Things We Learned in 2015

Top 6 Things We Learned in the Clinic This Year

As 2015 comes to a close, we reflected on what we’ve learned this year or how our practice has evolved or changed. Physical therapy is such an awesome profession because it is constantly changing. New research modifies or changes what we do, new treatments surface that provide new “tools” for us to use, and as always, we go home on any given day learning something new from our patients. Our treatment philosophy is derived from Dr. David Sackett, the father of evidence-based medicine. He advocated the best clinical practice being a combination of using the best available evidence in the literature, clinical experience/expertise, and patient values to formulate the optimal treatment plan. With that in mind, in no particular order, here’s some things we learned in 2015 that stuck out to the PT staff here at SSOR:
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1. Two patients can present with the same diagnosis, but have a very different treatment approach. This one is almost a given almost every year. Shoot, almost everyday! Our patients are not “cookie cutters.” Every patient has different needs, interests, past medical histories, comorbidities, etc that make them unique. As a result, an individualized approach must be taken. We believe this not only gets a good physical therapy outcome, but also makes our patients most happy because their needs and interests are most important.
2. There’s something to dry needling. Our staff took the Level 1 course this past August and we’re about to take Level 2 in January. We made a promise to each other that we wouldn’t be just randomly sticking people with no rhyme or reason to it. While there isn’t a lot of research yet on it and we’re not entirely sure what the mechanism is, for the right patient, it’s a nice adjunct to our normal approach. Like anything else, dry needling is a tool. It is not the only thing we do nor is it central to our approach. However, it clearly is helping specific populations. Dry needling is definitely one of those treatments that fits the “clinical experience/expertise” facet of the three-pronged approach mentioned above. It will be interesting to see what the research shows us in the coming years.
3. We continue to get great results with instrument-assisted soft tissue work. We have lots of instruments at our disposal here. Most people refer to them all as “Graston” as it has become the “trade name” that most people refer to. However, the concepts are still the same regardless of what brand or device we use. The instruments are used to break up adhesions and improve soft tissue quality. They just do a better job than our fingertips and hands can sometimes. Again, we’re not entirely sure what the actual mechanism is, but these tools are enhancing our ability to help our patients reduce pain and move better.
4. Educating patients about their pain and how pain works is very important. We took a course on teaching patients about pain a couple of years ago. Pain is really the main reason people come to see us, regardless of body part. We spend a lot of time with each patient teaching them how pain works, what is “good” vs. “bad” pain, and how our bodies and brains interpret pain. We have found that educating patients about this has not only reduced anxiety about physical therapy, but also significantly impacted their daily lives by understanding how pain works.
5. We’re realizing more and more how important it is to treat the whole person. While this sounds intuitive, we continue to learn how vital it is to talk to patients about their sleep patterns, how pain works, how to manage stress, how to modify activities to stay active and work around their conditions, and how to best make it through their day with as little pain and discomfort as possible. Everyone has work-related and/or family stress, anxiety, and worry about their prognosis and future. Addressing all of these things to the best of our knowledge and ability truly encompasses the most comprehensive and well-rounded approach to maximize our patients outcomes.
6. Patient self-referral continues to be highly utilized, and patients love it! A significant percentage of our patients come to our facility “off the street.” People like how fast we get them in and get them going on a treatment plan to get them back to the activities they enjoy. They appreciate how up front we are about results here – we know what we’re doing, so if you’re not significantly better in 2-4 visits, we’re going to send you to the doctor or adjust our treatment plan accordingly. Getting PT for 3 months with no results is just not in our vernacular here. Plus, people are tired of getting medications and potentially needless X-rays and MRI’s. They want solutions, not band-aids. Physical therapists can provide those solutions and we’re doing it very effectively.
We’re fired up for 2016 to keep growing as professionals and to keep learning from our patients and each other. No doubt, we’re blessed to be physical therapists and have the privilege of helping people live their lives to their best ability. Physical therapy is the greatest profession out there. We look forward to serving our patients in 2016 and partnering with them in their care. Thanks 2015 for all you taught us, and 2016, we can’t wait to learn what you’ll teach us!