Yesterday I went to the dentist to get my yearly cleaning and got the opportunity to advocate for our profession. The dental hygienist was really nice and we talked (as much as I could) in between x-rays and the cleaning. I told her I was in my last year of PT school and she told me that she has been dealing with spondylolisthesis for many years now and has been seeing her MD for the problem. Of course, my first question was “have you tried physical therapy?” Her answer saddened me, but honestly did not shock me. Her response, “My insurance requires me to do 4 weeks of PT to be approved for an MRI. The MD wanted an MRI of my back so he told me to go to PT, ‘even though it won’t work’. So, I went and I felt a little bit better, but I just really want the MRI to see what is going on.” Then, there it came, the million-dollar question “Is there really anything a PT can do for my problem or should I go see a chiropractor?”
Angels were singing in my head and I was so pumped up to educate her on how PT could help her (luckily, she was done cleaning my teeth, so my mouth was free). I began to educate her on how her posture plays a huge role in her low back pain (LBP), especially with her job responsibilities. I also explained to her how important core stabilization was in keeping her body aligned and reducing her pain. I told to her what muscles are involved in core stabilization, what they do, and why they are important, and was able to show her how to perform a core contraction.
Since she has a history of spondy, I know her MRI will show abnormalities, but I did inform her that 80-90% of the population has something abnormal on their MRI, but are asymptomatic. Then I addressed the chiropractor statement. I let her know I am not against chiropractors, but I explained to her how PTs and chiropractors differ in that PTs can perform the same manipulations as a chiropractor, however, we give the patient exercises to strengthen the muscles around that joint to help keep their body aligned, while chiropractors perform manipulations. I ended the conversation with how I wish that all medical professionals could work together for the best interest of the patient, WHATEVER that may be. I encouraged her to seek out PT even if she was going to need surgery because research has shown that patients have better outcomes with completing PT pre- and post-surgery rather than just post-surgery. I gave her the name of a highly reputable PT in the area and let her know she was more than welcome to contact me if she had any questions.
Y’all, education is so important. Take the time to educate you patients, family, friends, and the community (even your dental hygienist) of what is going on with their bodies, what adjustments can be made to their daily lives, what PT is, and how PT can benefit them. I cannot wait to continue to impact people’s lives and EDUCATE the community!!!