Ashley Witson, PT, DPT
Because “Good Enough” should never be “Good Enough”
When you develop a drive, a yearning to achieve, your first thought is how did I get to this point? The story started as a young girl when my stepdad first put the thought into my head, “You know Ash, I think you should really think about it. I think you’re the perfect person for the job.” What was he talking about? The physical therapy session he had earlier that day. My stepdad is probably the definition of daredevil. A retired NYC police detective, an ex- bull rider, motorcycle rider, sports car racer, formula car racer, and current rally car driver… you get the gist. He had his fair share of injuries and spent plenty of time in physical therapy. Being one of my biggest believers and supporters, I couldn’t help but think- maybe he’s right?
Fast forward about 3 years later, I find myself deep into the 9-month recovery of an ACL rehabilitation protocol. All because I was that epic fail while racing hurdles in the Section 1 final meet. Now, when you meet me and after you read this you may go, “What was that girl doing running hurdles.” I often think the same thing to myself. Especially since track was my back up sport. During this time, I realized that it was my surgeon who may have fixed my tear, but it was my physical therapist who got me back to doing what I loved the most- playing soccer.
At 18, I packed my bags to attend American International College in Springfield, Massachusetts to pursue the path to become a Physical Therapist & play college soccer. However, I must say that my journey through physical therapy school was a much smoother one than being a successful college athlete. Throughout college, I garnered the nickname “Crutch” from many of my fellow classmates because you rarely saw me without them. From Freshman to Junior year of college, I underwent two additional knee surgeries on the same, previously injured knee. This is when I realized what “bad” physical therapy is.
Bad physical therapy? What is that? It’s a lack of attention, lack of knowing your clients and lack of consistent follow up. Throughout my recovery from the additional knee surgeries, I worked with several physical therapists. During my sessions, the physical therapists barely interacted with me and I mainly worked with an aide who just put me through my exercises. The therapist was also taking care of several clients at a time. Not once did someone try to correct me, watch my movement patterns, or re-test my strength to tell me I was ready to get back to playing. What was the ultimate result? Transitioning from “college athlete & aspiring PT” to solely “aspiring PT” in my fourth year of college.
Three years & three clinical affiliations later I was no longer an “aspiring PT” and officially earned the title Doctor of Physical Therapy. I found myself taking a job not far from home in a very well renown clinic. What did I do there? I took care of my patient’s the best I could as a “bad PT” seeing 3-4 patients per hour and rarely paying attention. Fast forward ten months, you find me in a clinic in Newtown, CT, finally becoming the PT I want to be. A PT spending 45 minutes 1:1 with every client.
What have I learned in my early career? There is NOTHING better than one on one care. Most people have a skewed view of physical therapy practice due to prior experience. I’ve had many people say to me, “I thought I was going to come here, sit on heat or ice, have e-stim and have someone else run me through my exercise. I’ve never had hands on work, someone watch me move like you, or have never felt this good in so few sessions.” I think this makes my point. When I get to be fully dedicated to your treatment, there is a positive difference in outcomes and results.
I often have people ask, what are your favorite physical therapy success stories? Of course, I list all of my post-surgical return to sport athletes from hip labral repairs, ACL reconstructions & rotator cuff tears, etc., but one always tends to take the spotlight.
In 2010 I met a young man who lost his right arm and leg due to a train accident. He was unable to walk with use of a prosthetic leg due to a non-healing wound on his residual limb. Long story short, with the help of a fellow PT and OT, we were able to develop a harness & crutch system that allowed him to get out of his motorized scooter, go on home visits, go on walks, and even go to Yankee’s games by bus. He was able to have freedoms back that he wouldn’t have been able to have otherwise.
There are so many others from helping those post oncological orthopedic surgeries, post-mastectomy & reconstruction surgeries, to helping individuals with chronic pains. Of course, getting runners back to running, soccer players back to soccer, and weekend warriors back to having fun all count too. Whenever one of my patient’s returns to doing what they love, it counts as success!
Your Personal Mechanic
Here I am, seven years after the end of my collegiate soccer career focusing on my professional career and I want nothing more for clients than to not experience what I did. Physical Therapy should be a journey to get you back to the 100% you, not the 75% or 50% and definitely no “good enough”. It may not happen fast or all at once, but what you need to know is we always have your back. 😊 I want you to think of your physical therapist as your personal mechanic. We all have that one person on call when a tire goes flat, your radio doesn’t work, or you need an oil change! When you strain a muscle or feel a new nerve fire, why not have your PT on call?
Why would I relate our bodies to cars? I spend a lot of my time around professional race car drivers, motorcycle riders, and extreme sport athletes. When not at a soccer game or track meet, I grew up traveling to auto racing tracks around the country with my family. Today, I spend a good amount of time traveling to race tracks around the country hearing the stories of racer’s injuries and ailments. Most of them can still function, some of them need surgery, but what I’ve noticed throughout time is that many of these things could have been prevented with regular assessments and tune-ups over time.
Even I need tune-ups from time to time to keep myself going. I need to keep myself strong & healthy to prevent my knee from flaring up. When not treating patients, traveling, or spending time with my dogs and boyfriend, you can normally find me in the gym doing many of the things I will pass on to my patients to stay healthy.
I’m excited to begin this new chapter with Justin & John at Feldman Physical Therapy & Performance. I look forward to seeing you all in the near future!