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North Hills Monthly

Physical and Mental Conditions Can Benefit from Therapeutic Approach

Jun 30, 2015 09:43PM ● By Jill Cueni Cohen

The goal of physical therapy is to optimize a patient's function. Photos courtesy of Physical Rehabilitation Services.

For many people, rehabilitation and therapy are lifelines that allow them to recover from physical and mental issues, including chronic pain, developmental problems and even drug and alcohol dependence. Specialists with expertise in these areas can not only help patients manage their current conditions, but enable them to function more effectively in the future.

Physical Therapy
According to Physical Therapist Mary Butch of Physical Rehabilitation Services (PRS), located in Ross Township and Franklin Park, the goal of physical therapy is to optimize a patient’s function. “We treat any musculoskeletal condition that interferes with daily function, ranging from musculoskeletal pain, osteoarthritis, sports, work or auto-related injuries or vestibular issues like dizziness,” she explained.

“Your therapist should always address your goals to find out what you want to achieve, and then together, you should develop a treatment plan,” she added. “You should also be instructed in a home program so that you’re working between sessions and have a maintenance program to continue with once discharged from therapy.”

Whether it’s a serious trauma that involved reconstructive surgery or chronic back pain, physical therapy provides relief. “It’s wonderful to help someone recover from their injuries and return to the normal activities of daily living,” said Butch.

People can benefit from physical therapy at any age, but the North Hills has a very active senior population that is concerned with staying well, said Butch. “They’re most interested in how they can feel better, move better and be safe in their homes,” she said. “It’s very gratifying to be able to help those individuals improve their function; too often, the senior population thinks that chronic pain is a way of life, but most people can benefit from physical therapy.”

In addition to helping patients heal, physical therapists also act as community educators. “We speak to senior groups about balance and fall prevention, and speak at coaches’ clinics and health clubs,” said Butch, adding that PRS partners with the Baierl YMCA. “We’re dedicated to helping patients achieve their optimal musculoskeletal health.”

Pediatric Therapies
Even infants and children can benefit from physical, occupational and speech therapy. According to physical therapist Stacey Beam of River Pediatric Therapies, Inc., which is located in Glenshaw, Cranberry and Monroeville, children from birth to age three with diagnoses such as torticollis, plagiocephaly, Down syndrome, and spina bifida can receive physical therapy at home with the involvement of their parents.

For instance, Congenital Muscular Torticollis (CMT) is a postural abnormality that often causes an infant’s head to tilt to one side and rotate to the opposite side. Plagiocephaly is a related diagnosis that occurs when a flat spot develops on an infant’s soft skull due to continuous pressure on that specific area. “Both diagnoses are common and treatable with physical therapy, repositioning techniques and corrective helmets as needed,” said Beam.

Parents should research clinics before choosing a therapist and feel free to ask questions about a therapist’s educational background, specialties and treatment approach, especially regarding their child’s specific diagnosis. “New parents can get overwhelmed, so they should make sure that the therapist can clearly relay information regarding their child’s diagnosis and therapy,” said Beam.

Since an important part of therapy is carry-over with the exercises at home, it is especially important that parents know exactly what to do. “Observe the therapy sessions, and never feel intimidated about asking questions,” Beam said. “It is important for parents to practice and demonstrate the child’s exercises in the presence of a therapist to make sure that they have the confidence to do them correctly at home. There is a social/emotional aspect associated with pediatric physical therapy, and we do our best to help the child and parents become comfortable and excited to integrate the appropriate exercises into their daily lives.

“Be prepared and proactive,” she added. “The child, parents, school, pediatrician, orthotist and therapist should be a team. If there is a disconnect within the team, there will be a disconnect with treatment.” Community resources, including swimming, hippotherapy, and other recreational activities outside of therapy sessions are also encouraged.

Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation
As facility director for Jade Wellness, which has locations in Monroeville and Wexford, Dan Garrighan often sees people struggling with the shame and embarrassment of substance abuse issues, and he wants to alleviate the stigma of addiction.

“Treatment is always confidential, and everyone should feel empowered to seek help,” he explained, noting that there are a variety of resources available to residents of western Pennsylvania. “More than other areas of the country, this is a great place to get treatment because there are so many providers.”

Individuals are assessed by a licensed drug and alcohol counselor, who determines the level of care needed. Services range from outpatient counseling to individualized psychotherapy, to partial hospitalization or medication-assisted treatment, among other options.

Garrighan urges people who have never been involved in treatment and need help to just pick up the phone. “Find somewhere that makes you feel comfortable—not judged—and engage in services,” he advised, noting that substance abuse is a chronic relapse disease. “It takes a whole team approach, and you need a provider.

“As a disease, it’s no different than diabetes,” he added. “It’s just as necessary to get treatment if it makes your life unmanageable.”