Claire Hulette and Robyn Shopmaker

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work: How Patient Engagement Impacts Physical Therapy Outcomes

Cervicalgia can be more than just a pain in the neck. The condition, which is used to describe neck pain stemming from a variety of causes, often extends to other parts of the body as well, leading to severe headaches, limitations on activities of daily living and decreased quality of life. This was the case for Robyn Shopmaker, a recent patient at ARC Physical Therapy+.

“I woke up one morning and couldn’t move my neck in any direction without experiencing excruciating pain. It was so bad that I was unable to work and eventually ended up in the E.R.,” she said.

Following her trip to the emergency room, Robyn consulted with her primary care physician, who referred her to physical therapy. With previous experience at ARC Physical Therapy+ following a hand injury in 2012, Robyn felt it was the obvious choice for care.

“I went to ARC six years ago, so I was familiar with the type of care they provide,” she said. “In fact, I just recommended ARC to someone who is preparing to have shoulder surgery because they were so great to work with.”

To treat her cervicalgia, Robyn worked with , PT, DPT, and Claire Hulett, PTA, at the Overland Park clinic. At the time of her initial visit, Robyn was experiencing severe headaches and could not turn her head side to side or move it up and down.

“Neck pain and headaches can often be interrelated,” Mason said. “By treating the neck pain, we can often decrease the headaches as well. Manual therapy was helpful in Robyn’s case because it provided immediate relief and significantly improved her range of motion.”

In addition to manual therapy, Robyn’s experience included a thorough evaluation and an assessment of her condition using the McKenzie Method®, as well as strengthening and stabilization exercises for improved range of motion. She also learned self-mobilization techniques for ongoing progress at home.

“Physical therapy requires teamwork, and the patient is the most important member of that team,” Mason said. “Our job as therapists is to educate our patients and help them understand what’s causing their pain or limitations, while providing tools to help them manage their symptoms.”

This type of patient engagement was a critical component in Robyn’s recovery.

“Robyn was very consistent in doing her exercises at home,” Claire said. “With the McKenzie Method, it’s important to repeat exercises several times in order to decrease pain and enhance function in the long term. The patients who benefit the most from this type of assessment and treatment are the patients who are engaged. Robyn’s trust in the treatment and commitment to doing her work at home was essential in her recovery.”

By the end of the second week of treatment, Robyn was able to return to work part time, and the following week she returned to work full time.

“I was initially apprehensive about going back to work because I use two monitors and need to have mobility to look back and forth, but Mason and Claire assured me that I had the tools to continue managing my neck pain,” she said.

Empowered by the knowledge she gained through physical therapy, Robyn remains diligent about doing her at-home exercises.

“Honestly, I haven’t missed a day yet, and I will probably continue doing them at least once a day forever because I don’t want to experience that kind of pain again,” she said.

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