When It Comes To Your Health: Put Yourself PHRST!
Updated: Feb 15
Here’s how to build your Personal Health Reliable Support Team (PHRST)
It’s important, especially, in today’s world of the coronavirus pandemic, to take health seriously. Taking care of our spouses and children is something we do everyday but how often do we take good care of ourselves? Personal healthcare can be overwhelming, chaotic and confusing. We may find ourselves neglecting our own health, ignoring signs and brushing off symptoms or pain. Maybe you are guilty of common mantras like: “it’s not too bad” (yet!)…”I’ll give it another week”…”I don’t have time to deal with it now”... Or maybe you are reading this article in search of some inspiration or a jump start to good health? Well keep reading, there is no time like the present–let’s start by putting yourself PHRST!
A Solid Foundation: Your Own, Personal Healthcare Reliable Support Team (PHRST)
The foundation of your healthcare starts with a team of knowledgeable medical professionals who become your medical support system. The members of your Personal Healthcare Support Team (PHRST) will help you feel confident and no longer overwhelmed. Your PHRST team will help you to make the best possible healthcare decisions so that you can eliminate any guesswork and continue on with confidence.
What Professionals Should You Have On Your PHRST Team?
Your PHRST team players are specifically skilled to assess problems before they can interfere with the function of the overall system (can we simplify this language and write it in more user-friendly terms?) and to fix problems when they arise. Why should this level of proactive care happen only at these elite levels? You are all entitled to be treated in this manner. A good first question to ask a potential provider is “How much time will I actually be spending with you each visit?” Another question to consider asking is “Should a problem arise that needs immediate attention, what’s the best way to get a hold of you?” After all, your Team should be accessible! After all, what’s the point of having a Team if you have to wait 3-4 weeks to see them?
Family Physician or General Practitioner
This is one of your most vital team members. This person is someone that you trust immensely, as they are the gatekeepers for all of your healthcare needs. This should be an individual who is extremely knowledgeable, patient, and will educate you about your issue at hand. This is your “go-to” person for all things related to “medical illness” and to keep your vital information handy so that any issues can be detected early. Physicians are the experts of your organs–very important! You will most likely see your family doctor once or twice a year (if not more for things like a sore throat, stomach bug, fever, rapid or unexpected weight loss, dip in energy level, or unresolving pain issue. This is the PHRST team member who will guide you best when it comes to your health.
Your Physical Therapist is the musculoskeletal and movement expert (think: muscle, joint, bone, nerve). In a nutshell, if it hurts when you move, then your Physical Therapist is the person to see. Did you know that in most states, anyone can see a Physical Therapist right away without having to get a referral from a doctor? This is commonly known as Direct Access. Wilderman Physical Therapy is a Direct Access clinic. It is to your advantage to call your Physical Therapist right after an injury has occurred. The majority of injuries are treated most effectively when we can see individuals immediately following an injury.
Another significant bonus to having a go-to Physical Therapist on your team is the fact that a Physical Therapist’s training spans a multitude of orthopedic body systems. Oftentimes we’ll see a client for an initial assessment and that client has already done quite a bit of research on their own or has consulted their family physician. Many times, while a specific diagnosis from a family physician may be close, the true mechanical issue requires a more thorough examination. Sometimes, a problem that appears to be a herniated disc, for example, may actually just be an issue of muscular or nerve tissue tension. This is truly where the Physical Therapist’s expertise is most valuable. We are able to look at the entire movement picture and determine the true, underlying cause of the problem rather than base our findings on the symptoms. This is what gives our clients the long-lasting relief and the best chance at recovery so that the issue does not reoccur.
Most of you go to your family physician for your annual physical regardless of whether or not you have any medical issues. You do the same thing twice a year when you see your dentist, and even see your auto mechanic every 3,000 to 5,000 miles for an oil change, even if you are not experiencing any car problems. But how many of you see a Physical Therapist on a yearly basis for a “full-body tune-up?” Very few, I’m guessing if any! Wouldn’t it make sense for you to get screened by a musculoskeletal expert to make sure you remain pain-free? This way we could address any possible areas of breakdown and resolve any potential issues that may escalate to more serious problems down the road.
Clients nowadays are becoming much more educated and savvy regarding their healthcare. Most of my clients ask tremendously insightful questions in terms of the particular issues they are dealing with. Never ever hesitate to ask questions of your Physical Therapist or family physician. Those of us who truly value the client education experience enjoy explaining our methods to those individuals who express an interest. And any time either your Physical Therapist or family physician does not have adequate time for education regarding your healthcare, then it may be time to search elsewhere!
Another factor that sets an All-Star Physical Therapist and family physician apart is that we stay in close contact with our clients. That way, if any future questions arise, you can easily get a hold of us by phone, text, or email and will receive a quick and timely response. How many of you have that relationship with your Physical Therapist or family physician?
The key to being a great advocate for yourself is that you need to do the research–that is, find out what makes the Physical Therapist that you are going to see different! It’s no different when you’re looking for a family physician, or dentist, or auto mechanic, or surgeon…do you truly want the best, or will you settle for “good enough?” And once you’ve found your All-Star Physical Therapist, please make sure that your family physician and other medical professionals on your team know who they should be partnering with to ensure that all of their clients are treated in the best possible way. Our clients become better advocates for themselves because they are armed with the knowledge to treat themselves or to consult with a member of their team ASAP.
You may encounter a medical issue that needs much more attention or a deeper knowledge of a particular body system (e.g. heart, lungs, kidneys, joints, nerves, etc.). These specialists exist because of the level of knowledge they possess in their particular area to be able to more accurately assess and treat medical issues. In addition, many of these specialists are also surgeons, should the need arise. A great orthopedic surgeon, for example, will not tell you that you need surgery as the first words out of his/her mouth. They will tell you that if an orthopedic condition can be treated conservatively (thus, avoiding surgery), then this is the route you should take. This is how Physical Therapists and surgeons have developed such an amazing relationship over history. Unfortunately, there are still way too many physicians out there who don’t understand the difference between Physical Therapy clinics and Physical Therapists. Their understanding is very similar to what the general public thinks–that all Physical Therapy is the same, regardless of whether you go to Wilderman Physical Therapy or to a large, “mill-like” Physical Therapy clinic where they treat 4-5 clients at the same time. Nothing could be further from the truth!
All right–this one is a “gimme!” There is simply no other medical profession who can take care of your teeth like they do. Got tooth pain? Want to keep your teeth pearly white? Make sure you have a great dentist! There is, however, some overlap between the dental and Physical Therapy professions, especially when it comes to jaw pain and potential headaches related to TMJ issues (Temporomandibular joint). Beware the dentist who tells you that you simply need a “night guard” or “bite plate” to wear while you sleep to avoid grinding your teeth at night. While this may be beneficial, it’s only part of the solution. Since TMJ issues involve the jaw and not the teeth, many TMJ sufferers benefit tremendously from seeing a skilled Physical Therapist who is trained in manual therapy to work on soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments) and joints associated with the face, jaw, and neck that are the culprits in referring pain to the jaw and teeth.
If I include all of the important people here, this would cease to be a blog post and would border on a short story! But I don’t want to neglect the extremely beneficial professionals that would fit into this category. This would include chiropractors (I would like to do an entire article about the difference between PT and Chiropractic care), acupuncturists, massage therapists, personal trainers, dietitians, and nutritionists. Especially since I have developed a relationship with a number of individuals in this category who I can contact and vice versa to co-consult and co-treat for the best possible client outcomes.
Another reason you want the best Physical Therapist to oversee your healthcare needs
Many individuals nowadays utilize personal trainers or strength coaches to help them excel in sports and other activities. What a great member of the team to have! But be very careful that your “skills” expert is aware of any movement or functional issues that may be preventing you from performing a particular drill or exercise with correct technique. Think of those people who are specifically training in rotary sports…baseball players, softball players, golfers, and any sport involving throwing. Oftentimes I will hear “my coach wants me to be able to do this drill, but no matter how many times we work on it I just can’t seem to improve.” *This is a huge red flag for me. This is a dead giveaway that this individual’s body is simply not allowing them to perform the task. It has nothing to do with whether or not this person wants to do it correctly. They obviously have a compensation movement pattern which, if left unaddressed, will most likely lead to injury.
There you have it. You now have my recommendations for assembling your All-Star healthcare team. Keep in mind that you may never have to utilize some of these professionals, most notably in the Specialist Physician and Alternative/Complementary Disciplines. But it is certainly worth identifying these individuals should need arise. That way you are being proactive with your healthcare instead of waiting until you need one of these individuals now!
You probably already have a team of professionals when it comes to other aspects of your life, why not build your PHRST team today!
Author: Dr. Dave Wilderman, DPT, Wilderman Physical Therapy
Call (302) 691-9055 or click www.wildermanphysicaltherapy.com to learn more about adding a physical therapist to your team. We can also recommend other professionals who can help you manage your healthcare. Image by Anh Nguyễn Duy from Pixabay