Tuesday 17 January 2017

Do More Techniques Make A Good Therapist?

"Do you do dry needling? Acupuncture? Active release? Graston?"

These are questions that I, as an Athletic Therapist, get quite often from potential clients. People are looking for the best-qualified clinicians to trust with their health. It seems like a given that the therapist with the most skills will be the best at treating their clients, and so advertising those additional certifications and continued-education courses are a sure-fire way to pick up on that.

Being an Athletic Therapist who is still relatively entry-level, though, these questions often frustrate me. To anyone in the public, or even to we therapists while we're still in school, yes, it seems like it'd be obvious that the more techniques, the better when it comes to treating. After beginning my career, though, I saw through the ploy.

Think of it like this. If a therapist was "better" at treating clients just based on knowing how to do the newest technique, then that would be like saying that the best personal trainers are automatically the ones with the most state-of-the-art equipment. Sure, those tools help, but the skills that set you apart from other professionals are knowing when, how, and why to use them.

I don't like to blow up my own ego or discredit anyone else, but this won't be an uncommon story across the board. I have a small set of entry-level treatment techniques: massage, joint glides, electrical stimulation, and a few more. However, I often get clients coming to see me after weeks - sometimes, months - of seeing another practitioner (whether it's another AT, physio, or chiropractor) who spent every treatment throwing fancy techniques at their client. Sometimes the treatments didn't work. Often, they did, but temporarily. After feeling like nothing was working in the long term, these clients will tend to try another clinician, and when I see them, sure, I don't have all those fancy skills, but I have my problem-solving skills.

After receiving a month of shockwave therapy on the shoulder, maybe the client really just needed more strengthening at the neck to reduce pain. Instead of endless active release on the low back, maybe conservative massage and core strengthening is going to be most-effective. Acupuncture to fix those nagging post-ankle sprain aches? Maybe start focusing on the mechanics at the hip instead.

I'm not trying to disprove the use of these higher certifications and treatment methods. By all means, they are meant to make a therapist's lives easier and be a part of an all-encompassing rehab plan. The thing to take away is that virtually any treatment method - whether it's the basic massage we learn in school or the dry needling we learn to do years later - all have the potential to accomplish the same goals. The trick is knowing where to use those techniques, why, and what to do afterward, and that comes down to the individual practitioner, regardless of what kind of continued-ed they've done.

Fancy tools are all and good, but by all means, they're far from the only thing to factor in when choosing a therapist.

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