Ah-ha moments

I had an ah-ha moment the other day.  Ah-ha moments are interesting—I can’t predict when they’ll surface or how powerful they’ll be.  The one thing I can always count on, is that they will teach me something I hadn’t considered before.

This particular moment came as I was instructing a patient in a breathing and core muscle activation technique.  He and I have worked together, on and off, for the past 5 years for rehab, to wellness, then back to rehab.

As he concentrated on my cues and tried to do as I instructed, he suddenly stopped.

“You know Sydney, this is really frustrating,” he said.

“I know.  It takes practice but you’re getting it,” I replied.

Then the ah-ha moment.

“I think you think it’s really great that you’re always learning new things, but for a patient, it’s really frustrating.”

And then I understood.

I had never considered that my excitement about having a greater understanding of the assessment and treatment techniques we employ could be a source of frustration for my patients.  What I was teaching 5 years ago, may, in fact, be very different that what I am teaching today.  There isn’t a one size fits all treatment approach for a given condition and every day we’re learning more and more.

I do think it’s great that we haven’t figured everything out and we understand more about the human body every day.  How dull would it be if we knew all there is to know and that was all there is?  Over the course of my 10 years as a physical therapist, I have grown and changed my treatment strategy.  While my core philosophy remains the same, my techniques and understanding have evolved as I’ve continued to learn from research, from experience, and, let’s face it, from trial and error.  I will continue to learn and quite possibly change how I do things from time to time, in the hopes that I’m creating an ah-ha moment for someone else.

On the Run

I can’t escape it.  My work follows me wherever I go.  Everyone always talks about how PT’s get to leave their work at the clinic.  Once we’re done with the daily documentation there really shouldn’t be anything that has to be done at home.  The one thing no one talks about is how hard it is to take off your PT hat to see the world through different eyes.

It used to be fun.  In graduate school we’d be given assignments to go out in a public space to observe people walking and completing daily activities.  Now I watch people wherever I am, evaluating their every move.   It’s so normal for me that I don’t even realize I’m doing it, much of the time.  It’s not until T and I are on one of our epic urban hikes and I’m performing running analyses on every poor runner who happens to bound by, gleefully unaware that I’m scrutinizing their every step and he tells me, in his kind way, that he’s heard enough.  It’s even gotten to the point where he calls out mechanics he doesn’t like in runners passing by and sometimes I have to tell him, in my kind way, that I’ve heard enough.  Ever the entrepreneur, he recently, and only half-jokingly, suggested I set up a booth on The Embarcadero and offer my services to the scores of runners passing by.

I have, however, begun to see this “problem” as more of a blessing than a curse. I do believe it’s made me a better PT by exposing me to all types of running styles.  I didn’t need to read a running magazine a few years ago to forecast the growing popularity of the minimalist shoe. In the past few years, I have seen a noticeable increase in the number of people running without shoes or in minimal shoes, and with that, a rise in the number of runners who come to me with an injury related to running because they haven’t transitioned correctly or may not be appropriate for minimalist footwear.  I also now see more runners landing on their toes than I have in the past, independent of shoe type, and while some runners look so natural moving down the road, the effort is palpable in many others.

I feel fortunate to work in a city where running is so popular, a job that involves the rehabilitation and prevention of running injuries, and in an era when research on running mechanics, styles, and trends is constantly emerging.  I look forward to sharing what I see and learn…just as soon as I get back from my run.

Why PT?


I wasn’t one of those kids who knew exactly what they wanted to be when they grew up.  Problem was, I wanted to grow up and do lots of different things.  This affliction followed me to high school where I sang in choirs, wrote for the school newspaper, played sports, and was surprised to discover my love for the human body in Mr. Larson’s anatomy class.  College rolled around and I had to apply to a specific major.  I knew I loved teaching, but there were just so. many. things. I wanted to learn and do.  I used to say I wished I had 9 lives so I could have 9 different careers.  Fast forward to my last year of college.  I was on track, ready to graduate and start a teacher credential program when I found it–a profession that encompassed just about everything I was looking for that allowed me to educate, stay active,engage with interesting people, promote healthy lifestyles, and help people heal.  Physical therapy was something I knew absolutely nothing about until a minor running injury landed me on the table in our local clinic.  I didn’t go to many sessions and remember little about what we did there, but the experience opened my eyes to a new opportunity.  Much to my parents dismay, I forged a new purposeful path and spent the next 3 years pursuing this new goal.  Even upon graduation from PT school, I had no idea how my career would evolve beyond the walls of a clinic.  I now have a job that lets me do just about all of the things that I enjoy–teach continuing education courses, promote health and the prevention of injury to community groups, evaluate runners for injury prevention, and write articles for various physical therapy magazines.  I save the cooking for home and the singing for my weekly get together with The Loose Interpretations (more on that to come…).