions regarding therapy or if therapy might be right for you, contact Altru’s Physical Therapy Department at 701.780.2300.
Written By: Kevin O’Brien, PT, DPT, MDT
Kevin O’Brien has worked as a Physical Therapist for Altru for 15 years, primarily in the East Grand Forks Altru Clinic. He has been a lifelong North Dakota Resident, graduating from UND with his Doctor of Physical Therapy degree in 2005. He specializes in the care of mechanical back and neck pain as well as general orthopedics. He is a certified McKenzie Mechanical Diagnosis and Treatment provider and has served as community faculty at the University of North Dakota for the past 10 years, instructing Physical Therapy students on manual therapy.