Physical therapy important for getting back in action

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Allison Linville

October is physical therapy month, and it’s a good time in between the rigors of summer activities and the winter ski season to check in and consider improving physical condition and addressing any nagging injuries. North Valley Physical Therapy, a North Valley Hospital clinic in Columbia Falls, offers high quality care for patients, and has been a part of the community for 32 years.

Who goes to physical therapy?

Bill Brunett, a physical therapist at North Valley Physical Therapy, explains why someone would want to see a physical therapist. Brunett explains, “Physical therapists are the experts in musculoskeletal injuries and rehabilitation.” Most people, at some point in time, will have an injury, surgery, physical issue or other problem that requires physical therapy. Often, this is a referral from a physician. For athletes, physical therapy can sometimes seem “optional” for a chronic knee, foot, or ankle injury. However, in order to stay in good physical condition and continue participating in the activity, it’s helpful to visit a physical therapist and then regularly practice the exercises prescribed. Following through is the hardest part but it is always worth it once the pain subsides and being active and healthy is again pain free.

Many people also use physical therapy to get past an injury or to bring them to full recovery after a difficult illness or accident. This takes dedication as well on the part of the patient, to follow through with the exercises and continue therapy until the issue is solved.

What do people go to physical therapy for?

Common issues that therapists see include shoulder, neck, and back injuries, sometimes seen after surgeries for rehabilitation. Therapists also see weakness and balance issues in senior patients, which can ultimately influence their ability to stay active or live independently.

How do you know if you should see a physical therapist?

Stacy Dolan, a physical therapist at North Valley Physical Therapy, has an easily applicable answer to this common question. She explains, “We all get aches and pains. If that ache or pain lasts for more than two weeks or so and doesn’t improve in intensity or frequency, you may need to seek further help in order to heal properly. Injuries that are not attended to can cause more problems in the future due to a change in movement patterns to compensate for the old injury. That can cause other parts of the body to wear down more quickly than they would if the original injury had been properly treated.”

What does physical therapy entail?

As described by Sue Rucinski, a physical therapist at North Valley Physical Therapy in Columbia Falls, a physical therapist is capable of evaluating the patient’s problem, providing treatment in the form of modalities as necessary, manual therapy when indicated, and then working with therapeutic exercise and activities to improve mobility, strength and function.

Therapists also teach the patient exercises that can be done at home and ways in which the patient can take responsibility and participate in the management of their rehabilitation. An invaluable part of a therapist’s job is the education provided to the patient.

For Rucinski, working with patients and seeing improvement in their mobility is a highlight of the job. She explains why she was drawn to the role, by mentioning, “I became a physical therapist as a result of my interest in health care, science, and my desire to help people rehabilitate. I love seeing people improve and regain their function.”

Finally Rucinski explains that the best part about being a physical therapist is the people. She says, “I love the personal interaction, the time I get to spend with my patients and just getting to know them all.”

Allison Linville is the marketing and community relations coordinator for North Valley Hospital.

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