This weekend, I was given the chance to attend the PPTA conference at Seven Springs resort and listen to a lecture about osteoporosis and bone health. While at the conference, I was amazed by all the different treatments and treatment techniques that could be performed to increase the quality of life for patients with Osteoporosis. However, it got me thinking about other, more everyday treatments, our patients might be carrying out in their daily lives. Thinking of what two of my favorite television characters, Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang, do when they need some therapy and my mind immediately thought of dancing. Having been volunteering for the Yes, You Can Dance class for people with Multiple Sclerosis for the past few months, I couldn’t believe that I hadn’t thought about that sooner.
One of the best decisions I have made in my physical therapy school career thus far has been to volunteer for the Yes, You Can Dance class. It has taught me so much not only about working with people with Multiple Sclerosis, but also myself and my identity as a future physical therapist. Although this class benefits me tremendously as a mentor, the benefits for our students are also insurmountable. Various studies show the carry over of dancing in patients diagnosed with musculoskeletal impairments to increased functional ability. Dancing has also been shown to be the only physical activity that helped to decrease the risk of dementia and improve mood. Each patient is so passionate about dancing and it has been a wonderful experience to see them become better, more confident dancers each week.
As PT’s, we can think of our patients like our dance partner. Just like with a dance, as physical therapists we work together with our patients to accomplish specific goals or specific dances moves to continue with the dance metaphor. Both require having a sense about how your partner/patient can move so you can set them up for success, both in your treatment program or in the dance number you are performing. These activities also require developing the trust of your patient or partner. Without that trust as a dancer, your partner might not be able to perform to the best of their ability for fear that they might fall or that they might make a mistake (but really in dance there are no mistakes, only ‘creative changes’!). Without that bond of trust that we establish as physical therapists, we might not be able to get all the information we need from our patients to treat them to the best of our ability. Great dancers are great because they are passionate about what they do and great physical therapists are no different. Being in a person-centered profession, it is that passion which allows us to establish these relationships and be better clinicians as a result.
-Teresa Toomey, SPT