Physical Therapy is All About Quality of Life, Alleviating Pain Through Lifestyle Modification

by Paula McKibben   LuAnn Rieman has been a physical therapist (PT) for more than 20 years, serving at Bluffton Hospital for more than a decade. Before Bluffton Hospital, she had worked at the OSU Medical Center for 10 years and did home health for Mt. Carmel. At Blanchard Valley, she has worked at Birchaven, Whirlpool, Bridge Hospice, and in acute care and outpatient care. Obviously, she is a Bluffton associate with lots of experience that she can use to assist her patients.
   She says that when she gets up everyday, she wants to help someone in some way, “physically, mentally, whatever it is, treat everyone with kindness and sincerity.”
   As a result, I witnessed her visiting with her patients. She builds a rapport and can ask them questions about their lives based on what they told her at previous visits.
   LuAnn got into the PT business as a result of knowing Joey Hartley, a physical therapist from McComb. Joey invited her to accompany her while at work at Blanchard Valley Hospital and Bluffton Hospital. LuAnn had wanted to become a vet, but hated the idea of having to put animals to sleep. She enjoyed her visits with Joey, saw how she was able to make a difference with her patients and decided to pursue physical therapy.
   LuAnn is an impelling reason for people to choose to have their physical therapy done at Bluffton Hospital. All of her patients are from physician referrals. However, in most cases, patients are allowed to choose where they want to receive treatment.
   After being referred to physical therapy, each patient is evaluated. Then a treatment plan is set up in the hospital and exercises are recommended for the home. The patient receives education on how to prevent pain and methods of treating pain.
   The evaluation to actually determine a method of treatment uses specific tests to locate what causes the pain. Range of motion, flexibility, balance, strength and coordination are also evaluated.
   The most common injuries that she sees are rotator cuff repairs and shoulder pain, plus balance and flexibility issues, but they handle just about anything, from total joint replacements and back and neck surgeries to work-related and sports-related injuries.
   Unfortunately, they do not work with pediatric patients.
   The number of visits the patient will need is usually determined after the initial evaluation, but the referring physician may recommend a specific number of visits, and the insurance company may have rules regarding therapy. Patients need to know what their physical therapy benefits are through their insurance company. However, the PT staff may be able to assist with some of that information.
   She also works with pain management. If sent to physical therapy for pain management, patients may receive an injection to alleviate immediate pain, but will then attend physical therapy to learn to manage the pain through the use of exercise, stretches and lifestyle modification. According to Rieman, “Our role is to help to prevent further pain.” She considers her job to be educating her patients on how to avoid more pain.
   Rieman says that treatment also depends on how much better they want to get. What is their goal? What do they want to be able to do?  She tailors the treatment to match the activities they want to do. If someone doesn’t want to get out of bed because of the pain, her job is to help the patient to realize that life “is worth getting up and going for.”
   She and her PT assistant, Karen Schieltz, can handle four to five patients at a time, depending on the type of treatment. If speech therapy or occupational therapy is needed, specialists will come in on an as-needed basis.
   Rieman emphasized that everyone is welcome to stop in, see what they have to offer and “pick our brains.” But actual treatment will most often require a physician’s referral.
   Hours in the physical therapy department are 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday, Wednesday and Thursday; 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday; and 8 a.m. to 12 or 1 p.m. on Friday. After receiving a referral from a physician, an appointment can be made by calling Cheryl Newland in the office of the physical therapy department.
   “For most people, some kind of therapy is beneficial. We are all about quality of life,” commented Rieman.