Physical therapists: Human movement system experts

The human movement system is a collection of organ systems that interact to move the body or its parts. Those organ systems are cardiovascular, pulmonary, endocrine, integumentary, nervous, and musculoskeletal. Physical therapists are experts in the human movement system just as physicians are experts in their respective specialties (neurologists, orthopaedists, cardiologists, etc).

When a person comes into my office, it is my job to examine and evaluate their movement system and develop a diagnosis. I am looking at how a person is moving. For example, how they walk, rise from a chair, bend forward, raise their arm, sit, stand, or perform an aspect of their job or sport. I examine how their joints are moving. I note what muscles are too stiff, too long, or too weak, and how those issues contribute to imprecise joint movement and faulty movement patterns. I take the information about how a person is moving and how the joints and muscles are performing, put it together and determine a diagnosis, prognosis, and a treatment plan.

Why do I care how a patient is moving and if they are doing it “correctly”? Is any movement pattern acceptable? The short answer is no. If your movement pattern is faulty, then the joints that are participating in that movement pattern are moving in ways other than which they were designed to move. If the joints are moving incorrectly, the surrounding soft tissues (muscles, tendons, ligaments, cartilage) or the joint itself begin to experience more stress than they were built for. This results in tissue damage which will eventually result in acute pain. If the faulty movement patterns are corrected and the joint movement and muscle performance improved, then together we can correct the cause of your pain and get you back to doing the things you love without pain.