From athletes suffering from sports injuries to individuals with chronic back pain, the new Northwest Community Healthcare (NCH) Outpatient Care Center (OCC) at Harper College can help. A team of three full-time physical therapists is ready to work with students, staff and the outlying community. The OCC is located in the new Foglia Foundation Health and Recreation Center (Building M) as part of a community partnership with Harper College and Palatine Park District.
Lead Physical Therapist Shivangi Potdar tells how physical therapy helps, and what patients visiting the OCC can expect.
Q: Why are more people turning to physical therapy to reduce or alleviate pain?
Shivangi: What we’re finding out is that the first line of defense for musculoskeletal problems is physical therapy. It’s non-invasive, less cost to the insurance than expensive tests and surgeries, and much more convenient for patients.
Q: How does physical therapy help?
Shivangi: We modify how people sit, sleep and stand. We help patients do exercises to build strength. We work on their form, not just building muscle, and we look at what led to an injury in the first place and how we can prevent it from recurring. We treat patients individually using a customized approach, identifying what muscle groups are weak, and what a patient’s goals may be. We can strengthen those muscles and we can make sure patients are pain-free, their form is great when exercising, and that they know how to take care of their bodies.
Q: What equipment do you have?
Shivangi: We have access to an Olympic-size pool (owned by the Palatine Park District) for some post-op rehab patients (those with chronic low back pain or weight-bearing restrictions). For example, suppose you have surgery on your foot and the doctor says you can only put 50 percent of your weight on it. If you’re in the pool above your belly button, that’s 50 percent of your weight supported. We have a gym in the OCC, but we also have access to all of the equipment in the new Foglia Foundation Health and Recreation Center here at Harper College.
Q: What is a typical visit like?
Shivangi: Visits are typically 45 minutes to an hour. We spend our first session doing a thorough evaluation to find out what a patient’s issues are. We work one-on-one, so we really have the time to spend with each patient.
Q: What are the advantages for athletes who have suffered a sports injury?
Shivangi: For athletes, we can have them warm up on a treadmill here, but also use different equipment and space in the Foglia Foundation Health and Recreation Center. We can do agility drills, running, and some quick start and stop activities. This is what athletes have to do, for example, after an ACL surgery. At the end of therapy, our goal is to set up the patient on a program, something that they can continue to do.
Q: How do you help with occupational health issues?
Shivangi: One example might be a person who experiences hip pain at a desk job. They might get a posture alignment and we might talk about the structure of the hips and sitting differently. There’s education involved. We can do exercises to strengthen the hips and correct the alignment. For one patient, we figured out that her feet didn’t touch the ground when she was sitting at her desk chair because she is shorter and most chairs aren’t designed for shorter people.
We also get patients who have to do heavy lifting at their job, repetitively. We want to train them to get back to their job, so those are the patients who we can help to work on the machines, and we can go right into the center to use some of the equipment.
Q: How does the physical therapy team feel about this community partnership?
Shivangi: We’re really excited to serve the populations here, to work with the students, the Harper community and the Palatine community. We’re all looking forward to building our patient base and getting to know the people in this area. Our therapists are excited to work with the athletic population as well. I think we’ll also see an uptick in a young, possibly more athletic population since we’re in the same center as the workout facility.
Q: What kind of training does your team have?
Shivangi: We have a good mix of experience as a team. Our licensed, educated physical therapists are able to treat all orthopedic conditions plus vestibular issues (dizziness or balance problems) and we are trained to handle worker’s compensation patients and work rehab patients.
Q: What do you say to patients who are new to physical therapy and don’t know if it will work?
Shivangi: People become believers. They might not know what it is, but once they go through it, they recommend it. I would recommend a physical therapy visit first before considering something more invasive like surgery because the solution doesn’t always have to be an extreme one.
Q: How does one go about making an appointment?
Shivangi: Insurance must be verified and patients will need a referral from their physician to make an appointment. Once that happens, you can call 847-618-0121 to schedule an appointment. Physical therapy hours are Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.; Friday, 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.; and on Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon.