Photos by Gina Turner
Anyone who has undergone surgery or who has a chronic joint or muscle problem knows that physical therapy is a key component of post-surgical healing and disease management. And yet, it can be hard to know where to go for the best care that will yield long-term results.
Physical Therapy Associates (PTA), which recently opened a new state-of-the-art facility on Riverwood Court in Conroe, has been serving patients in Walker County and northern Montgomery Country for almost 20 years. Founded in 2000 by physical therapist Dallas Williams, PT and his wife Diane, the practice has grown to two locations—one in Huntsville and one in Conroe—and a combined staff of four physical therapists and eight full-time physical therapy assistants.
The location of the new 3,200-square-foot facility near Grand Central Park off Loop 336 is perfect for accommodating the explosive population growth in Conroe, Montgomery, and Willis. In addition to providing a wide array of traditional physical therapy techniques and massage therapy, it is the only physical therapy office in the area to provide hands-on aquatic therapy.
Physical therapist Katie Troseth, PT, Cert. MDT, explained that aquatic therapy is typically used in patients with balance or pain issues, where land exercises might be more difficult for a patient. The water is set at a therapeutic temperature that soothes and relaxes the body, and the patient’s buoyancy provides an unloading of the weight bearing joints of the spine, hips, and knees. In addition, hydrostatic pressure provides natural relief of joint swelling.
“There are not that many physical therapy offices in Montgomery Country outside of The Woodlands,” said PTA Marketing Coordinator Rebecca Hollenbeck, “and while some facilities may have a pool, we are the only one where our therapists actually get in the water with the patients to provide one-on-one aquatic care.” Troseth explained, “The benefit of a therapist getting in the water with the patient is that they can not only have the patient do exercises, but the therapist can also do manual therapy and stretching in the water.”
The list of conditions treated by the professionals at Physical Therapy Associates is extensive and includes more than just injuries, chronic illnesses, and post-operative care. The clinic offers sports physical evaluations and customized training programs, fall prevention programs, pre-operative conditioning, and even pre-natal and post-partum exercise programs.
Hollenbeck said one of the things that sets Physical Therapy Associates apart from some other physical therapy clinics is its team approach. “At some clinics, it’s cut and paste. If you have knee surgery, then the approach to treatment is the same every time. Here, everything is designed with the specific client in mind,” she said. “We look at each patient, how they evaluate, what their angles are, and how we can best get them to their goal.”
“Unless you request it, you don’t necessarily see the same therapist every time, and that’s on purpose,” Hollenbeck continued. “Everybody has a different body part they like to treat, and everyone has strengths in specific treatment methods, and so we do individualized care plans that capitalize on each therapist’s strengths so that the patient gets the biggest benefit. When a patient sees multiple people, then they are getting the best care possible.”
Outcomes are taken seriously at PTA, and they are measured in a variety of ways. Some of them are physical tests and changes the physical therapists are assessing, while others are self-evaluated by the patients themselves.
“Our big thing is that we have a ‘Now I can…’ program, which helps patients to subjectively evaluate and celebrate what they are able to do as they experience improvements due to therapy,” Hollenbeck explained. “It’s easy for us to say ‘Look at this giant range of motion, or look how much better your grip strength got,’ and the doctor is going to appreciate that. But when a patient says, ‘I was able to pick my grandchild up, and I played with him for three hours, and I wasn’t in pain, and it was beautiful,’ that is the kind of success we are trying to celebrate,” she continued. “I mean, I can celebrate range of motion all day long, but that doesn’t mean anything to you. Nobody cares that they have 90 percent extension or flexion. But if they can squat down and talk face-to-face with a toddler without being in an intense amount of pain, that’s success to them. We don’t just care about our measurable outcomes; we care about what’s important to our patients.”
In caring for the whole patient, the PTA staff strive to address specific concerns patients may have about therapy. For some, that means financial concerns about how to afford physical therapy. Hollenbeck often finds herself working hand-in-hand with patients on problem-solving around finances. “We are really good at finding ways to make therapy affordable and working to put together a program that is within their financial means,” she said. The PTA clinics take Medicare, Workers Comp, and most insurance programs, including HMOs. They also take Medicaid if it is secondary to Medicare.
Beyond insurance and payment plans, however, Physical Therapy Associates also works with patients to educate them on what they can do at home. Doing specific exercises and stretches at home, in between sessions, serves a dual purpose of improving the program results as well as potentially stretching therapy dollars.
Physical therapists like Troseth also find themselves educating patients about pain—specifically, what type of pain is appropriate and what is not. “One of our patients’ greatest concerns about physical therapy is whether it will help or make it worse,” Troseth said. “The key to pain is to not be afraid of it, but rather to learn how to manage it. There are some things we have to work through, and some things that are a warning sign that we shouldn’t work through that pain. We let patients know if they need to take their pain medication before therapy, and we also use heat, ice, massage, and different things to control the pain so we can achieve the goals we need to.” For patients with chronic conditions such as arthritis, Troseth said there is still cause and effect involved, and so PTA physical therapists can help patients identify what may be triggering or exacerbating their symptoms.
“I think a lot of it is helping people understand what they can control, instead of being controlled by their condition,” Troseth explained. “We may see those people back once a year or so, just to check on them or perhaps if their status has changed, but we start educating them from the very beginning. We help them set personalized goals of what is reasonable for them, and teach them what they will need to do to achieve them. There’s a lot of education, because ultimately, this is something they are ultimately going to have to carry and take care of. A lot of people will say, ‘Well, I have this. I can’t control it,’ but the truth is that there’s a lot they can control and learn what their triggers are, as well as how to get back on track.”
Physical Therapy Associates’ Conroe clinic is located at 1020 Riverwood Court, Suite 120, Conroe, TX 77304. For more information on PTA and its services, visit www.ptaclinic.com or call 936-494-1292.