12 Things Every Physical Therapy Patient in New York City Should Know

by Aaron Swanson

Unfortunately, my time in NYC is coming to an end. I’ve spent over 8 years here and I’ve enjoyed the buzz, the people, the music, the late night slices, and most of all, working here at DSPT. However, I’m ready for a lower cost of living, a little less concrete, a little more nature, and a slower pace. So I’m moving to Asheville, North Carolina in January.  My last day at DSPT is this Friday, December 18th.

For my last newsletter, I thought I would change it up. Instead of just sharing the latest news in movement and health, I’ll share what I wish every patient knew.

I’ve learned a ton from articles, books, courses, Jon and Pete, but I’ve learned the most from my patients.  Everyone is a unique case and I have had to adapt to each and every one.  This constant, individualized problem solving process has lead to an amalgamation of a deeper understanding of the human body.

A quick disclaimer: you’ll probably like me a lot less after reading these, but since I’m leaving I feel like I can give everyone some tough love.  The standard “these thoughts do not represent Dynamic Sports Physical Therapy and are Aaron’s crazy ideas” applies here.  Please do not blame Jon or Pete for this. So, here are:

12 Things Every Physical Therapy Patient in New York City Should Know

1) Stress is stress.  It’s cumulative.  It’s non-specific.  Sure, if you have neck pain we can help out by performing some manual therapy and improving your biomechanics.  But if you sleep less than 6 hours a night, are over-stressed at work, worry too much, sit for 60 hours a week, have a poor diet, and don’t exercise, then don’t expect PT to be a magical fix.

2) Blowing up a balloon is the best abdominal exercise you’re not doing.

3) Most musculoskeletal problems can be resolved by strengthening the core, hips, and scapula muscles.

4) See the forest beyond the trees.  It takes 3 months for your body to build stronger connective tissue and new motor patterns.  Stay consistent.  Think long term.  #Mechanotransduction

5) Running marathons and deadlifting two times your bodyweight are great achievements.  It takes a tremendous amount of discipline to accomplish these types of feats.  But you can do so at the expense of good movement, which is why so many of you have been in PT.  I think being able to perform a perfect push-up, a perfect pull-up, and a pistol squat on each side is a much more difficult and productive goal than any quantitative fitness task.  Like everything else in life: quality trumps quantity. #RelativeStrength

6) Passive stretching is the most dangerous thing people do.  You know how people will wrap up a new baseball glove in rubber bands to help work it in?  Do you think those rubber bands are any good after they’ve been all stretched out?  The same goes for your muscles.

7) If you are congenitally lax (here’s a test) then you should definitely not be passively stretching!

8) Every time I see someone overstretch their hamstrings I die inside a little.  The hamstrings are important anti-gravity muscles that stabilize your pelvis.  And your pelvis sets the stage for your spine.  And your spine sets the stage for all human movement.

9) Barefoot training/running can be either the best thing for you or the worst thing for you.  To know whether it’s the prior or the latter you should know your foot type.

10) If you’re always going to 100% of your max, then you’ll overstress your system, compensate, and not be able to recover. Injuries will occur over time. Instead you should aim for 80% of your max. This will allow for compensation-free movement in the positive adaptation zone. In other words, you’ll make gains without increasing the risk of getting injured. #TrainLikeAWarrior

11) Sometimes pain is just a memory.  Like how hearing a certain song makes you remember a certain time in your life.  For example, I hate the Britney Spears song, “…Baby One More Time”.  Not because it’s an annoying pop song that gets stuck in my head, but because every time I hear it, I’m reminded of my high school girlfriend who listened to it way too much.  Unfortunately, my neurons have mapped the song and the memory of my ex-girlfriend together.  Sometimes movement (song) gets mapped with pain (memory).  This is what the latest pain science research is showing us.  For more information on this complex subject read this article.

12) We often get asked during the first evaluation “how long will this take to get better?”.  Tissue healing timeframes and chronicity are two important factors.  But the #1 factor that determines our outcomes is patient compliance.

I usually try to discuss these concepts (much more tactfully) with my patients over the course of their care in attempt to help them feel better and prevent future injuries.  This is just the straight version, no chaser.

I’d like to thank Pete, Jon, and Janet for going out of their way the past 5 years to create the best working environment I could have ever hoped for.  I’d like to thank Michelle, Kelly, Iwa, Lauren, Sarah, and Mila for being such great co-workers and friends over the years.  Also, I’d like to thank the front office staff (Christine, Michelle, Tiffany, Clarissa, Sandra, Robyn, Shaina, Sarah, Eliza, Chloe, Hasanna, and Jeanna) for managing my patients’ schedules and insurance.  Lastly, I’d like to thank all of the patients.  We’re lucky to have such a great patient population that eventually becomes friends.

You can always reach me via email (ASwansonPT@gmail.com), Facebook, or YouTube for any questions or concerns.

Thank you all again for a great 5 years.