What We Mean By Hands-On Physical Therapy


The other day, I was having a conversation with one of my patients—a journalist who had recently interviewed a retired doctor. One of the questions she asked him was what he felt was lacking in today’s healthcare environment. A key response from him was bedside manner. By this, he meant the ability to empathize with the patient, and the ability to sit with them and let them know you care about them as a person, not just their injury or illness. At each of Foothills Sports Medicine’s Phoenix physical therapy clinics, we are doing our part to change this. One sometimes hears physical therapists being described as “physical terrorists,” but more often we hear that we were the first people to put our hands on a person with kindness. Unfortunately, many people have had negative experiences with healthcare and therapy, or felt they were not listened to or validated.

At Foothills Sports Medicine, our slogan includes the phrase “Hands-on Therapy that Gets Results.” What does this mean? It could be a reference to the fact that therapists use their hands in many different treatment techniques—and this is certainly an important part of the patient’s recovery. In fact, I have had more than a few patients tell me stories of their prior PT experiences, during which they were put in a corner of a room with a sheet of exercises and basically told “have at it.” While exercises are necessary to patients’ treatment, they need to feel their visits are of value.

I feel that the hands are more than the implements with which we perform treatment techniques. They are the doors through which we can let our heart do the work. Empathy plays an important role in connecting with patients and providing effective treatment to the whole person, not just the body part that is injured. No injury exists in a vacuum, and no person exists in a vacuum. Sometimes that human touch is the one thing that reaches a patient and gets them well.

When I was in physical therapy school, one of my clinical instructors marked me down for putting my hand on a patient’s arm, effectively touching the patient “too much” and making me appear “too sympathetic.” While I feel I have learned from every criticism I’ve received on my treatment style, I greatly rejected this one. It has been my experience that demonstrating some sympathy toward patients as people is necessary in achieving healing.

At Foothills Sports Medicine, we believe it is possible to give some of ourselves away without losing anything. Kindness costs nothing, and it is our hands-on approach that puts our Foothills Sports Medicine Phoenix Physical Therapy clinics above others in providing patient care.

If you’re looking for a physical therapist, contact your local Foothills clinic today! Our highly-trained staff offer a free assessment of your physical therapy needs, which can be scheduled online here. For more information about Phoenix Physical Therapy, check out our blog!


Melanie McDonald

PT, MPT | Tempe Location