Physical Therapist Michele Jacobs DPT puts patients first when treating complex pain — resulting in transformative healing.
When Michele Jacobs was a child, she saw the importance of health care professionals by watching her mother, a nurse, attentively tend to patients.
Now, after practicing as a Physical Therapist for over a decade, Jacobs aims to replicate this patient-centered care with her own clients. Many of the patients Michele treats face complex pain conditions, which require listening, compassion, and, most of all, patience.
“People that have these multi-layers and years of disease, it’s not going to change in just 6 to 8 visits,” said Jacobs. “It takes months or years. We need to take the time to do it, but the healthcare system is not set up to do that.”
In this episode of Powering Health and Wellness with RPM Rehab, Jacobs discusses the importance of providing out-of-the-box care for patients suffering from complex pain. She shares how centering patients’ needs with every decision can lead to recovery.
Many times, Physical Therapists stick to the same script when delivering care. But, Jacobs says not every patient fits into a neat box for treatment.
That’s why Jacobs makes sure her treatment plans are specifically tailored to each patient.
“Some therapy is, for a lack of a better phrase, what I like to call a ‘people mill’, where patients go in and do a circuit of uncustomized exercises,” said Jacobs. “With every single patient that comes in to see me, it’s all customized. I make sure it’s individualized to their impairments because everyone is different.”
In order to individualize treatment options, physical therapists need to learn to listen to patients’ wants and needs. Jacobs starts each session by asking her patients what they want to achieve.
“You can read their chart, but really involve the patient. Always ask the question: what’s your goal? What would you like to be able to do easier in your everyday life,” Jacobs said.
Once you’ve identified the goals of your patient, it’s important to stick with them. Recognizing that patients might regress in the process is vital. But, physical therapists should dedicate time and effort into seeing those goals through.
“I love spending time with my patients,” said Jacobs. “You build such a rapport with them. They know that you care about them. I think we are just able to provide so much education and training because we get to spend so much quality time together.”
The power of manual therapy
Once Jacobs has connected with her patients, the next step is providing treatment. She uses her hands to make transformative changes.
Through manual therapy, Jacobs touches patients directly in order to find and work to heal dysfunctional areas.
“People do better when you put their hands on them. Whether a doctor puts a hand on your shoulder and says ‘I’m listening’ or if a physical therapist puts a hand on the pain,” said Jacobs. “I’ve had patients who have had pain and issues for years, and they’ll say ‘You’re the first person who has ever touched my pain.’ That seems like that’s something that needs to change.”
With over a decade of experience in Physical Therapy, Jacobs has learned to be able to sense and detect problem areas through touch. Before patients guide her, she is able to identify painful areas.
“Dysfunctional tissue sticks out like a sore thumb. Whether it’s connective tissue, whether it’s nerve, skin, joint, it will stick out like a sore thumb,” Jacobs said.
Oftentimes, Jacobs begins treatment by looking at patients’ sacroiliac, or pelvis joint. She says, by starting near the bottom of the body, she is able to realign the body back to a normal, more supportive place — relieving chronic pain.
“When I put my hands on the patients and I feel that dysfunction and I use a lot of muscle energy technique, mobilization with movement, and I help put that rib back down. Then I care for that soft tissue that has just been brutalized for however long,” said Jacobs. “And you massage it, you work all those joints around it to where you get back to more of a normal.”
Looking at the whole body
When Jacobs begins treatment, she looks at more than just the localized area of pain.
Physical Therapists need to consider joints, muscles, nerves, and mental health of the patient in order to get a fuller look at how function and mobility can be improved.
“We’re master compensators. Our body wants to try to heal itself or fix the problem. But the longer you let one problem go, you compensate, compensate and compensate until you’re out of compensators,” she said.
One thing that Jacobs always looks at is the diet of a patient. She says what you eat can play a huge role in pain control and body functions.
“I think you are doing a disservice and/or incomplete treatment to your patient if you’re not trying to address the whole body.”
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