I’d usually be hesitant to make such a bold statement, but as someone who has been in the physical therapy profession for over a decade I know I’m going to say it sooner or later – and it might as well be now. Most physical therapy clinics suck.
The profession of physical therapy has changed significantly over the past few decades. After changes such as new regulations allowing patients to see therapists without a prescription from a doctor, to offering specialization in different fields, physical therapists are now highly regarded as important clinicians in the medical community.
However, these changes don’t necessarily mean that all physical therapists are created equal or that all clinics provide good outcomes, particularly in the case of athletes.
In this blog post I’ll share 3 points on why my approach to physical therapy is unique compared to most physical therapy clinics.
1. Generally speaking, most physical therapists just help their athlete patients get better after an injury, whether that means decreasing pain or returning to regular activities such as walking.
In contrast, I not only try to get athletes back to their sport after an injury with enhanced performance, but also always consider the following:
- Facilitating athlete’s recovery in-season via manual therapy and other modalities.
- Assisting athletic staff in program design/training to optimize performance.
- Guiding and assisting both athlete and staff in safely preparing for high levels of performance.
- Assessing and adjusting the athlete’s mechanics and biomechanics to decrease the risk of injury.
- Educating both athlete and staff on various matters related to health, fitness and wellness
2. Unfortunately, in most clinics therapists are stuck treating up to 40 patients a day, seeing each patient for about 15-20 minutes and then handing off the treatment portion of the session to an assistant or aide.
In my experience, too many clinics are focused on trying to see the patient as many times possible so that health insurance will pay as much money as possible, even when treating a condition that doesn’t necessarily need that many treatment sessions. This is for good reason (for the clinics): insurance companies don’t pay very much per visit for treatment and the amount they pay has only been decreasing over the past decade.
With me, things are very different. I see a maximum of 4 athletes a day. This means that I can spend 60-90 minutes with each athlete. This not only gives me enough time for treatment but also to learn more about the athlete. The fact that I see this few athletes per day may mean I’m less profitable than a 40 patient per therapist clinic, but it also means that I see much better outcomes with the athletes I work with.
3. In physical therapy and sports performance, there is just no substitute for education and exercise over the long term. But it comes at a cost.
In a typical physical therapy clinic an athlete is treated to resolve the acute injury without really gaining an understanding of why the injury occurred in the first place. The fact is that most injuries are unlikely to resolve or may even get worse in the long term if the correct exercises and training programs are not given. Taking the time to progress through a rehabilitation program, as well as to educate the athlete on their condition is time and energy consuming. Therefore most clinics simply skip this crucial stage of physical therapy.
As an athlete and a strength and conditioning coach myself I know exactly how difficult it is to be an injured athlete. That’s why I go above and beyond – to spend more time with the athletes, to invest in my professional expertise and growth, to connect with and learn from other professionals. This approach has consistently lead to the success of my athletes and to my own growth as a sports performance physical therapist.