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Teaching Medical Students about the Power of Physical Therapy

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From left, back row, Raymond Goddu, Kim Como, Erin Foley, Tim Duffy, Marielle Jensen-Battaglia; front row, Corinne Lee and Jennifer Raymond.

By Raymond Goddu

Graduate students in physical therapy at UMass Lowell gave medical students at UMass Medical School a lesson recently in the role physical therapy can play in the treatment of back pain.

As part of the service learning project, six doctoral physical therapy students and Chair Sean Collins presented a case study to the medical students about a patient with severe back pain. The goal was to determine appropriate strategies to treat the patient with methods other than medication. The students – Marielle Jensen-Battaglia, Kim Como, Tim Duffy, Erin Foley, Raymond Goddu, Corinne Lee and Jennifer Raymond – demonstrated physical therapy techniques to reduce lower back pain.

“In today’s integrated health and wellness practice environment, it’s helpful for physicians to understand the examination and treatment offered by doctors of physical therapy for patients with mobility impairments,” says Collins. “This service learning project is a step toward this goal, awakening future physicians to what physical therapists offer as members of health and wellness teams.” 

The physical therapy students demonstrated exercise and back stability training, pain relief modalities and manual, “hands-on” testing and treatments. Each portion of the presentation allowed for a question-and-answer segment, where the UMass Lowell physical therapy students were able to interact with the medical students.

“The medical students were definitely curious about the different hands-on treatments, like traction and joint mobilizations,” said Raymond Goddu. “They wanted to know how some of the techniques felt for themselves.” The presentation was well received by the medical students, who were interested in the whole field of physical therapy, not just managing back pain.