News & Events

Physical Therapists are your fitness allies

Suzanne Motsinger, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.C.S.

Physical Therapists (PTs) are best known for their expertise in rehabilitating patients after injuries or surgeries. What the public is just beginning to catch on to is that PTs are uniquely qualified to help anyone prevent injury and improve their fitness. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal describes the increasing popularity of hiring a physical therapist as a personal coach to safely guide a fitness program (Getting Fit without the Pain, Sept. 27, 2010). The article states, “By fitness training standards, physical therapists are extraordinarily highly educated in the science of preserving, restoring and improving human function. Most have Master’s degrees, and the profession is pushing its members to obtain doctorates by 2020.”

Patient education is a hallmark of the physical therapy profession. PTs are trained to identify barriers to exercise such as knee injuries, chronic back pain or decreased range of motion and build a program around them. Adding a PT to your healthcare team will give you a comprehensive, safe, effective fitness program that will progress as you advance toward your goals. 

A common example of someone who could benefit from a PT consultation would be a person who has just been told by their physician they are borderline diabetic with high blood pressure and need to lose at least 10-percent of their body weight. Unfortunately, because of the excess weight, their knees and back hurt and they also have no idea how safely “out of breath” they can be during exercise. After a thorough evaluation, a PT will educate the client about aerobic exercise that won’t stress their joints such as water aerobics or stationary cycling, teach them how to monitor their own heart rate and what a safe heart-rate zone is for them. Additionally, the PT will instruct the client in techniques to calm down any joint pain that does arise and offer exercises to safely improve the strength of their knees and spine. The PT also will closely communicate with the client’s physician regarding any medical concerns.

The information gained in a one-hour evaluation by a PT is an excellent investment in improving and supporting one’s quality of life. For those new to exercising or wanting to try out a new sport, a PT can identify muscle imbalances and inefficient movement patterns that could cause injury. PTs offer a holistic approach, emphasizing self-care and prevention, to help their patients and clients improve motion, strength, coordination and balance – in body and in life. After the initial evaluation and exercise instruction, the frequency of visits will be determined depending on individual needs and desires, with the goal of being independent in a fitness program and a lifetime of safe, enjoyable exercise.

Suzanne Motsinger, P.T., D.P.T., C.S.C.S., has her doctorate in physical therapy, is a certified strength and conditioning specialist, and works as a physical therapist in Flagstaff Medical Center’s Therapy Services. To learn more about FMC’s Therapy Services call 928 773-2125. Is there a health topic you’d like to know more about? Please write to Mountain Medicine, c/o FMC Public Relations, 1200 N. Beaver St., Flagstaff, AZ 86001, or visit FMC’s Web site at