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5: Putting a Physical Therapist on Your Healthcare Team

Jun 25, 2019

Ride an e-scooter? You’ll probably end up in the ER in your first 10 rides. Really. Learn how to scoot safely today. Also—learn how a physical therapist can keep you moving and pain-free, especially before you’re injured and what to do if you’re hit in the head by a foul ball.

Episode Transcript

This content was originally created for audio. Some elements such as tone, sound effects, and music can be hard to translate to text. As such, the following is a summary of the episode and has been edited for clarity. For the full experience, we encourage you to subscribe and listen— it's more fun that way.

One Physical Therapist's Turning Point

Keith Roper, PT, DPT is a physical therapist who cares about his health. A few years ago he experienced a turning point when he looked in the mirror and didn't recognize himself. Roper had gained nearly 50 pounds after leaving school and entering a particularly stressful time in his life. It started slowly, buying one size larger of pants. Then another size larger. Then another. Until the man he saw in pictures was not the man he wanted to be.

Roper began by focusing on his diet. Being an avid soda drinker for most of his life, the first cut the soft drinks out. Over time he lost most of the weight and is being more conscious of his personal health.

You Can Go to a Physical Therapist Directly

Scot has been dealing with the aftermath of a wrist injury for years now. Though the injury itself has healed, the small accommodations he's made over the years had led to a clicking in his wrist that bothered him. After years of seeing doctors and orthopedic specialists, he was eventually sent to a physical therapist. The therapist worked with Scot to strengthen his wrist and he's finally seeing improvement.

As we learn from Keith Roper, Scot could have gone directly to a physical therapist (PT) and saved himself a lot of time and money. It may come as a surprise, but PT isn't just for injuries. PT specialists are very qualified in physical rehabilitation and functional diagnosis. They do not require a doctor's diagnosis first to do their job, and in many cases, a patient can go to a physical therapist directly.

If you're having muscular pain or a nagging problem with your back or joints, you may want to see a PT specialist for an assessment.

The Top 4 Things a PT Can Treat

Pain is not just a tissue issue. It's often a complex interaction of your muscles, your nerves, and your movement. Additionally, the amount of pain you experience is not directly related to the severity of an injury. Physical therapy can prevent and rehabilitate the causes and symptoms for a multitude of issues, the most common being:

  • Back and neck pain
  • Overuse injuries - including tendonitis, sprains, hip pain, tennis elbow
  • Vestibular problems - chronic dizziness, balance problems
  • General physical conditioning - any issue impacting your motor skills and physical ability on a day to day basis

Chiropractor vs PT - Which is Right for You?

Should you go to a chiropractor or a physical therapist for your back or neck pain? According to Keith Roper, it really depends on the provider and their philosophy towards treatment. As well as how the patient approaches their rehabilitation. Too often people treat physical therapy and chiropractic treatment as a commodity.

"They say 'I've tried physical therapy and it didn't work,'" says Roper, "You wouldn't say 'I tried doctor-ing and it didn't work.'"

It's important to treat these therapies like any other form of medicine. Seek out second opinions. Try a different provider. Do your research.

That being said, Keith does warn patients to be critical of the approach of many chiropractors. More traditional chiropractic practices focus on relieving a problem with an adjustment. They provide relief and send you on your way, with the understanding that if you start hurting again, you will come back in for another treatment. This creates a relationship of dependence that patients should avoid.

In contrast, physical therapy often focuses on giving the patient a form of agency. They teach you how to treat your pain yourself. Give you exercises you can do at home to improve your condition. While there are some procedures that a physical therapist will need to perform in their office, a majority of the treatment is done by the patient on their own.

Should You Do PT Before an Injury?

Physical therapy doesn't need to happen after a problem starts. Preventative therapy can go a long way to keeping you moving as you age. Often an older man will come to physical therapy when they first realize they have difficulty getting up from a chair. But you can, and should seek help early if you're having issues with any of the following:

  • Loss of strength in your arms or legs
  • Limited flexibility in your body
  • Balance issues
  • Frequent sprains in your joints
  • Frequent pain in your neck or back
  • Any nagging musculoskeletal injuries you haven't addressed

Your physical therapist will perform a full wellness assessment to help identify any developing problems and nip them in the bud before they become more debilitating later in life.

These assessments and treatments are covered by Medicare and most medical insurance plans.

Learn to Walk Before You Run a Marathon

For the typical 30-year-old man, there may come a time in their life they decide they want to run a marathon. In typical 30-year-old man style, they will just "go out and do it."

Going from sedentary to running a few miles overnight is not the best approach and it can be dangerous. From trips and falls, sprains, and overuse injuries, there's plenty of risks of injury for a new runner.

It's important to take it slow and progress gradually. And a physical therapist can help.

Physical therapists are also trained to provide education for many different types of sport. They can help teach you about form and how you should be progress in your activity in a way that can prevent serious injury.

Does Perfect Posture Exist? Probably Not.

Upper back and neck pain is a common problem for many office workers that spend hours of their day hunched over a keyboard. It's easy to assume that a better posture may help alleviate the pain. But according to Keith Roper, there isn't really such a thing as perfect posture.

A physical therapist saying that posture isn't important? It's true. Most research shows that an improvement to posture does very little to actually alleviate back and neck problem. So if sitting up straight won't help with the pain, what will?

"Our bodies are made to move," says Roper. He suggest that keeping your body moving throughout the day is vital to preventing neck and back pain. Take breaks and walk around throughout the day. Change your position and move often, it should do more to alleviate your neck and back pain than trying to sit perfectly.


63% of E-Scooter Injuries Happen in Your First 9 Rides

If you live near a city, there's a good chance you've seen people riding around on e-scooters. They seemed to have appeared overnight and people are zooming around on them. It looks like a fun and convenient form of transport, but they can be dangerous.

A recent report from the Center for Disease Control and the Texas Health Department looked at the rates of e-scooter injuries and what causes them. Initial findings show that 63% of riders experience a serious injury in the first nine e-scooter rides. With 1 in 3 having an injury on their very first trip. The causes of these accidents have been attributed to bad road conditions, excessive speed, and technical malfunctions.

Troy is seeing an injury a week in the ER, and the injuries are pretty serious. These include head injuries, road rash, concussions, fractures, and even injuries requiring surgery.

So how can you prevent an e-scooter injury?

  • Familiarize yourself with the vehicle. Many injuries are caused by over-confidence. Take some time to practice braking, steering, and going up and down curbs.


  • Be aware of road obstacles. Stay alert while riding. Hazards like potholes and loose gravel can be dangerous.


  • Slow Down. Some e-scooters can go as fast as 15-mph. That's a four minute mile. It might not seem like it's going very fast, but it's enough to cause major injuries in a crash.


  • Wear a Helmet. If you're commuting on a bicycle in a city, you probably are going to wear a helmet. The same should go for a scooter. They protect your head in the event of an accident and may just save your life.


Read more about the dangers of e-scooters.

ER or Not: Hit in the Head with a Softball

Wrong place. Wrong time. You mistakenly catch that surprise line drive at the company softball game - with your head. Should you go to the emergency room?

The simple answer: it depends on the symptoms you're suffering.

As with any head injury, the biggest concern is a brain bleed or concussion. If you have any of the following symptoms go to the ER:

  • Any loss of consciousness
  • Nausea
  • General confusion
  • Severe headaches
  • Difficulty focusing or speaking
  • Inability to maintain balance or walk in a straight line

These may be signs of a concussion or another serious brain injury. Get to the ER and get a scan.


Just Going to Leave This Here

On this episode's Just Going to Leave This Here, Scot muses about the beauty of how much children love to move and Troy expounds on the joys of peeing in the woods.

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