I had an appointment with a physical therapist for my knee injury on Friday. Great, I ran 57 marathons with no problems mostly in my late 50’s, then pop, a meniscus tear after a short run.
As my therapist was evaluating my injury, I looked around the clinic pictured here and thought about the hundreds of PT reports I’ve reviewed and used as evidence in my clients’ cases.
These chart notes have been instrumental in proving the pain, mobility restrictions, lost wages, and disability caused by my client’s auto accident injuries.
What is physical therapy and why is it important?
Your doctor may prescribe physical therapy to rehabilitate you before or after a surgery to speed your recovery and reduce your need for medications.
Physical therapists must earn a masters or a clinical doctorate degree and often receive specialized training in particular modalities or areas of injury. These academic credentials also lend a high degree of credibility and reliability to their reports in a court of law. For this reason, physical therapy reports provide valuable evidence.
Your PT evaluation provides precise, measurable data
At your first appointment, your physical therapist will conduct a thorough evaluation of your injury, including a series of tests to measure
- Muscle strength
- Pain intensity
- Range of motion (ROM) of your affected joints
- Swelling and inflammation
- Nerve damage
- Posture and body mechanics
- Gait and functionality
- Fine motor skills
- Other tests, depending upon your injury
The records from this initial evaluation establish a baseline upon which to measure the severity of your injury. Your PT will conduct periodic evaluations to assess your recovery progress. At the end of your sessions, your final evaluation proves the disabilities that remain once you’ve reached maximum medical improvement.
Measuring the effect of your injury on your life and work
How does your injury affect your ability to perform activities of daily life and your work? You must present evidence to prove all damages in an auto accident claim. Physical therapy reports introduce clear data that can be used as powerful evidence.
For example, whiplash might severely restrict movement in your neck. But how do you show it? You could just testify that you feel pain and you can’t turn your head all the way, but this doesn’t adequately express the impact that the strain or sprain — or worse — has on your life. Hard numbers make the extent of your restrictions easy for insurance agents or the judge and jurors, if your claim goes to trial, to understand.
The healthy range of motion in the neck is about 60 percent extension, 50 percent flexion, 45 percent lateral bend, and 80 percent rotation. If you can only turn your head to 40 degrees and look down to a 20-degree angle, your ability to perform daily tasks is severely limited. You can’t safely drive a car. Things we take for granted like tying your shoes or putting on a pair of pants might be impossible.
If you also injured your shoulder, your movements would be further encumbered. At full range of motion, you can extend your arm behind you to about 50 degrees, across your body to about 30 degrees, and over your head from the side or front to 150 degrees. ROM restrictions could impede you from holding your child, brushing your hair, or putting a box on a shelf that may be part of your job.
These restrictions have a severe impact on your activities of daily living, your employment, and your quality of life.
I always focus on trying to get my clients back to where they were before their automobile crash. PT can definitely accelerate that process.
I’m going to have to have surgery. My MRIs show that this will just prolong the inevitable and after the first session, I have decided to discontinue PT. But you may have a different injury and have a better result.
Oh well stuff happens, right? I realize that no one ever expects to be in a crash.
I intend to learn as much as I can from this experience and use it to help me understand what my clients are going through and how I can better serve their needs.