Source: Home Health PT is it for you?
When most people picture a home health physical therapist, they typically see an old, drained, often fed up therapist on the tail end of his or her career ready for retirement. Some may even see someone with little to no skills, maybe an introvert, maybe someone who is not a team player. Hey, I do not blame you at all for thinking this way. After all I use to be one of those very people with a misguided view of Homehealth physical therapists.
At the tender age of 13 while watching a cricket match with my family, one of my favorite players got injured and I saw a gentleman with a huge bag running out to the field to take care of him. The commentators said that he was a physiotherapist. Then and there I shouted to my family that is what I am going to become. Fast forward a few years later and I arrive to the United States to pursue my degree in Physical Therapy.
During my first semester of PT school, one professor asked each of us which setting we’d desire to work in. I said to him, “Forget everything else, sports medicine is where it’s all at.” He simply smiled and informed my advisor at the time to place me in clinical rotations that were not sports medicine related. At the time I was pissed but it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Although I never completed a homehealth rotation during my time in PT school, being in the hospital, being in a skilled nursing facility, working with kids, patients with TBIs (Traumatic Brain Injuries) opened my eyes to the diversity of my beloved profession.
After graduation from PT school, I went to work in an outpatient Orthopaedic clinic. On a daily basis I was knee deep in knees, hips, shoulders and ankle injuries, seeing on average over 20 patients a day. When some patients would come in for evaluations with such poor range of motion and strength post total replacement even though they received home health PT I would get really upset and disgusted. I would ask patients in those situations what kind of therapy did they receive. From their responses I was getting the urge to get involved in home health and change its perception. I resigned my job at the outpatient clinic and started a career in home health.
Is home health the setting for you? Maybe…maybe not. There are many reasons you should consider it!
1. You will be working with a dream team…
When I thought I was going to be working alone, I soon realized I was part of a dream team with the patient as the captain. I had to work in conjunction with the patient’s physician, nurse, occupational therapist, maybe speech language pathologist, maybe social worker and also maybe an aide and the patient’s family/caregivers. I had to master effective and timely communication for the patient to receive the best possible care and return to prior level of independence. Team work makes the dream work and your contribution as a clinician is highly valued and appreciated in this setting. There is mentorship and clinical guidance available. You get to learn about the other professions and learn tricks to improve your patient’s care holistically.
2. You must be energetic…
As a home health therapist you have to have a lot of energy as a lot of the day is spent driving from home to home, treating patients and documenting. Most agencies reimburse you for mileage. Some pay you a salary, others pay you per visit and visit type. You have to be a quick and critical thinker, be innovative as we call it a #MacGyverPT. You have to be personable, upbeat, pleasant, you have to be empathetic and respectful as you are in the patient’s home not your clinic. Home health is definitely not the setting for any licensed body to treat a body. In this setting you are seen and treated as an expert.
3. It offers the best flexibility…
I am still young and more and more #freshPTs are getting into home health because of the flexibility it offers. You get to set your own schedule. You can start as early or as late as you want. You choose the areas you want to see clients and best of all, you see a variety of conditions and with a variety of people. It never ever gets boring.
4. It pays well…
A lot of #DPTstudents leave school complaining of student debt. I feel their pain. In home health a clinician is paid well for the services rendered compared to outpatient and acute care settings. There are agencies who offer upward mobility by allowing physical therapists to become clinical managers and supervisors.
5. You get to witness miracles…
I’ve had the privilege of seeing so many miracles as a home health PT that I did not get in an outpatient setting. In my featured photo is a patient I worked with after she was discharged from acute care being involved in a motor vehicle accident. She was wheelchair dependent when I first saw her. This young lady was a recent speech language pathologist graduate and full of life. I was driven as a young therapist to make sure she regained as much function as possible. The first day we walked outside with a cane, I told her that soon she will be off the cane and we will do a 5k together. We did!
House calls are back in style. Many patients don’t want the hassle of being in traffic, looking for a parking space, shivering in the cold, paying for a baby-sitter, paying for a taxi, losing valuable time away from work and home. Home Health offers them just that. So if you want to be the traditionalist home health PT or a mobile PT, this is indeed the setting for you.
What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the words, “Physical Therapy?” I’m going to assume it has something to do with athletics, sports injuries, a torn ACL or rotator cuff. That’s what I used to think, at least. When I first learned about the field of physical therapy, I actually had no idea there were even physical therapists that work in hospitals. Then to say I would eventually be one of those physical therapists who worked in a hospital- ew, gross! Dealing with foleys, IV lines, patients in gowns that aren’t exactly totally covered, and the occasional (or more often than not) assisting a patient to clean themselves up, if you know what I mean. But guess what setting I chose right out of school to pursue? Acute care. What happened to that girl who was afraid of needles, the girl who nearly passed out when completing her observation hours, the girl who cringed at the smell of urine? Well to be honest, I’m still afraid of needles if they’re going in me (eek!) and I can’t exactly say I like the smell of urine.. but regardless, here I am, an acute care physical therapist.
This magical acute care dream did not come to me overnight. I, alike to most of my classmates, wanted to be an outpatient physical therapist. That is, up until my last clinical rotation just two months before I graduated. I had actually gotten into physical therapy because of multiple patellar subluxations during soccer in high school. My first trip to outpatient therapy, I looked around the room and was like, hey, I think I like this. So, my journey began! I completed a 3+3 program, which required me to get observation hours prior to applying as well as during my first 3 years. As I mentioned above, I actually had to sit down, drink orange juice and eat crackers during my observation hours in the hospital. It was always a place that made me feel kind of queasy.
So that brings me to physical therapy school, oh how I miss it (sorry, not really). My first clinical was in acute care. I had an amazing CI, which I definitely think (for better or for worse) can have an effect on how you feel towards a certain setting. He told me, “Acute care is 1/3 what you know and 2/3 how you say it.” Or something along those lines. I remember initially stumbling through my evals, not talking loud enough, not remembering the patient’s name when I walked in the room just after I chart reviewed, lots of little things that I needed to work on. All in all, I learned a lot this clinical, but I was obviously just getting my feet wet and trying to feel comfortable in my skin as a student physical therapist. You know, like remembering all my questions and trying to keep a straight face when a disoriented patient made a strange comment. Truly, I was trying to figure out those 2/3 of how to say things and present myself to my patients.
My second to last clinical was an outpatient clinical. At this point in time I had completed all my coursework and was ready to graduate. One thing I continued to struggle with was my confidence level. As my CI and others told me, “you know this, you just have to be confident in yourself.” Which is so unbelievably true, but difficult to do. For some reason though, this confidence didn’t totally click until my last clinical, which, surprise, was another acute care affiliation. At the time when I was selecting it, I was between picking two outpatients versus one acute care and one outpatient. I was like, well, what the heck, I liked acute care, I might as well try it again and learn some more! So I did.
My final clinical was in the acute care setting in a Level 1 trauma hospital. My CI was a burn specialist. GROSS. When I got the email, I was like, oh my gosh, I am totally going to lose weight from not eating this clinical. I was nervous, to say the least. Needless to say, it was my favorite clinical and my greatest learning experience. I saw all types of trauma including gunshot wounds, traumatic brain injuries, motor vehicle accidents, burns, you name it! I spent all of my time on the trauma floor in between step down and the ICU, it was amazing. This is also where I had my first few experiences with ventilators, including ambulating a patient while mechanically intubated 200 feet! So awesome! THIS is where I started to really fall in love with acute care. The ability to help someone who is critically ill be able to walk again is amazing and such a rewarding feeling. The happiness started showing through me and I know I started radiating more confidence. It’s a wonderful feeling to begin to feel like you (kind of sometimes) know what you’re doing. I’ll never forget one of the PTs there said to me, “You can’t help what you love.” Which is so true. And that’s where I began to really love acute care.
When I was deciding which jobs to apply for, I still applied to both outpatient and acute care. I mean, at this point I just needed a job to pay my loans (ugh). But let me tell you a few reasons I ultimately chose acute care:
- Working in the hospital requires you to constantly communicate with EVERYONE. You are communicating with nursing, physicians, surgeons, other health disciplines, not to mention your patient. Sometimes you are communicating with more than one at the same time, and sometimes this is not exactly by choice. Working in acute care forced me to overcome fears I had about confronting surgeons about the weightbearing status, asking a physician to order imaging, talking to a nurse about something I saw during my session. I used to be shy, I’m definitely not now. I’ve learned to use simple commands for certain patients, talk in layman’s terms so that family members can understand better, speak louder and more clearly, and re-direct patients who go on a tangent. Communication is so vital to every aspect of acute care whether it is treating the patient or coordinating the care. There’s no way around it, and that’s awesome for someone who is looking to build confidence in those areas.
- Time management. Those who have worked with me know that I always have my watch on and I freak out mildly when I forget it. One of my professors made it mandatory for us to wear a watch during our clinical affiliations, and it has stuck with me since, for good reason. In acute care, it is in and out from one patient’s room to the next. Although I hate to talk about productivity, it is a thing that must be acknowledged in order to keep a business going. I utilize the stopwatch feature on my watch so that I start it right when I walk in. When I notice my session is coming to an end and I’m at about 20ish minutes, I say to myself – is there something else that is beneficial to this patient that I can do? Educate more? Complete one more exercise (functional, of course)? Obviously I’m not going to stand and talk mindlessly to unethically bill someone, but the watch helps me to manage my time so that I can maximize my efficiency with a patient. If I’m only in there for 9 minutes and I can’t justify a need for anything else, so be it! But you better believe I am respectfully getting my behind out of the room and moving on to benefit another patient elsewhere. I have people to see in my 8ish hour day. Not to mention meetings to attend, maybe something to present, etc. It’s so vital to be able to manage your time appropriately to maintain efficiency in your work.
- SO MANY PATIENTS. On average I would see 8-10 patients a day. Sometimes I would be able to see these patients for a few sessions, while other times they are gone the next day. This means new patients and new diagnoses ALL THE TIME! AKA more learning and more practice! In acute care, every day is a new adventure, generally with a new diagnosis or comorbidity that you’ve never heard of. Big thanks to google for helping me figure out what some of those rare diseases are. Thanks to my brain and the memory of the patients, now I will never forget it!
- A full medical record. This means I can check a patient’s MRI of the brain after a stroke or check a CT of the pelvis of a man who just fell. I can read over the full list of medications in a chart, and read up on his last visit to the hospital. Not saying you can’t do this in another setting, it just seems to be a little easier in the hospital. This allows for a more thorough review as well as more practice reading imaging. Sure, radiology probably already wrote up a report about it, but the more practice you get, the better right? Soon enough, PTs will be ordering imaging for all states 😉
- SO MANY PEOPLE. Nurses, physicians, family members that knew your long lost relative, patients that survived wars, there’s just SO MANY. Not only do we learn and gain clinical knowledge, we also gain a broader knowledge when interacting with others. I learned all about Myanmar from one patient and then heard all about a patient’s elite pole dancing granddaughter. The rapid turnover in a hospital means encountering so many different people all the time. Whether it is learning about a new tool the cardiologists are using or learning about what it was like to grow up in the 40s, there is so much to learn.
- Vitals! This probably should be higher up on this list, but regardless, you get SO much experience with vitals in the hospital setting, not to mention just reading heart rhythms in general. Besides the fact that the ICU always has them up and on a screen in front of your face, it is also very vital to keep an eye on a person’s vitals before, during, and after a PT session. I swear I whip out my personal pulse oximeter a bajillion times throughout a session. Maybe too many, but I would rather be overly cautious, ya know? And sorry for all of the patients that haven’t been out of bed in days that I take BP of a million times, but your orthostatic hypotension needs to be documented appropriately, just saying 😉
- Good body mechanics. Because let’s be real, you aren’t lasting long in acute care if you are trying to use your brute strength to stand someone 15x a day. Your body will not like you at all. Body mechanics are vital everywhere, but especially in the hospital, so you don’t end up in the hospital..
- **Added bonus** – It keeps you a little more fit!? I mean seriously.. constant laps around the hospital (for me, speedwalking or sometimes a slight jog – okay, not really the jog), assisting patients into sitting and standing or into a chair (without a hoyer), or heck even just helping a patient sit on the side of the bed. I’m telling you there are days when I sweat bullets. It’s gross, but then I feel a little better when I don’t go to the gym that day (oops). This setting isn’t for those who may be timid to get a little dirty, that’s for sure.
Now to say I will stay working in the acute care setting forever is silly. Do I love it? Yes. But this profession offers so many opportunities and ways to expand and diversify our knowledge base, it’s amazing! I’m not sure where I may end up, but I know that I love learning and I want to be able to pursue whatever adventure is out there that will offer me the best opportunity to be the best physical therapist I can to my patients. I’m still a “Fresh PT” but I think the options are just about endless 😉
No matter what path you’re on, I’m excited for you! Physical therapy rocks in general (duh), and there’s certainly no “correct” path. But if you’re wondering more about acute care, feel free to get in touch!! Thanks for having me as a guest, Mark!!
Jennifer Palmer PT, DPT is a “Fresh PT” currently working in VA in both the acute care and SNF settings. She attended Lebanon Valley College in Annville, PA where she earned a BS in Health Science with a minor in Business in 2013 and a Doctorate in Physical Therapy in 2015. In her free time, Jennifer enjoys traveling, hiking, yoga, and trying new things. She also enjoys sipping coffee with her cat and husband. Check out some of her other blogs ranging from Travel to Money-Saving, to more PT inspired blogs such as The Generalist PT and The Struggles of being a Small Physical Therapist.
Back in August, Mark asked me to do a guest blog post regarding the theme “So you think you want my job?” At that time, I was just beginning the sports residency program at The Ohio State University. I was still finding my way as a new sports resident and as a brand new clinician. Who are we kidding? I am still trying to find my way, but I do believe the residency is doing its part in trying to accelerate the process. It goes without saying that as a new grad you will experience many highs and lows. Before I get in to the specifics of why I chose to do a sports residency, I believe it is important to understand the ups and downs that I myself experienced as an athlete. These experiences have helped shaped who I am today, teaching me many important life lessons that can be very applicable in my decision to pursue further education and training.
Throughout my youth and all the way through college, I played sports – basketball, specifically. For me, there was no better feeling than competing on the court and well, of course, winning. I am sure if you asked most people to describe me, one of the first words that would come to mind would be competitive. Sports just so happen to be more fun and enjoyable when you are fairly decent at it. For the longest time, it was that joy of competing and the desire to be the best that drove me to a Division I scholarship. That meant hours on the weekend or at night spent running an extra mile or shooting an additional 500 shots and less time spent having fun with my friends. But when you want to achieve something, that is exactly what you do because working hard and putting in effort requires zero skill.
When I played my last basketball game of my career on March 11, 2011, I felt lost afterwards. I did not know what the next step would be. I had no idea what I wanted to pursue. When you do something for so long, it becomes part of your identify and it is often difficult to separate from what has consumed more than half of your life. My senior year of college sports was far from perfect. In fact, it was probably the exact opposite. Most people envision ending their career riding off in the sunset, ending it on their own terms, and finishing it off with a championship of some sorts. The reality is, for most, the season ends on a loss. There can only be one champion, after all. My team finished my senior season with a record of 9-22. I battled injuries for most of the season, spending countless hours in the athletic training room just to prepare for a game, both physically and mentally. At times, I would wake up in the morning and wonder if making it through the game was even feasible. The majority of my season was played with bilateral navicular stress fractures. The problem was going on much longer than I even care to admit or cared to share with anyone else while it was going on. As a sports medicine major in undergrad, I was fairly in tune with what was going on with my body. So naturally I waited until the pain became unbearable and until it was too late to medically redshirt before I admitted to anyone I was injured.
Athletes just want to play. Everyone knows that. This comes as a surprise to no one. Despite the injuries, I knew it was my last season and that I wanted to do whatever I could to play through it. And that is exactly what I did. For the longest time, I did not take practices off. I did not take games off. I did nothing differently. I just played as hard as I could because that was all I ever knew. It was not until the middle of January during the season when I began resting during the week and participating in pre-game practices only to save my body for games. Deep down, I hated that. I felt like if I couldn’t do it during practice then how could I expect myself to perform during a game? In actuality, it was the best plan for me. My legs felt fresh during games and the pain was much more manageable. While I questioned at one point if I would make it through the season, this plan gave me hope that I would indeed be able to make it through the rest of my senior season.
That plan changed on February 5, 2011. Just 9 minutes in to our annual breast cancer awareness game, I dislocated my thumb. At the time, my only perception of dislocated fingers was the time Kobe Bryant did it. I remember him walking over to Gary Vitti, the Head Athletic Trainer of the Lakers at the time. Gary popped it back in and Kobe immediately went back to playing. I obviously did not factor in the difference between a thumb and a finger. I had my finger reduced, asked to be taped up, and then requested to be put back in the game. Only 2/3 of that went as planned. I would not reenter the game and would miss the next 7 days of practice including one game. I returned just in time for Senior Night with my thumb heavily taped. I was very frustrated, though. One thumb changed not only the way I dribbled, but how I caught and shot the ball. I felt that was how my season ended – with pure frustration. I lost my starting job and could not compete at 100 percent for multiple reasons.
When I sat in the locker room following the final game of my career, I had no idea what the future would hold. I tried desperately to hang on to the sport. The following season I became a graduate assistant women’s basketball coach at a university while simultaneously pursuing my Master’s degree in Kinesiology. But it ultimately did not seem to be where my heart was. Physical therapy came up as a career option multiple times throughout my one-year of coaching both through conversations with several of my friends who were currently in PT school and with athletes who suffered from injuries and were forced to pursue rehabilitation. At that time, I thought I had no chance of getting accepted into a physical therapy program. My grades during undergrad were not stellar. I decided to pursue it anyways.
The passion that I had about pursuing my DPT degree felt similar to how I once felt about the game of basketball. I spent an additional year finishing up pre-requisites and working as a physical therapy tech as I applied to several PT programs. I received multiple rejection letters, placed on the wait-list by a few, and a couple of acceptances. I ultimately settled in on attending Angelo State’s DPT program. I chose Angelo State for multiple reasons, but after undergoing the recruiting process for basketball, there is something to be said for the importance of a good atmosphere and solid support system being in place. During my interview at Angelo State, it instantly felt like family and that meant a lot to me. Additionally, it felt like a great place and opportunity for me to fully invest in my future profession as a physical therapist.
You may be wondering what does this all mean in terms of why I chose to pursue a sports residency. From the time I began PT school at Angelo State University in June 2013, I knew I wanted to pursue a sports residency. I feel that much of my past helps explain this. I think about my time as an athlete and the amount of hours I spent honing my skills. I take that same approach with me as I develop as a clinician. When you want to be good at your craft, you have to be willing to put in the work and effort that will help you excel. Surround yourself with people who know more than you do and will challenge you because they want to make you better. Put yourself in a situation that makes you want to go the extra mile to be successful. But most importantly, remember the ultimate reason for wanting to pursue further training – your patients. When I competed on the basketball court, I never wanted to let a teammate or coach down. That is why I competed as hard as I could for every practice and every game. As a physical therapist, I want my patients to get the best possible care. In a residency, you are not necessarily competing against anyone else per se, but you are most certainly competing against yourself to become the therapist you desire to be. During any given week, I could be preparing for an upcoming lecture for students in the DPT program, a presentation to faculty members of the residency program, a practical for an on-field scenario, or many other learning opportunities associated with the residency. While many may view this as just more schooling similar to the curriculum they just completed in PT school, I view it as an opportunity to become a leader in the sports medicine field. I view these as opportunities that I may not have had the opportunity to pursue had I not chosen to do a residency.
A residency may not be the best option for everyone to achieve their goals. You must consider multiple options. I knew a residency was the best avenue for me to pursue my goals. We will all learn through trial and error at some point in our careers. In many cases, we will reflect on our treatment of patients and think to ourselves the many ways we could have had our patients achieving their goals for therapy 4 weeks faster. Don’t get me wrong; as a resident, I still experience this type of learning. However, between the mentoring I am provided with both during and outside of treatment time, serving as a teaching assistant in musculoskeletal labs, providing event coverage for the OSU rugby team, participating in physician shadowing and surgery observation, partaking in a clinical research project, and performing various skills check-offs and practicals – I feel confident that this allows me to push myself in a way that I could not achieve on my own. It reminds me of the countless ways I used to pursue my dreams as an athlete. Both of these are experiences go to show you that a little extra work can go a long way in accomplishing your goals.
About the author: Jennifer Fath, PT, DPT, MS, CSCS
Jennifer completed her Bachelor’s Degree with a major in Sports Medicine at University of the Pacific (Stockton, CA) in 2011. While at Pacific, she competed as a Division I athlete on the women’s basketball team. Prior to completing her DPT degree, Jennifer served as a Graduate Assistant Women’s Basketball Coach at The University of Texas-Pan American (Edinburg, TX) during the 2011-2012 season while completing her Master of Science degree in Kinesiology. She earned her Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree from Angelo State University (San Angelo, TX) in 2016 and was awarded the “Outstanding Service” Award upon graduation. During her time in PT school, Jennifer served as Class President, the APTA Student Assembly Texas Core Ambassador as well as President of the TPTA Student Special Interest Group. Additionally, Jennifer worked as a Graduate Assistant, mentoring and assisting first year students throughout her time in PT school. Immediately following PT school, she pursued further education and is certified in the Selective Functional Movement Assessment, the Functional Movement Screen, and Y-Balance testing. Currently, Jennifer works as a Sports Resident Physical Therapist at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
So I am fortunate enough to have a very special guest for this blog post. Katie Montague, aka “The Lifting Librarian”, is an elite level Olympic weightlifter currently completing her graduate coursework at Rutgers University. I have had the pleasure to known her since our undergraduate studies together at Stockton University, formerly the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. Besides lifting weights and enjoying reading manuscripts in the library, she also runs her own blog at TheLiftingLibrarian.com. In this interview, Katie is going to discuss her experience with Physical Therapy as a high level, competitive athlete.
Mark: So Katie, could you tell us about yourself?
Katie: Hi, guys! My name is Katie and I’m 24. I met Mark while completing my undergraduate degree in Literature at what is now Stockton University. It was during that year transition from working out of college to last September when I began my graduate degree for a Master’s in Information with a focus in Library Science, that I began my weightlifting career. Over the last year and a half, the sport of weightlifting has helped shaped me into who I am today. For that, I am forever grateful. I am currently on the job hunt for all things library and archive related. Unfortunately, I can’t afford to work part time at the Princeton Theological Seminary Library and lift and coach forever. Growing up, sadly, is going to be a part of my near future, but I think I’m ready!
M: What piqued your interested into Olympic weightlifting? Books and weightlifting seems like an interesting combination.
K: Like so many others who’ve made their way into the weightlifting sector, I was first introduced to the lifts through CrossFit; however, then, I hated the Olympic lifts. I skipped the days when they were programmed and I made little effort to enjoy them. My coach, owner of Absolute Strength Gym, encouraged me to enter into their Sinclar Total (body weight to pounds lifted) unsanctioned meet, in memory of their weightlifting coach who had passed away that Christmas. I reluctantly agreed. And I won. By a lot. We realized I should continue with this, that I really had a chance to be great one day. Ya know, in like five years because that’s how long it takes to develop a great weightlifter. Good thing I’m a patient person 🙂 or at least I’ve grown patient since my journey began.
M: I hear you have earned yourself the nickname of “The Lifting Librarian”. Could you tell us a little about that?
K: Right before leaving for Senior Nationals in April of this past year, I was interviewed by New Journey Channel 2 news. After the reporter asked what I was studying. It wasn’t until the piece was aired that they mocked me: “New Jersey has their very own Weightlifting Librarian. Interesting mix.” It’s really interesting actually, the weightlifting community is really diverse. So many lifters are incredibly intelligent possessing Master’s and Doctorate degrees. And so many are incredibly dumb. Maybe there is an easy medium?
M: What have been your experiences with physical therapy prior to your olympic lifting career?
K: When I was a senior in high school, I tore my ACL in a lacrosse scrimmage. I was in intensive physical therapy for four months before leaving for field hockey preseason at Stockton University. That’s where I met Mark. I continued my intensive session with their athletic training program until the Spring semester.
I have been lucky enough to remain healthy long after my knee issues. However, I am currently being treated in physical therapy again. Since September, I have been working very closely with Inner Dynamics Physical Therapy, a pelvic floor physical therapy office in Oakhurst, NJ. Tamra Wroblesky, my physical therapist and co-owner of the practice, is the reason I am still lifting today.
The squat is absolutely vital in weightlifting. If I can’t squat, it’s impossible to complete full lifts.
M: When did you start to feel that something was “off?”
K: In early August, I began feeling sharp pains near my coccyx when squatting. The squat is absolutely vital in weightlifting. If I can’t squat, it’s impossible to complete full lifts. I felt this excruciating pain while squatting and when lifting from the floor.
I never would’ve guessed that this pain was stemming from my pelvic floor. The body is incredible.
M: What made you start to seek help; particularly pelvic physical therapy services? Did you know that physical therapists were able to help you out?
K: I was coaching a CrossFit beach WOD for local gyms in the area towards the end of August when I ran into an old friend who just graduated with her physical therapy degree. After explaining the symptoms, she recommended Inner Dynamics as she just finished her clinical with them. Had I not seen Lisa Ricker, who knows how long I would’ve dealt with this pain before discovering the source. I had stopped the full lifts for almost a month at this point, I was seeing a chiropractor and doing research and we continued to emerge empty-handed.
Mark also recommended physical therapy as I used to have problems urinating during heavy cleans, but I never would’ve guessed that this pain was stemming from my pelvic floor. The body is incredible.
M: How has your experience been with a physical therapist who specializes in pelvic health? Is it helping you get back to lifting heavy and staying competitive?
K: I took it easy until November, a month prior to the American Open. It took about three months to lift to 80% strong and pain-free. The American Open was a coming back meet, of sorts. Tamra has done a great job of working with me so I am able to continue to lift through the physical therapy. She’s even made visits to the gym during my recovery to ensure that I’m moving and bracing properly.
M: Before you were first treated by a Pelvic PT, what did your expectations for your first visit? What surprised you the most?
K: Honestly, I had no idea that a pelvic floor physical therapist was a real thing. I was unsure of what to expect, only that Lisa said internal work was probably necessary and that I would be painful. She was correct.
M: I’ve heard that your PT also does CrossFit; how has that influenced your care?
K: Tamra does CrossFit-type workouts to stay in shape for hiking and climbing. She’s reached the summit of multiple mountains across the world.
So many females pee while lifting/jumping. I’ve never had children. I’m 24, and I’ve been peeing my pants during physical activity since I was 14. It’s not ok.
M: Do you think that pelvic health is an issue in the Crossfit/weightlifting community?
K: YES. So many females pee while lifting/jumping. I’ve never had children. I’m 24, and I’ve been peeing my pants during physical activity since I was 14. It’s not ok. There are people who are trained to help. Countless women who’ve given birth and who haven’t pee during double unders, box jumps, front squats, and cleans. The issue is that we’re not taught how to brace. The pelvic floor is a muscle, it can be healed and strengthened like any other muscle. Learning how to properly brace and use those muscles is key.
I would tell them it’s necessary to go. It changed my life. The way I sit, the way I brace, the way I lift.
M: Would you like to say anything to someone who is considering pelvic Physical Therapy? Would you recommend it to your friends who are have the same or similar issues?
K: I would tell them it’s necessary to go. It changed my life. The way I sit, the way I brace, the way I lift. This process has been extremely difficult for me as I have been spending the last six months relearning how to move and lift. I’m relearning how to work through positions in the correct way. It’s no longer about getting the weight up. It’s about doing it correctly, using proper muscles. I don’t lift to be the best today, I’m lifting to be the best in four years. The body is complex, it will take time.
M: Any final thoughts or words you would like to say?
K: In so many instances, physical therapy can be utilized to help resolve issues that we may not even know we have. Be open to help and body movement. Movement is medicine. I’m proof. In October I was unsure I would be able to lift at the American Open. Thanks to Tamra, I was healthy enough to lift. Even with so much time off, I managed top ten. I’m continuing therapy for prevention as the last six months were so difficult and we work weekly to ensure that I stay healthy.
Thank you so much, Katie for answering questions about your experiences with physical therapy. I wish you the best of luck with your future endeavors and look forward to seeing you on the platform winning gold one day. Just remember the little people when you make it big!
A special shout out to Dr. Tamra Wroblesky. Be sure to check out her at Inner Dynamics Physical Therapy: Pelvic Health and Wellness Center in Ocean, New Jersey for your Pelvic Physical Therapy Needs.