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April 11, 2010

Integrating Knowledge

I'm learning a lot of nifty things from the people I work with. Several of the employees at the VAs out-patient physical therapy clinic are orthopedic specialists. A couple of them specialize in manual therapy, and have been kind enough to share their knowledge with me. I've learned how to de-rotate vertebrae in the neck, the thorax and the lumbar regions of spine. I've learned how to treat a crick in the neck, saving a patient days of pain and reduced range of motion.

One therapist, in particular, is especially well-versed working with the spine. I've been privileged enough, not only to learn from her, but to receive bodywork from her. What is nice about learning manual therapy techniques is that they help me tap back into my "massage therapy brain." I digress here, because I'm discovering an important lesson about integrating knowledge. In PT school, I've had my academic thinking cap on, burning wood, so to speak, trying to understand theory and concepts that we learn in the classroom. I call that my "PT brain."

We have labs in order to apply these theories and concepts, which I feel I have a slight advantage. If I can learn something by putting my hands on a problem and feeling how it should go, it's much more likely to make sense to me. I call that my "massage therapist brain." But many of my classmates are young, mobile and have relatively minor problems compared to patients in the clinic. Working on them is easy, because they don't hurt and they can move. Working with real patients with real pain and serious problems presents a new set of challenges.

The manual therapy techniques that I am learning from my coworkers allows me to get into the body using my "massage therapy brain." Then I can think about how the neck or spine moves (kinematics) using my "physical therapy brain." This helps me to integrate the two. I guess that's what we're supposed to be getting out of our clinical experience.



Posted by linda at April 11, 2010 8:32 AM

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