Aug 22, 2015
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Pre-Physical Therapy
I suffer from some carpal tunnel issues and general pain when using my hands repetitively. Case in point being the pain I'm in if I try to massage someone for longer than 5 minutes. Granted I'm not a LMT, but I do my best to remember good body mechanics.

My question is, do I have a possible future in physical therapy? A therapist I'm shadowing told me to pass because her wrists have issues and she's been practicing for 8 years now. Are there fields that don't focus on the massage aspect of manual therapy?
 

PTMattI

5+ Year Member
Mar 24, 2012
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Physical Therapist
I dont think hand weakness should necessarily prevent you from practicing PT. There are many different ways you can practice in outpatient IMO without being heavy on manual.... you could be a PT who focuses very strongly on therapeutic exercises and uses instruments to assist with soft tissue manipulation. You can also work in other setting where manual therapy isnt as common such as acute care or neuro.
 
Aug 3, 2013
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Side note: have you pursued treatment for your hand pain/weakness? This might be less of an issue with appropriate care.

Are there fields that don't focus on the massage aspect of manual therapy?
Yep, definitely.

I don't think it's necessarily the role of the PT to do a lot of soft tissue work. I have no doubt that it's helpful for many and for a handful of patients perhaps necessary for progression. But if you're spending the bulk of your treatment time rubbing on things to make them feel better, you're probably missing the forest for the trees and not helping patients make the meaningful changes they need to make (how they move) to improve their function and pain.
 

DesertPT

5+ Year Member
Apr 22, 2013
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Physical Therapist
Research time and time again shows interventions that get patients moving, exercising, educated and actively participating are superior to passive treatments in the vast majority of cases. So even if you work in the OP setting, there is no need to feel like you are going to be spending hours of your time each week doing soft tissue. In some cases it is warranted and even necessary, no doubt. But most patients need for you to be a movement expert who leaves massage therapy to the LMTs, and only integrates passive treatments when they are likely to impact their progression, not just how they feel at the moment.

Ok, off my soapbox...

If you work in an acute or rehab setting you likely won't be doing soft tissue hardly at all, if ever. And as was mentioned above, if you have pain to the extent that you can't give your SO a shoulder rub for 5 minutes, you should seek treatment. I would find a good hand surgeon who can refer you to a good CHT, or a good CHT who can work with you and refer you to a good hand surgeon if necessary.
 

WarriorPT

UCLA, Fresno State, U. Rhode Island
Jul 13, 2013
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Physical Therapist
Just to echo some comments regarding OP PT - Manual is a tool you will have, but how often you use it is up to you. There are other means of treating a patient, but research does show that manual therapy + therex is very beneficial when used with appropriate patients. You do NOT have to use manual therapy. I work with a PT who is an above knee amputee and cannot perform some of the lower extremity tasks common with PT therex or education. So we group together as a team and fill in as needed. He otherwise is functioning fully as a PT--and is probably the smartest PT we have. You will find other OP PTs filling in for you as needed. If a case walks in that requires heavy manual, then it is smart to refer him/her to a colleague. This is common in the profession. Certainly someone in your clinic can address the patient's needs. Also Functional Capacity Evals do not require any manual work. These can take up to 5 hours to do per patient. Work hardening programs address work-related injuries and may require minimal manual. You have a lot of options.
 
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Aug 9, 2013
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Rehab Sci Student
You could transition into a PhD if that becomes a problem, become a hand therapist, or even do more administration. Just like the guy says above, manual therapy is not a must at all.
 

NewTestament

7+ Year Member
Nov 4, 2010
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Research time and time again shows interventions that get patients moving, exercising, educated and actively participating are superior to passive treatments in the vast majority of cases.
But does that mean you should never do any soft-tissue work or manual therapy? I like what Warrior said. A little bit of manual therapy + therex= superior results. But you shouldn't be only a "manual therapist."
 

engmedpt

5+ Year Member
Mar 31, 2014
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Physical Therapy Student
Consultant work for companies for ergonomic work
Developmental pt perhaps?