Firefighter and Active Dad Gets Back to Work and Life Thanks to ARC Physical Therapy+

Marcus Winstead is a firefighter, husband and father who enjoys leading an active lifestyle with his wife and three children.

“I’ve been a firefighter for 13 years”, Marcus explained. “Throughout that time, I’ve been on numerous calls and in very unique and challenging situations. As luck would have it, I was injured during a training exercise. I had two-disc injuries (protrusion and extrusion between L4-L5/L5-S1).”

His employer had previous experience with ARC Physical Therapy+ and believed their Springfield, Missouri clinic was the best place for Marcus to recover from his injuries.

“The first day I walked into ARC Physical Therapy+, I was standing at a 45-degree angle and in a lot of pain,” Marcus shared.

melissa shelton springfield physical therapist

He was introduced to Lead Physical Therapist Melissa Shelton. Melissa has been a physical therapist for 6 years and likes how PT allows her to rehab patients back to the real-life activities they were doing before they suffered an injury.

“Getting full function restored includes not only enabling a patient to lift a tool that they use at work, but also enabling them to lift their kids in and out of car seats, it really does require looking at the whole person and all aspects of their life,” Melissa said.

Right away, Melissa put Marcus’ mind at ease and by the end of the first session he was standing a little taller and in noticeably less pain. They both knew it was still a long road ahead, but it was a great start.

“From the very beginning I felt Melissa genuinely cared,” Marcus said. “I was very determined to not have any type of back surgery and she was right there with me.”

Melissa shared her perspective, “Marcus had been dealing with pain for a while before coming to see me, but he had a great outlook and was willing to put in the work and effort to get better. He had a goal to avoid surgery and after seeing progress the first day I think he and I both believed that we could accomplish that goal together.”

Being successful in physical therapy means putting in work, both at the clinic and at home.

“Marcus was a model patient,” Melissa stated. “He was very diligent in doing what was asked of him in and out of therapy sessions. He fully understood that in order to get better quickly he needed to put in the time and effort outside of our one-hour sessions, and he did just that. He was very intentional on reporting back successes and struggles with his home exercise program which enabled me to make adjustments in treatment during therapy sessions to improve his outcome.”

“Some weeks I really felt I was making progress and some weeks I didn’t,” Marcus recounted. “Melissa was always quick to encourage me when it was needed, but also to challenge me when necessary. It felt like ARC Physical Therapy+ was my second home for a few months.”

Beyond putting in the work, Marcus proved to be an asset to everyone at the clinic.

“Not only was he a model patient, but Marcus was a great person to have in the clinic,” Melissa expressed. “He was full of hope that he was going to return to fighting fires and motivated to get there. That attitude had a bigger impact on the other patients in the clinic than he probably realizes. He also shared stories about his family and took an interest in his therapist’s lives. It was refreshing to hear stories of travel plans and what his kids were involved in and how he was going to be a part of that, it gave a little extra motivation to both of us.”

Marcus trusted Melissa and followed through with her recommendations.

“Trust is possibly the single most important variable that impacts outcomes for patients,” Melissa stated. “If Marcus hadn’t trusted that I would be able to help him reach his goals and trusted me enough to do what I was asking of him outside of therapy his situation could have been much much different.”

“I believe that by explaining to a patient why you’re asking them to do things and how it will impact their recovery, you build trust,” she went on. “Being transparent with Marcus was paramount in building trust. Listening to what he told me about his tolerance to the home exercise program helped us take a team approach to his treatment so we were both heavily invested and looking for the next win in order to take another step forward.”

Their trust, teamwork, and Marcus’ can-do attitude and hard work paid off.

“I’ve always been active and this injury took that away from me for almost 6 months,” he said. “Thanks to the physical therapy, I went back to full duty at the firehouse. I’m back to playing basketball, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, hiking, riding bikes, all the things I love to do with my wife and kids. For that I am very grateful. Thank you, Melissa.”

Melissa echoed his sentiments, “To this day it brings a smile to my face when he sends me a message with a picture of him rock climbing with his kids or walking upright as he escorted his sister down the aisle to get married. That’s what it’s all about for me in this profession, impacting the everyday lives of those I get the opportunity to work with.”

“I truly feel Melissa was a godsend,” Marcus shared. “I can’t say enough good things about her. To me the best way to pay compliment is through referrals which I’ve been able to do multiple times. Once you’ve had an injury like this you can spot it in other people. I’ve gone out of my way to tell complete strangers about the way Melissa was able to help me.”

If you or your employee need physical therapy, ARC Physical Therapy+ can help. Contact our Central Business Office at (913) 831-2721 or email Tonya Knoettgen at to learn more.

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