How to find a good physical therapist, Part 4: Search tips

1. Web search tips

I eventually found my physical therapist Paula, who listed SI joint dysfunction as one of her specialties, through a simple Google search.  I typed in “sacroiliac joint physical therapist” and then the name of the town next to me (which was much larger and busier than the town I actually lived in).

Paula’s name popped up, through her company website.  Sounds simple, right?

But the weird thing is, I’d done that exact same search countless times before.  Maybe I put in the name of my own actual town.  Maybe I put in “Boston,” instead of the name of a specific town.

But somehow, her name hadn’t come up.

I’d been just about everywhere else.  I’d gotten search results that led me to PT offices much farther away from me (and they’re all now on my list of failures).

Somehow, Paula had been working at this exact location, 3 miles from my parents’ house, the entire time.

That’s why I really recommend that you don’t give up after your first one or two Google searches.  Keep trying.  Rephrase things.  Check every day.

I’ll never really understand why Paula didn’t happen to pop up sooner.  Maybe I didn’t look hard enough.  Maybe there was something specific about the exact wording of my search that didn’t lead me to her.  Or maybe her company didn’t quite have the same online bio for her up– she wasn’t really sure.

But that is why I say be persistent.  Use all different types of search terms.

Don’t just type in “SI joint dyfunction.”  Try the same search, with “sacroiliac joint dysfunction” or “SIJD” (an abbreviation people often use).

Don’t just type in the name of your town, if your town is small.  Try the nearest major metropolitan area.  Try the name of your state.  If you live close to the border of one state, try the name of the next state over.

Get creative, and be relentless.

In my opinion, when it comes to as complicated an issue as SI joint dysfunction, there’s no such thing as trying too hard.  

Don’t stop until you find an answer.

2. Word of Mouth

There are two particular SI joint Facebook groups I’ve come across where the members are really well-informed and supportive.  I absolutely recommend to everyone who emails me that they try posting in these groups and ask if anyone knows the name of a good physical therapist (or doctor) in their area.

3. If there are medical practices or doctors that seem like they could be helpful, but aren’t in your exact area, try contacting them and asking if they know of anyone closer to you.

If there’s anything I’ve learned, living in the Boston area with its many medical schools, it’s that people in the medical community tend to know each other.  Maybe they went to school together, or had a fellowship together, or attended a training.  Even in Boston, the world of musculoskeletal pain management can tend to be a small one.

So if you contact a given practice, it’s possible they’ll be able to recommend someone closer to you.

For example, for those in the Pennsylvania/New York/New Jersey area, I often recommend contacting the Coordinated Health practice (that is, if you aren’t able to make it there yourself as a patient).

They have put out some of the best resources on sacroiliac joint dysfunction that I’ve ever seen, and since they seem to have such a large hospital network, it’s likely they’ll have connections to providers in the surrounding areas.

But you can do this yourself in your own searching.  For a shortcut, you can also take look at the different doctors and PT’s I reference in my resources section, and see if any of them practice at all near you (at some point I’m meaning to organize some of these geographically by author).

4.  Research Articles

On that note, you don’t just have to research by treatment places– you can see who has written research articles on the SI joint.  Often, their contact info will be available, or you can look them up because they’ll probably be affiliated with a particular hospital or a university.

It might be a bit non traditional for a patient to contact the author of a research article.  However, in my time doing research for this blog, I was shocked to find that there were doctors I’d seen a long time ago (back when I had upper back pain, before I had SI joint dysfunction) who were now doing research on the SI joint.  There was no way to know this as a former patient, however.  The change wasn’t necessarily reflected on a hospital website.

The only way I knew their interests had expanded, at all, was to see them as the author of a journal article.

5. Conversation

In the past few months I’ve noticed something that never used to happen to me.  I go out in social settings– say, to a friend’s birthday or something– and actually meet someone else who has suffered from SI joint dysfunction.

It’s so crazy to me that, for the first few years I had this problem, I literally had never met another patient like me.

Partly, I’m suppose getting a little older– it’s been six years now, since I developed this problem at age 26– so the people I tend to meet are a little older as well.

However, I think it has a lot more to do with the fact that SI joint dysfunction is much better recognized now.

So… go out and talk to people!  Don’t be afraid to mention to people that you have this problem– maybe they’ll know someone who’s also struggled with it, or have experienced it themselves.

You just never know.  This past December, in social settings, I managed to meet two other women who’d suffered from it… as well as a PT Aide who knows how to perform manual adjustments.  (I’m hoping to interview her for a post that’s coming up!).

So get out there, and keep searching!

Click here to go on to Part 5!

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