Yesterday, my barber asked me about some pain he has been experiencing behind his knees for the past few weeks. He knows what I do for a living, and I had helped him in the past by offering him advice for some shoulder pain with which he had been dealing. After asking him a few questions and quickly palpating his knees, I suggested that he stop in next week so that I can give him a proper evaluation.
I truly enjoy being asked for my professional advice, and get great satisfaction when I can help someone feel better. I don't ever want people to hesitate to ask for it, either. However, there is something that folks should be aware of when they ask for advice outside of the clinic.
There are essentially two categories of mechanisms of injury, traumatic and insidious onset. Injuries caused by traumatic events are often easier to dole out advice for since the event can easily be described by the person. However, it seems that the majority of conditions that I treat in the clinic are of the insidious onset or overuse variety. The latter take more evaluative skills and therefore require more time. The subjective portion of my exams alone usually takes at least 10-15 minutes, sometimes longer. Next, we go through the objective portion of the evaluation (gait analysis, SFMA, muscle testing, ROM testing, reflexes, palpation, etc.). Depending on the complexity of the case in front of me, a full hour is often required to properly assess a patient.
So, when I'm asked in passing, or at a party, "I have pain in my __, what do you think is going on with me?", I'm somewhat hesitant to offer my advice. It's not unwillingness to help, but rather fear that I'm not giving you the best advice possible. I am certainly not suggesting that you must always make an appointment to come see me. I don't like "selling" health care as if I'm trying to sell a car. But when I feel that a two minute session on the street isn't enough, I'm going to let you know. It would be a disservice to you otherwise.
The next time you are in the presence of a doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist or other health care provider and you have a question about a condition you're dealing with, consider the setting. Please do not misinterpret what I'm writing as a "DO NOT APPROACH" sign. We all want to help. It's just that we want to help to the best of our abilities.
If you see me around and have a question you want answered, ALWAYS ask me!! You also shouldn't hesitate to shoot me a message online. I promise you that I will help you as much as I can on the spot. If I feel that you need more attention and evaluation, I will let you know.
I love being a physical therapist and truly enjoy interacting with people. If you're reading this, you already likely know me in some capacity and shouldn't be shy to ask me questions. I'm here to help!