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news News Friday, October 11, 2019 Friday, October 11, 2019 2:37 PM - Friday, October 11, 2019 2:37 PM

Celebrating National Physical Therapy Month

Celebrating National Physical Therapy Month

October is National Physical Therapy Month, and with nine physical therapists on staff at Shriners Hospitals for Children — Portland, we’re spotlighting this important work and the amazing team behind it all! We met with physical therapist Michelle Foss, D.P.T., who has been with the Portland Shriners Hospital for about three years.

What is the purpose of physical therapy?

Physical therapy is about building motor skills – in other words, training and strengthening the muscles. We help our patients learn how to do functional activities. This can occur either after a surgery where they have to relearn certain activities, or it can be due to a condition that they were born with and have to learn how to do these activities for the first time. Some examples might be putting weight on a prosthetic leg after surgery, learning how to use new mobility devices, or rolling over or standing for the first time.

What types of conditions do you treat in physical therapy?

We treat patients with a very broad range of orthopaedic, neurological and musculoskeletal conditions. It could be that the patient’s muscles have low tone (meaning, they struggle to generate the force necessary for optimal movement) or that the patient’s muscles are spastic (meaning, the muscles get really tight, preventing ease of movement). We work side by side with other health care professionals such as our physicians, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, orthotics and prosthetics technicians, and more, with the purpose of helping our patients improve or gain functional skills.

Typically, how old are patients when they are referred to physical therapy?

We treat all ages! For example, there is much research supporting that physical therapy is beneficial for patients with cerebral palsy as young as 6 months old. In those cases, we may see patients with cerebral palsy early in life, and at other times when they are ready to achieve additional functional goals. Alternatively, we also treat high school athletes and children who have had a fracture, concussion or sports injury.

Why is physical therapy an important component to a patient’s care?

The purpose of physical therapy is to give the patient and their family the tools that they need to live their best life. During an initial evaluation with a family, I work with them to establish goals that they have in their rehabilitation, or actions they want to gain ability in. The key is guiding the patients through the process of gaining functional mobility while also teaching parents how to help their children. I always tell the parents that therapy is a partnership and we’re a team. I’m giving parents the tools they need so they can work on the goals at home – that way, the kids have the repetition that they need. I firmly believe that parents know their child better than I do, so I’m going to give them the tools to help them reach their goals.

Why should a patient and their family choose the Portland Shriners Hospital for physical therapy?

The level of knowledge, dedication and experience that all of the physical therapists and physical therapy assistants have completely sets us apart. With so many pediatric orthopaedic services under one roof, we work closely with other departments to ensure our patients receive the most comprehensive care possible. We also have such a large team with nine physical therapists and two physical therapy assistants!

Do you have a tip that you could share for new physical therapy patients and their families?

Teamwork is key! We strive to be as collaborative with families as possible, and we want them to be transparent with us. I want to incorporate goals that are specific to that family’s need, in addition to physical therapy goals that are also necessary to meet. In partnership with patients and parents we develop a very clear home exercise program designed to help them achieve their goals.