Patrick O’Flaherty: How healthy active individuals can benefit from physiotherapy

 

My name is Jen and I am WestcoastSCI’s kinesiology coop student. I am currently studying at the University of British Columbia and aspire to become a physiotherapist. Today I met with Patrick for my first physiotherapy session. My love of sport and being active is what drew me to kinesiology. I would consider myself an active person and typically stick to a routine of weight training, running, yoga, skiing and spin class most days in a week. As an athlete I have worked with many physiotherapists, personal trainers, chiropractors and a wide variety of health professionals to help train me and treat minor injuries that came along with my crashes while ski racing. Luckily, I have never endured any major injuries am an active person and might not represent a person who needs physiotherapy. Below I will explain my session with Patrick and how everyone, especially highly active individuals can benefit from the WestcoastSCI way of physio.

As a student, I unfortunately spend most of my day seated and hunched over my laptop. Not very ergonomic or great for my posture. Recently, I have been experiencing aching mid back pain and shoulder pain both while sitting and exercising at the gym.

At the start of the session Patrick asked my about my injury and exercise history along with where, how and when I experience pain. He then began by doing a range of motion assessment on my lower back, upper back shoulders and neck. From this assessment Patrick noticed significant differences in my range of motion on my right shoulder compared to my left as well as differences in the rotation of my thoracic (mid back) between my left and right side. He did some additional strength tests comparing the strength of my shoulder between the left and the right side, and pointed out some significant weaknesses when doing certain shoulder movements that even surprised me. Next Patrick explained to me how although the superficial muscles of my shoulder are strong, the small muscles that make up the rotator cuff were weak. He then explained to me how this is connected to limits in range of motion in my shoulder and mid back and causing the pain I was experiencing.

Next we moved into the gym where Patrick demonstrated and had me do some exercises to further test the functional weakness and imbalances between my left and right shoulder. With my currently knowledge of how the body works Patrick was able to further increase my understanding of which muscles in my rotator cuff were weak and even how I was compensating using other muscles of my back and lower body to do reaching movements.

The philosophy of WestcoastSCI physio team is to reduce pain and improve function through exercise guided rehabilitation. What you might expect coming to physio at WestcoastSCI is doing a workout, similar to a session with a physiotherapist. As a certified personal trainer whose knowledge and goals come from help clients improve strength, endurance and body composition here’s how my session with Patrick was different.

The exercises Patrick taught me were movements, even myself, with years of exercise experience had never done or seen before! Using nothing but an exercise band and no more than 10 pounds, Patrick took me through a series of exercises that very specifically isolated the weak muscles of my rotator cuff. To state it simply, I was shocked by how difficult the exercises were.

Patrick also worked on showing me how the weakness in the deeper muscles of my shoulder contributed in a lack of fine motor control and proprioception (understanding body position in space). What differentiated Patrick from past physiotherapists I have worked with was his ability to incorporate current research into explaining to me how each exercise or movement we were doing would help improve the strength of my rotator cuff.  

I can confidently say that Patrick in an expert as his job. What makes Patrick an expert on human movement? It is his vast understanding of the fundamental neuromuscular connections and muscular components that make up the basic components of all human movement.

Patrick is onto his third degree and currently completing his masters in Rehabilitation Sciences at UBC. His current focus and expertise is in concussion and mild traumatic brain injury. He is also interested working on improving the scientific understanding of neuroplasticity. Additionally, Patrick is the expert on shoulder pain and chronic pain. Overall I had a fantastic session with Patrick and am looking forward to our follow up sessions as a incorporate the exercises he taught me into my own gym routine. Stay tuned for more updates from my follow up session.

Check out the video below to see footage from my session with Patrick.