I still treat some impairments - it's how I was trained.
There is a certain amount of satisfaction in measuring a stiff joint, fixing it with my 'old school' physical therapy techniques and getting the patient better.
It makes sense.
Today, however, physical therapists measure patient characteristics that predict the treatment the patient should get.
We don't measure as many impairments anymore. Some of the measurement are not even 'physical' - now we measure 'fear of movement'.
These new measurements are better because they are predictive of the patient's ultimate outcome whereas impairments (eg: ROM, strength, etc.) generally aren't predictive of outcomes.
The new way makes sense, too.
Teaching an Old DogWell, this 'old dog' can still learn some new tricks, like...
- clinical prediction rules
- outcomes scales
- disablement models
- computer adaptive testing
- alternative payment systems
The New School
A new article in April's JOSPT shows, however, that some impairments are still worth measuring - BECAUSE they may be predictive of the patient's ultimate outcome.
Lentz, Barabas, Day, Bishop and George showed that the flexion ROM variable was the strongest contributor to shoulder function in a model that included variables such as...
- duration of symptoms
- mechanism of injury
- average pain intensity
- flexion ROM
- Tampa Scale of Kinesiophobia
While shoulder flexion ROM was the strongest contributor to shoulder (dys)function
"...the immediate clinical relevance of these findings was unclear."In other words, does improving shoulder flexion ROM with my 'old school' PT techniques (stretching, joint mobs, manipulation, cranio-sacral (not), whatever...) lead to better outcomes?
Physical therapists are still looking for the most parsimonious measurements that will predict outcomes for patients.
Are impairments still on the list?