Mike Stoeckmann

Mike Stoeckmann

You are riding your bike along Whimsical Drive here in beautiful Maricopa admiring the Estrellas and thinking about that slice of rhubarb pie you are going to enjoy after your exercise when your gears start slipping. You take your eye off the road and – Bam! – you smash into a trash container.

Welcome to trauma. You are taken to the emergency department, where you learn you have a fracture of your right upper arm across the humeral head near your shoulder, your favorite shoulder. You get some pharmacy help and a sling. Over the six months-plus of recovery you will spend 5% of your time in the pharmacy, 20% of your time in doctors’ offices and 75% of your recovery time in the care of a competent, professional team of physical therapists who are gifted compassionate healers.

A physical therapist helps take care of patients in all phases of healing, from initial diagnosis through the restorative and preventative stages of recovery. They provide treatment for cardiopulmonary conditions, musculoskeletal dysfunction such as back pain or rotator cuff tears, neurological conditions, pediatric conditions, sports-related injuries and a seemingly limitless variety of medical rehabilitative conditions.

The most common reasons for physical therapy are to reduce pain, avoid invasive surgery, enhance mobility and improve recovery. Physical therapy is generally a positive life-changing experience for those who work with a physical therapist.

Two weeks after you fell off your bicycle, your orthopedic doctor will write a script for physical therapy that will get you back to normal. You want to get your therapy close to home. If you live in Maricopa or beyond you have your choice of excellent physical therapy options located conveniently nearby. Collectively these clinics have about 40 years of experience helping patients, with the first facility established in 2004. They all provide orthopedic and neurological rehabilitation, manual therapy, therapeutic exercises, post-surgical therapy, ergonomics training and extensive patient education. Age is not a concern, as Tom Spray, the director of physical therapy at 360, told me. “We treat patients across all generations. I’ve treated patients as young as 2 weeks and as old as 108.”

Special services such as dry needling, pediatric therapies, vertigo therapy and treatment for the effects of COVID-19 impairment are available at physical therapy clinics in Maricopa.

You do not need insurance or a physician referral to visit your local PT clinic. The therapists will see you for an evaluation and help direct you to a physician for a follow-up.

No need to worry about your first visit for therapy. Physical therapy is unique in that it works in consideration of the physical, psychological and emotional abilities of the patient. Your comfort level is paramount. Dress comfortably in loose clothing. You will have to work. During your first visit the therapist will provide orientation and develop a clear understanding of expectation, evaluation and goals. As Jeff Petersen of Petersen Physical Therapy tells his patients, “We will engage in small steps to get you on the path to steady improvement and recovery.” That is your treatment plan.

Physical therapy clinics offer a lot of hope with a little fun involved. Compassion, optimism and teamwork are essential. There are motivational quotes, some humorous, such as, “Let perseverance do its work.” Or “If you don’t make time for wellness, you will be forced to take time for illness.” And my favorite, “When you make pain your friend, you will never be alone.” I spoke with Brandon, a therapist working for Empower Physical Therapy, and learned about the many word games and puzzles they use in their clinic for rehabilitation, entertainment and education.

Of all the medical visits you make over time, you will find yourself more cheerful after you leave the physical therapy clinic than after your wait at the pharmacy or the surprise at the doctor’s office.

What about the patient who refuses physical therapy? “Oftentimes a patient waits to get care believing the condition will improve on its own,” Jeff explained. “Life is a team sport, and your PT is a resource to help you improve your quality of life. It is a collaborative effort to establish clear goals and work toward those goals.”

Still unconvinced? Well, I suppose you’re going to have to learn how to eat that slice of rhubarb pie with your other arm.

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Mike Stoeckmann is a medical project coordinator who has been working in community-based health care for the past 20 years.

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