Many people have questioned me, “Why do you want to become a physical therapist so badly? It’s so much schooling, money, and time! Is it even worth it?” To me, however, it is not even a question worth wondering.
Yes, I do acknowledge that it is a ton of money, time, and schooling; However, it is my DREAM and has been my dream for the last 7 and a half years!
Around the time I was in 8th grade at my elementary school, I grew deeply passionate for long-distance running. I had always liked the idea of going out for a 3-mile run or so, but I started to run longer and longer distances, and I fell in love with it! The only thing was that up until this point in my life, I had mainly only gone out for a 3-mile run at the most. My body was not used to running these lengthy distances.
In addition to this, I fractured my left tibia when I was only 8 years old. I was in a full leg cast and wheelchair for a couple of months, and though I had attended a little kid physical therapy office for some time, I never fully attained equal strength on the left and right sides of my lower body. My left hips, thighs, and lower extremities were still weaker and thinner than my right ones because I had not used my left side for so long while I was in the wheelchair.
Flash forward back to 8th grade when I began running these longer distances, my body could not keep up with my training. I quickly started suffering from shin splints, more severe on my left side. Not really understanding the risks involved, I kept running on it, and even ran on it during my grade school track’s city championships only to find out a week later that I had a stress fracture in my left leg.
To say that I was devastated is an understatement. Running was this amazing hobby that transcended my mind and physical body making me feel so alive and full of energy! And now, I was at a stop light, that would not turn green for at least the next 4 months. I had to be on crutches for my grade school graduation and then once summer began, I had my first real encounter with a physical therapist where I was fully aware of everything going on.
When attending the ‘little kid PT”, I had seen it more as just going to this place to play with a nice lady. But at this point in time, I understood fully why I was at this PT office. I was hopeless as I was not sure how I could have pushed my body this far past its limit to prevent me from running. I was scared that I would never get back to where I was.
I had an evaluation with the therapist, and I got to tell him my goals and all that I wanted to get out of physical therapy. After this first visit, I was immensely uplifted. He told me what specific body parts he was going to have me do exercises to try to strengthen in order to prevent the shin splints from occurring so rapidly again. I was so insanely impressed.
Flash forward to the fall of my freshman year of high school, I was back to running. Though I was limited in distance and pace, I did not care because I could do what I loved again! I also learned how to slowly and safely work up my mileage.
Throughout my freshman and sophomore year of high school, I had tools in my toolbelt to utilize to manage my symptoms of shin splints, and to ensure that I did not push my body past its limit as I did in 8th grade. But yet, I was still suffering from this injury and also pulled my hip flexor for the first time.
My fitness was improving faster than my body could keep up with so I went back to my orthopedic doctor to get prescribed another PT script, except this time he also prescribed me to get a Running Analysis done by a PT at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia!
At my running evaluation, the physical therapist I had was specialized in biomechanics, the physics of human motion. She watched and recorded me running to get an examination of what my stride looked like! After that single day, she pinpointed exactly what the issue was with my running form—I overstride, my pelvis is not aligned during each stride, I heel-strike, my ankles and hips were too weak so my shins had to take a lot of the contact force, and my left side was STILL weaker than the right.
Immediately, she began to gather exercises for me to do and I continued seeing her for 19 months. The physical therapy was intensive and I had to be consistent with it, doing it almost every single day in order to retrain my muscles to come into contact with the ground in a safer manner.
Throughout this 19 month gap period, I ended up placing second overall in my high school’s varsity cross country district championships, leading the team to an overall first place win and championship trophy! Though I was still attending physical therapy at this point, my gate was being altered and I was much more easily able to manage the shin splints pain than I was before my running evaluation. The main reason I had to attend PT for that long was to FULLY alter my running gate to a safer form.
I find it so incredibly fascinating that by strengthening other specific muscles in the body, these muscles can then take some of the load off the overused, injured muscles. It’s so cool how the
body parts and muscles all work together as a team to help the others! All in all, that physical therapy changed my LIFE and gave me an immense amount of hope.
After getting injured, my mind became a very sad and dark place to be, but physical therapy was like this big brightly-lit chandelier that brought color and life back to my mind, giving me so much hope. At a time when I was unsure if I would even be able to run again, and I was so exhausted of going to doctors appointment after doctors appointment, I was able to heal my body in the ways that it needed to bring me back to the thing I love more than anything on this planet: RUNNING!
I could not have done any of this without my many physical therapists, and I have seen even a couple more since the running reformation CHOP PT. The reason I want to become a PT is because I want to be the one to help that little girl or boy who comes in, devastated that they cannot do the physical activity that they love because of a physical injury. I want to shine that big chandelier over their heads so that they too can become hopeful again and give them the tools to get where they want to be!
The body was made to heal itself, the person just has to put in the work by doing the exercises and strengthening protocols that will help them! I want to help a countless number of individuals get back to a point where they can either go back to their daily activities of living after a serious injury or to a point where they can achieve even more in their desired sport after a repetitive, gnawing injury that just won’t give up.
I want to instill a hope in others that they can feel better and heal their bodies. I’ve always loved helping people since I was just a young child, and this would be a way to help them in a way that is so meaningful and prominent to my own self!
So yes, physical therapy is an expensive and timely dream to possess, but in my perspective, none of that even matters. None of that even comes close to the desire I have to help others feel the best that they can feel! I want to do whatever I can to help people around me alleviate aches and pains they might have or heal from a life-altering injury.
And to answer the question, yes becoming a physical therapist is worth it, more worth it than I can even express or imagine myself.