The Monday Memo
June 19, 2017 PITT DPT STUDENTS
Personal Training & Physical Therapy
The two years I took between my undergraduate education and beginning physical therapy school at Pitt was perhaps the best decision I’ve ever made. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the experience that I received over those 26 months allowed me to develop skills that will be valuable during my career as a therapist. The mentors I cultivated over that time, both in person and online, helped me to recognize that the two professions don’t have to work in isolation. Rather, I think it’s incredibly important to blend the two. Whether you approach it from a patient education standpoint or integrate strength and conditioning protocols into the therapeutic plan, there is an immense amount of value in successfully integrating both aspects into patient care.
At the end of the day, professionals in both fields have very similar goals: To improve the function and performance of the person standing in front of them. Therapists typically work with a population in pain, with the ultimate goal of moving them out of the symptom modulation phase, improving upon the impairments found in the physical exam, and returning the patient to their desired level of participation. The trainer works on the other end of the spectrum to help improve their client’s body composition, performance goals, and overall resilience. At the end of the day, both are attempting to make significant changes in their client’s level of function.
We know that Americans don’t exercise enough. We know that sedentary lifestyles only accelerate our body’s natural degenerative process. We know that a lack of physical activity and progressive overload results in a gradual weakening and deterioration of your body’s tissues, eventually leading to injury/pathology. We know this because as therapists and trainers, we are exercise professionals. We live and breathe this culture of physical activity, but, unfortunately, the majority of our patients do not. It’s important to educate your clients: Inform them of the benefits of physical activity and impress upon them the vast effect it will have on their personal lives.
In addition, encourage active modalities over passive methods during your therapeutic plan. There is always a reason to default to moist heat to warm up body tissue and prepare it for work, but an active warm-up can accomplish this same goal while also increasing calorie burn, circulation, muscular function, and more. If your client is seeing you for a lower extremity injury, show them how to train their upper body and trunk in a safe and effective manner. An injury doesn’t always mean you should stop training and there is plenty of research that shows benefits to the involved limb when you continue to train the uninvolved side.
At the end of the day, physical therapists are experts in the human movement system. We understand the human body, biomechanics, and the effect of physical activity (or lack thereof) on your body. If we want to elevate our profession, our outcomes, and our patients, we need to do a better job of educating them on all things health and fitness. We also need to embody this belief ourselves. Be an example for your patients and practice what you preach. How often are you strength training? Performing some sort of cardiovascular exercise? As cliche as it sounds: Be the change you want to see in the world.
Charles Badawy, SPT, CSCS, USAW,
Pitt DPT Class of 2019