Physical Therapy for Orthopedic Conditions

Featuring: Paige Larson
Physical therapy supports and improves orthopedic conditions, at times reducing the need for surgery to remedy those conditions.

Paige Larson, Clinic Director of Physical Therapy at Eisenhower Desert Orthopedic Center, discusses what physical therapy can do for you.


Paige has served as a Physical Therapist since 2013 for the U.S. Figure Skating Team at international competitions in China, Russia, Bulgaria, and Japan.


Bill Klaproth (Host): Physical therapy can help people of all ages realize significant benefits when it comes to effectively dealing with medical conditions, illnesses or injuries that limit their ability to move. Here to talk with us about physical therapy for orthopedic conditions is Paige Larson, Clinical Director of Physical Therapy at Eisenhower Desert Orthopedics. Paige, thank you so much for your time today. So, physical therapy can be used for a variety of orthopedic issues is that right?

Paige Larson, PT, MTP (Guest): That's correct. Yes, physical therapy - we are well-known for working in the orthopedic realm. We see most patients postop. We also see patients preop and that includes everything from as you mentioned, orthopedic issues for foot and ankle, knees, shoulders, elbows and a lot of low back patients as well.

Bill: And you mentioned physical therapy is a great tool postop and preop as well, I mean providing non-invasive treatment for a number of conditions basically eliminating the need for surgery.t hat is a big role in physical therapy as well, right?

Paige: That is correct. Yes, a lot of patients may see their physician and the physician may say that at this point, surgery is not an option and they would like to try conservative care first and that's where we come in and insurance companies also would like to have that conservative route taken first before they go right to surgery. When we meet with our patients, we take a very thorough history. We assess multiple body systems and we create a treatment plan that's going to best suit the individual needs and we have been very fortunate multiple times where the patient might come down telling us that the physician has said surgery might be an option and through physical therapy and our conservative care, we have been able to avoid surgery and get that patient back to a healthy living status, back to the quality of life that we are used to and then have been able to avoid surgery all together.

Bill: So, Paige, overall, why is physical therapy so helpful and effective?

Paige: It's helpful and effective in the sense that we work very closely with our physicians and we have protocols that we follow that they have outlined for patients whether it's preop or postop and what we can do is basically help these patients that are in needs of just again returning to a quality of life that they are accustomed to and do it in a way that's conservative, through a lot of education, through teaching the patient how they can help themselves, through exercise and again education so that they don't have to have a surgery and they can again return to a life that they are accustomed to and be able to get out and enjoy family and friends and all the things that they love to do.

Bill: And Paige, is physical therapy progressing? Are you using it in new ways or for conditions that we may not think or know about?

Paige: Yes. Physical therapy - we are always doing a lot of research and we are up to date on articles and research that is coming out and what helps too is that we have a lot of travelers that will come through our facility who are bringing in new techniques, new treatment ideas and are up on the research as well as when we bring in new graduates. Specifically, there are things that we look at now more so like functional movement patterns whereas before, we might just look at the patient and they come in with a rotator cuff disorder. We might just treat the rotator cuff but over time and with the addition of research, we look at more so the whole body and realize that this is just a component of what needs to be treated. So, that's one aspect of how in a way physical therapy has changed but yes, there are also different techniques that have come out at different ways to treat different techniques for body parts and we always will be trying to incorporate that as part of our bag of tricks, so we can give the patient what would best serve them to bring them back to a healthy status.

Bill: And incorporating that bag of tricks I would imagine the personalized or individualized plan that you provide for each patient is really beneficial too because you really target that physical therapy then.

Paige: Absolutely yes. Again, you might see somebody that has a rotator cuff disorder and you might think oh, this is just going to be like the last person I saw, but you really need to remember everybody is an individual. They may have some different comorbidities, they may have a different history and we even also look at kind of the mental health status of the patient because if they are living let's say independently and they are a widower who just lost their spouse, that's going to be a factor in their recovery. Versus somebody who might be healthy, has a great support system at home and has a lot of goals that they want to achieve. That's going to be a different recovery than somebody who has a different status all together.

Bill: Right and let's talk about physical therapy post-surgery as well. What are the general goals of post-operative physical therapy?

Paige: The general goal for postop physical therapy are to return patients to the quality of life that they are familiar with and we often have to remind our patients that they come in thinking okay, now that I have had this surgery, everything is good. But really, they are still below kind of the normal functioning level and what we want to do is get them back to that healthy level and that to me is where therapy comes in is we want to get these patients back to baseline. Once they are back to baseline and healthy, then at that point, that's when it's good to get them back into a gym where they can continue their work with a personal trainer. But in the meantime, postop, this is a patient who now has had some work done on these joints, there is some trauma to the areas that have been impacted by the surgery, there is often range of motion limitations, strength limitations and that overall wraps into some functional deficits. And again, we look at that whole picture and want to treat not just those areas but incorporate that so that the whole body can be functioning again.

Bill: And you provide great coordination of care. He mentioned before, working with the physicians. Can you tell us a little bit more about how closely you work with the orthopedic surgeons and physician assistants?

Paige: Sure. Here at the Eisenhower Desert Orthopedic Center, we are very fortunate that within our building, we have direct access to our physicians and physician's assistants. And they have devised protocols over time that they would like us to follow. So, we have that in front of us as well as we have the ability to go up to talk to the physicians if we have any concerns that perhaps maybe we see an incision that might be infected, that we want to have them take a look at. Or we have just got some concerns that maybe the patient would have a DVT or just in general if we want to discuss the progress of a patient, we have that seamless access to the physicians. They know us by name. They know our clinic. They know what we are capable of, what the patients are going to be treated with and how they are going to be treated and so we have a great deal of trust and communication between our department and the physicians.

Bill: And Paige, can you tell us about the training of the staff at Eisenhower Desert Orthopedic?

Paige: Sure. Several of our physical therapists are actually physicians in the sense that they have their doctorate. They are considered a DPT. Initially all the schooling was towards the bachelor level. It's moved to master's and many programs now are graduating doctorates of physical therapy. I would say between the two clinics with the Eisenhower Orthopedic Center we have a total of five doctorates of physical therapy and we have two who have their master's degree.

Bill: And if you could wrap it up for us Paige, what else do we need to know about physical therapy pre and postoperative care?

Paige: I think in general, what is important for the patient to know is that we need them to be active participants. And oftentimes, they might come in and think that if they are in our care for three days a week, that this is going to make them better. And whether they are preop or postop, we will request them to be doing exercises at home. We will request them to kind of mentally take notes of things that they are doing so that they can report that back to us and we can help them with their recovery and it's not going to be just once we give you an exercise then you can stop when you feel better. And we often use the analogy that when you brush your teeth, you don't just brush them once and assume they are going to stay healthy. You have to continue to brush them in order to keep that disease away and that's how we feel about therapy is once physical therapy is finished, and we have given you all the tools to be successful; you need to make sure you continue because that's why you are feeling good and for you then to stop your own care after you're done with therapy, would almost be a setback from all the hard work that they have done here in the clinic with us.

Bill: That's a great analogy about the toothbrush. So, really for a physical therapy patient, you kind of get out of it what you put into it. Is that right?

Paige: Exactly. Yeah, we tell them very much, so this is a team effort. We might be the expert in the physical therapy realm, but we are not going to be successful in our job if we don't have you actively engaged in your recovery and working with us.

Bill: Well Paige, thank you so much for all the information. We really appreciate it and to learn more about the services at Eisenhower Desert Orthopedic Center, visit, that's Or you can also call 760-773-4545, that's 760-773-4545. This is Living Well with Eisenhower Health. I'm Bill Klaproth. Thanks for listening.