What Is Physical Therapy?


What Is Physical Therapy?
Dr. Rhianna Wickett, PT, DPT, CSCS

October is Physical Therapy Month!

I am regularly asked, “You’re a physical therapist – that’s great! So, you just help people walk after surgery, right?” That can be true, but I’m here to share what else a physical therapist can do for you!

The American Physical Therapy Association defines our profession as: “Transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.”

So what does that mean to me, and even more importantly, what does that mean for you? Why should you care what PT can do for you?


Let’s start with the human experience.
We are all unique beings with unique interests, passions, goals, needs, and most notably, we all have unique ways of moving. The human experience encompasses all of those unique things into a LIFE you get to enjoy, memories you make, feelings you express, and the interactions you have daily with your friends, family, strangers, and the world around you. Your experience in this life should be one for the record books. This experience is why you do what you do.  In order to experience life, you need to be able to move without pain, discomfort, and with energy!


That brings us to optimizing movement.
Movement is how you do everything you need and want to do. But let’s break that down more. You don’t want to just move. You want to move efficiently. Pain-free. Optimally. This is where we see the biggest differences in what “optimal movement” means to you. First, we need to identify your goal. Maybe it’s high level athletic performance to improve your marathon times, earn a spot on the varsity team, or mountain bike without pain. Maybe your goal is to play with your kids or to make it through your day at work without back pain. Maybe you want to be able to work on your car or enjoy the outdoors without that nagging ache and really enjoy the things you love. Whatever your goal, it likely involves movement.

On a fine oiled machine, all the parts must be working smoothly, in unison, and efficiently. Like that machine, you need your muscles, joints, tendons, etc… to be working in unison to move the most efficiently and produce the best product possible (in this case, movement is the product). You aren’t a machine, though. You’ve got an amazing gift that makes us human – a brain – that produces feelings, emotions, and reactions (and so much more!). We are constantly adapting to feedback we’re receiving from our ever-changing environment. This is where the muscles, nerves, joints, etc..need to be highly trained. Our bodies perform movement to interact with our environment, protect us, and allow us to experience life. This experience might mean reacting quickly to environmental changes like an unexpected curb or obstacle, running after your child in a crowd, or performing your best on that weekend jog in the hills. If the proper movement techniques aren’t rogue memory and the strength tug-of-war in your muscles isn’t balanced, these quick reactions are a common time for injury to happen. Your optimal movement might mean less pain, more energy, or better performance. Whatever optimal movement means for you, we help you train to experience life and prevent injuries. We help you move more easily, efficiently, and with less pain for lifelong changes so you can do the things you love with more energy. We look at each person as a whole with a unique body, unique interests, unique movements, and unique goals.

How does a Physical Therapist help you experience life with optimal movement?
Physical Therapists Prevent, diagnose and treat pain & impairments without medication, possibly preventing surgeries by promoting movement, restoring function, and preventing disability.  

At Elevate Performance, we look at all aspects that make you, YOU. We EDUCATE you on appropriate movement principles to move the most efficiently. Generally, this means re-training how you move and correcting muscle imbalances. We also use hands-on techniques with manual therapy to improve mobility in restricted joints, scars, muscles, or soft tissue, facilitate movement, and decrease pain. We address proper general nutrition, hydration, and sleep to allow your body to function effectively.

We EMPOWER you to continue these lifelong changes for the healthiest you possible. We always address WHY it’s important to you. The more you can understand about your body, the more likely you are to stick with a strength or exercise program, maintain the drive for optimal performance, or heal from an injury to continue to EXPERIENCE life how YOU want to!

What Can a Physical Therapist Treat?
Our goal is to prevent the loss of mobility & disability before it occurs in all ages, newborn to geriatrics. We treat many systems in your body!

Musculoskeletal System (muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments)
–      From Head to toe aches, pains & sprains to post -surgical
–      Sports & Weekend Warrior Injuries

Neuromuscular System (nerves, brain, and how they interact with your body)
–      Stroke, MS, SCI, TBI, chronic pain, migraine/headache, vertigo & dizziness, Pre/Post Natal

Cardiovascular System (heart & lungs)
–      COPD, asthma, high blood pressure

Integumentary System (skin)
–      Wound care, diabetic ulcers, pressure sores

Direct Access
Do you need a physician’s referral to see a PT? No! You can directly call a physical therapist and be seen for your ache, pain, and performance needs. We use the most current research to identify and treat pain, mobility, and movement disorders. We are one of the most qualified professionals to assess musculoskeletal and neurological pain and injuries affecting how you move. We identify any red flags that would indicate a larger concern and refer to another practitioner when appropriate.

Whether your goals are to improve your sports and recreation performance, enjoy time with your family, prevent injuries & health conditions, or to just feel better, a Physical Therapist can help you continue to do the things you love and truly experience life!

About the Author
Dr. Rhianna Wickett, Physical Therapist, graduated from the University of South Dakota (USD) with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. She is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association and an EMT. While at USD, Dr. Wickett researched the effects of various treatments including manual therapy and exercise on trigger points, which is a common cause of pain within the shoulder girdle. She has also completed The Otago Exercise Program: Falls Prevention Training, an evidence-based fall prevention certification. Her clinical studies emphasized Women's Health, Neurological and Vestibular Conditions, and Orthopedics. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in pre-medicine from the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology after completing two years of Industrial Engineering education. Rhianna grew up with a love of ballet, dancing for almost 20 years. Rhianna ended her dance career at Dance Elite Academy of Performing Arts while under the direction of Lia Malcom, soloist for Great Britain’s Royal Ballet, to pursue physical therapy. She is passionate about providing each patient individualized care backed by the latest research and educating patients about their condition to make lifelong changes. She also has completed continuing education in women's health physical therapy to treat a wide range of conditions relating to pelvic floor health throughout the lifespan, including pre/post-natal conditions, incontinence, prolapse, sexual dysfunction, pelvic pain. In her free time, Rhianna enjoys spending time outdoors with her husband, family, friends, and dog Zippy.

Rhianna Wickett