How to find a good physical therapist, Part 2: Thinking creatively

Hi everyone!

In my last post, I gave you a run down of the process of all the different physical therapists I saw before I found Paula, the PT who finally helped me.

And I just wanted to reiterate one piece from that story in a separate post, which was this:

When I found the one person I truly had the strong belief would be able to help me, I had to get a little bit creative, and a little bit assertive.

The first time I saw Paula for an evaluation, I was really blown away by everything she seemed to know.  She explained that she’d developed a special interest in the SI joint, after treating numerous clients with it.

She was able to take out a model pelvis and give me a detailed explanation about the role the SI joints play within the pelvis as a whole, and how everything in the pelvis is connected.  (Here is a little video I made, in honor of our talk that day!):

No one else had been able to give me such a detailed explanation– or even take the time to try.  For this reason, I felt pretty strongly that Paula had the capacity to help me.

Unfortunately, Paula thought the best thing for me would be aquatic physical therapy.  Although she was certified in aquatic PT (the Burdenko method, to be specific, which I’ll write more on later) she wasn’t currently offering it at that time, for scheduling reasons.

She referred me to one of her coworkers, who she said was pretty good as an aquatic PT.

Yet when I met with her coworker, I found her to be like most of the PT’s I’d already encountered.  Although she was optimistic about her ability to help me, that optimism didn’t seem to be based on much, because she also said she wasn’t really familiar with the SI joint.  Her treatment plan was simply going to be giving me a bunch of exercises to strengthen the muscles in the area, and playing it by ear in terms of how my SI joints fared.

This, my friends, is NOT enough.  Not with a complex problem like SIJD.

I’d already tried to do PT with a few physical therapists who seemed to have the same thought process: they weren’t really that familiar with the SI joint, but thought they could simply give me exercises to strengthen the muscles in the area, and that would be enough.  (Most specifically, Kristen and Amy on this list).

And it never worked.

I wasn’t about to risk potentially going through the same thing again and getting worse, so after meeting with this coworker once on land, I decided to keep looking for other options.

However, my experience with the next person I saw (#7 on my list, Walter) was deeply frustrating, and sent me rushing back to my chiropractor in the midst of a new setback.  He seemed to have a lot of technical knowledge, but he pushed me through a wide range of “diagnostic” tests that caused my joints to lock up, worse than they had in months.

This was one of my “rock bottom” moments.  I was so furious and disappointed and afraid, all at once.  I was so frustrated– why couldn’t I find another physical therapist like Paula?

Then it hit me: go back to Paula.  Beg, if I had to.

So I did go back.  By that point about 4 months had probably passed.  I scheduled another appointment with the secretaries, and then when I saw her, I made my case:

That I simply hadn’t been able to find someone with her level of knowledge and expertise.  Given that I’d been through six other PT failures, I thought I would benefit even from just meeting with her in the office, and learning from her intellectually about the SI joints.

It helped that I was already working out in a pool 4-5 days a week.  I knew I had good form while pool running because I’d already done aquatic PT several years earlier for a different injury.  I knew how to engage my core while in the pool, and make sure my lower back wasn’t arching.

Because of all this, Paula agreed to take me on as her patient.  Our visits had a somewhat  non-traditional format: we mainly met in her office, on land, and talked about my pool exercises.  It helped that I was in the middle of taking my PT prereqs at the same time, so I was able to wrap my mind around what she was saying, more than the average patient.

Now, I don’t expect this exact same arrangement to work for everyone.

I did have a few advantages up my sleeve that allowed this situation to work.

But I’m writing about this to give you an idea of what I had to go through, and how I had to learn to think creatively to find the solution I needed.

Maybe you’ll need to think outside of the box as well, using whatever advantages you might have.

Maybe it will mean travelling a great distance to see someone you think is the right person.  Maybe it will be advocating for yourself to get someone to take you on as a patient who might otherwise not, for whatever reason.

Maybe it means you’ll go back to someone who you’d already seen in the past, to see if maybe they had learned anything new or taken any extra courses since the last time you saw them.

Or maybe it will mean seeing the person in the office with the least qualifications, if you happen to have a good feeling about them.  (I’m planning to write an upcoming post about my friend who is a PT Aide, who is quite experienced in treating the SI joint, because she was taught by the PT she worked under).

You never know.  Remember, I saw Paula once and she sent me on my way.  It was only my own intuition that brought me back.

So… don’t just go by how things look on paper.  You don’t have to go “by the book” if the book isn’t complex enough to handle such a complicated problem.

Click here to go on to Part 3!

Published by Christy Collins

Hi, I'm Christy! I'm a health coach who helps people overcome SI joint dysfunction and chronic pain.

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