Many view personal training and physical therapy as two separate entities, and this widely held view is at least in part responsible for the burgeoning divide between the two professions. I view both as being a part of the same continuum- a movement continuum. When this perspective is embraced, it forces the personal trainer and physical therapist (PT) to take more responsibility, and facilitates more fluid communication between two professions that are becoming exponentially important in our country’s transition to a proactive healthcare model. As it turns out, it’s significantly cheaper to invest money to maintain health than to spend money to recover health. So, in my humble opinion, personal trainers and PTs have tremendous potential to coalesce and reduce healthcare costs through enhancing movement quality and educating clients/patients on fundamental health concepts- like the role diet and exercise play in maintaining a healthy weight. While dozens of strategies are presently in place to reduce healthcare costs, I believe both professions are in a unique position to most effectively influence public health because of the inherent human element associated with each one.
Since my undergraduate years at UTSA my interest has always focused on developing movement quality- whether changing my running mechanics to reduce my mile time, or altering my squat mechanics to reduce knee pain. Observing and understanding normal and pathological biomechanics has therefore been on my mind for quite some time now, both as a personal trainer and now as a PT. Because of this desire for better understanding, the educational journey from Certified Personal Trainer to Doctor of Physical Therapy was a joy and one that I continue to embrace as I seek new knowledge. Indeed the more I learn and study the biomechanics of various movements, the more fascinated I become, and the more I realize how much we have to learn! On that note, many patients currently being seen at Stratton are also seeing a personal trainer, so it’s critical that we work in harmony in order to maximize patient/client benefit. This is why Stratton PTs encourage open communication between personal trainers that work with our patients. This exchange of information is vital to ensuring the patient is working out safely, efficiently and effectively.
In reference to the previously mentioned movement continuum, PTs typically try to take people from dysfunctional movement to average movement, while personal trainers typically try to take people from average movement to healthy movement. But inevitably, both of us come across patients/clients that don’t fit this mold. PTs end up working with seemingly healthy movers who suffer an injury, and trainers end up working with seemingly average or healthy movers that hurt. This highlights my previous point stating that we, as health and fitness professionals, need to be educated on more than just a small portion of this continuum in order to best address the needs of our clients/patients. This notion is actively being demonstrated by personal trainers like Eric Cressey, who is a personal trainer, holds a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science and also rehabilitates elite throwing athletes following shoulder injuries. Similarly, PTs like Kelly Starrett are delving into the world of fitness and human performance by introducing new biomechanical perspectives to common modes of exercise. As this type of professional becomes more commonplace, the aforementioned divide between our professions will diminish, and patients and clients will benefit.
While the US is catching up to a current trend designed to save hundreds of millions of dollars/year, this same trend has already been proven efficient and effective in numerous other countries-specifically, Direct Access to physical therapy services. This is a contentious issue in the state of Texas as we are 1 of only 2 states remaining with severe limitations on patient access to physical therapy services. As with every debate there are two sides that need to be examined, but at this point, based on the data that I have examined, Direct Access to physical therapy services is likely to reduce healthcare costs to consumers, improve patient quality of life and prevent injuries from ever occurring. Targeting quality of movement in a physical examination screening is of paramount importance in this proactive healthcare model because it enables PTs to identify at-risk individuals prior to injury. Once trainers and therapists are allowed to see consumers prior to becoming injured, larger strides may be taken toward bringing our professions together and bolstering the national effort to improve public health. I, like my fellow Stratton PTs, take pride in not only helping patients become pain-free, but helping patients improve their health and wellness through bettering movement quality- much like a personal trainer. Truthfully, it can be frustrating not having the same accessibility to a patient as a personal trainer, but it is my belief that in the very near future this will change. As Direct Access makes it’s way to Texas and patients can more readily access their PT for annual movement screenings and musculoskeletal health check-ups, PTs will be better disposed to work alongside personal trainers in developing safe and effective exercise plans to promote health and quality of life.