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What physical therapy can offer you

(Published Aug. 22, 2007, 3:07 p.m.)

* The ability to stay active with less pain.

* Knowledge about how to optimize circulation, promote strong bones and healthy joints.

* Improved flexibility and strength.

* Enhanced quality of life by addressing urinary incontinence.

* A good night's sleep.

* * A better sex life.

Sound good? Let me tell you, with undisguised esteem for my profession, that the potential benefits of physical therapy are all this and more. By virtue of education (now 6+ years), experience, continuing education (required for Wisconsin licensure) and specialization, physical therapy has much to contribute to physical medicine and, more importantly, to the individual patient.

One area of specialization is in women's health. Specialists in this area may have a role in addressing issues which can present throughout the lifespan, such as urinary stress incontinence or post-mastectomy lymphaedema management. For individuals with more advanced and complex complaints, the patient's needs may best be met by a physical therapist whose practice is dedicated solely to such specialization. However, for most of us, the common complaints encountered can easily be managed by a physical therapist with training in these areas without necessarily having limited their practice to such specialization.

Physical therapy can provide preventative measures as well as address the more obvious problem that may bring a person in for treatment. Consider the progressive work of Janet A. Hulme, M.A., P.T. Therapists can teach patients "Physiological Quieting," techniques which promote relaxation. This may be a part of a simple yet more comprehensive and effective solution to complaints as diverse as chronic pain or frequent urinary incontinence. The contribution of stress to the development of numerous health challenges is more widely acknowledged than ever, so learning techniques which enhance relaxation are of immeasurable preventative value.

Janet Hulme's Physiological Quieting techniques promote relaxation by influencing the autonomic (read as "automatic") nervous system, or ANS. The ANS governs the balance between two systems: the sympathetic nervous system (the "fight or flight" system) and the parasympathetic nervous system (the "rest and digest" system). Today's productivity-driven caffeinated civilization often gets our "fight or flight" system revved up and chronically running at high idle, which can elevate muscle tension, blood pressure and heart rate and turn up the volume on pain, predisposing us to all sorts of adverse consequences to health. Conversely, the "rest and digest" system contributes to lower blood pressure, less pain and greater ease with rest and relaxation.

If you'd like to enjoy the benefits physical therapy can offer, most health insurance policies will require you to have a prescription from your health-care provider (M.D., D.O., D.C., P.A.C., or AP.N.P.). Coverage varies, and your insurance customer helpline or P.T. clinic office staff can help you determine what your individual policy allows. Out-of-pocket payment arrangements may also be available.

To discuss how physical therapy might be of service to you, ask to have a therapist call you back (during regular business hours a therapist's time is dedicated to the care of her patients).

Cynthia Elzinga Samonte, BS, MPT, is the lead physical therapist at Progressive Step Rehab at 824B E. Geneva St., Delavan, 728-5918.

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