It’s hard to believe, but we’re officially a third of the way done with our orthopedic module! The spine has been conquered, and now we’re focusing in on the legs. As we’ve been discussing these oh-so-important structures that get us from point A to point B, I’m becoming more and more aware that treating a patient who presents with an orthopedic condition is like pretending I’m Sherlock Holmes reincarnated as a PT (pardon the comparison but it’s true!). From the moment we lay eyes on the patient and begin to observe their gait and posture to the moment we prescribe them with a home exercise program, we have to take a whole bunch of information and try our best to piece it all together. Sometimes, figuring out a patient’s impairment(s) is easy, and the pieces of the puzzle seem to fit together very neatly. Unfortunately, most of the time it feels a bit like trying to find a needle in a haystack.
So my dear Watson, how do we make this process easier on ourselves? Well first of all we practice! While there certainly are some cases that are just flat out difficult, there are some patterns to look for in many orthopedic conditions. For instance, if I were to suspect that my patient might have arthritis in his or her hip, I would expect him or her to complain of hip tightness/stiffness in the morning, among other things. To further aid our cause, we also seek out the professional wisdom of our professors, and we find out what the current research has to say. While PT certainly isn’t “elementary,” we’re getting a better grasp on our sleuthing skills and learning how to make the puzzle pieces fit!