Physical therapists stress fitness

HIGHLAND LAKES — October is National Physical Therapy Month and local physical therapists are urging residents to get more in tune with their bodies.

“My goal is to get a patient back to their functional ability, to rehabilitate them and advance them back to their level of daily normal activity,” said Russ Pangborn, owner of the Physical Therapy & Sports Rehab of the Highland Lakes clinic and the Marble Falls Athletic Club, 2312 U.S. 281. 

Pangborn is a 16-year certified physical therapist and is also a certified manual therapist working in Marble Falls.

The goal of National Physical Therapy Month is to encourage the public to learn more about physical therapy. During October, special recognition is given to the efforts of about 80,000 physical therapists in the United States.

There are about 20 therapists in Burnet County, officials said.

Physical therapy is designed to help anyone who is compromised by injury, surgery or aging, officials said. The objective is to help a person develop, maintain or restore movement.

Pangborn said there are several specialties in physical therapy. 

“There are other divisions of therapy such as neurological, cardiac and pediatric specialties. I would describe myself as an orthopaedic or muscleoskeletal therapist,” Pangborn said.

He provides direct hands-on manipulations and says many of the divisions of therapy can actually intermingle.

Pangborn said the field is virtually recession-proof and in high demand. Most therapists have a master’s level certification but there is a doctorate level as well.

“The therapeutic exercise sometimes required fits in well with the athletic gym,” he said. “We have a 20,000-square foot facility at The Marble Falls Athletic Club. We’re a little more specialized to help a person recover from an injury or surgery. As therapists, we know how to provide the protection certain areas of the body require as it goes through the healing process.”

The first step is to receive a referral from a physician to start rehabilitation. Next, a thorough evaluation is performed to determine the client’s level of balance, strength and range of motion.

“That initial evaluation sets the process in motion to know how to treat and proceed with the patient for the weeks or months to come,” he said.

Pangborn sees an average of 40 to 50 clients per week.

Ardra Hughes is a certified manual therapist and is board certified in sports physical therapy and injury prevention. She works for Sports Medicine and Physical Therapy at 1004 Marble Heights Drive in Marble Falls.

“We are primarily an out-patient and sports medicine facility. Most of the patients we see have spine, neck, back and extremity injuries such as fractures or tendonitis. We see a lot of patients with back pain and total joint replacements,” Hughes said.

She said most of their referrals come from primary-care physicians for aches and strains, and the treatment process can last from a few visits to two or three months.

The Seton Healthcare Network also maintains physical therapy clinics in the Highland Lakes. The Burnet facility is located at 309 Industrial Boulevard and the Marble Falls location is at 700 U.S. 281.

Both clinics come under the supervision of Jann Barnett, clinical manager of physical therapy for Seton Highland Lakes. She has 29 years of experience and described some of the special activities during Physical Therapy Month in which she takes part.

“Every October, I take the third-year health occupation students at Burnet High School and give them a ‘disability for the day,’” she said. “It’s something special we do to increase their awareness as they see firsthand some of the disadvantages faced by those with real disabilities.” 

Barnett added, “I give them disabilities they must act out the entire school day such as sprained ankles, burns, strokes, confinement to a wheelchair and neck and back strains.”

Barnett said the class averages 10 students and it is up to them to carry on with their day as “normal” as possible.

“They come early before school and they know they have to keep their regular schedules regardless of the obstacles they encounter,” Barnett said. “At one point during the day, they are taken by bus to the (Burnet) Courthouse Square and given specific assignments.” 

Some of their activities include going to the bank, eating out, buying clothes or going to the tax office. At the end of the day, the students are asked to write a brief report outlining their experiences.

“We’ve done this for about 10 years now. I want them to realize when they see somebody with a disability or injury what it’s like to be on the other side of good health. It’s an eye-opener to drop the kids off at the Square with all their disabilities and see the reaction from the public,” Barnett said.

She encourages the students to create a story about how they were “injured” or “hurt” so they can explain their condition to anyone who asks.