How to: Be a terrible therapist


One word: HUM-MER-S – Meaning Hot packs, Ultrasound, Massage, and Stim.

DISCLAIMER: This post was not written about any therapists that I have worked with, currently work with, or even about myself. The idea for this post comes from a discussion with a previous professor of mine at Northeastern University who introduced me to the following term and also held me in discussion about the other issues dealt with in this post.

The art of the hummer is born out of pure hatred for ones job. The ability to provide a well thought-out treatment plan is well within the therapist’s reach, but they just do not want to think that hard. We work in an environment where people come in to be treated mainly due to movement disorders. Clearly, it is a good idea when people are not moving properly to have them move less, preferably not at all, especially while at PT. A good hummer starts with making sure the patient never gets off the table. The therapist proceeds to have their assistant or aide grab a hot pack and heat up whatever area is plaguing the patient.

Ultrasound is next to follow, probably for only 3-4 minutes on whatever settings the machine is already on to make sure it is not effective. Make sure you move the ultrasound at a hundred miles an hour, and definitely don’t pay attention to what you are doing.

Massage always feels great and is definitely least effective if you go into it with no intentions. Increasing circulation? Nah. Myofascial release, What the heck is that? Creating an inflammatory process with cross friction massage, “I don’t want my patient to ever be uncomfortable”. Just rub that knee because it hurts. Clearly if the knee hurts that’s what needs the massage.

Stim– One word: Pre-mod. Set it and forget it baby.

Once you become adept at giving HUMmerS you are a little more free to work on your other skills such as not changing treatment programs for 3 weeks. You will also have a ton of time to complain about how terrible all chiropractors (money hungry) and accupuncturists (voodoo) are. Also, with all this free time you need to make sure you are well read. But make sure no article you read is more recent than 10 years old.

God-forbid you actually have a patient do some rehab, it is in your best interest to keep them around for as long as possible (you need the co-pays, Wall Street is down). Make sure they can do at least 10 pound straight leg raises, and push the whole leg press rack, I don’t care if they are here for their rotator cuff. This patient has been around so long they might as well have a company shirt and work for their co-pays.

Do you remember the song “the knee bone is connected to the hip bone”? Well clearly this song has its flaws. If you had to write it all over again it would go ‘the knee bone is connected to the….knee bone”. Thats right, as I stated earlier, the knee clearly hurts because of whats going on at the knee and only the knee (sometimes this is actually the case). Why would you ever look at the hip or ankles if the knee hurts?

What the heck is a goniometer? (see physical therapy section)

Always remember that an attractive woman/man needs twice as much attention as everyone else. Because they definitely don’t get enough.

You must frequently say the following phrases throughout your work week:

  • I can’t wait for Friday (Okay, I’ve said this once or twice)
  • They are going to be late? Heck no I won’t see them (to the admin. assistant)
  • Physics was pointless
  • Do 50 crunches
  • When’s lunch?
  • Why don’t people just get better?
  • Just do a bunch of those
  • “Why do you have me doing this?” That’s how I’ve always done it

Take a look around. I’m sure you’ll see a few therapists you can learn from. Just remember to not try that hard because people might get the feeling you care if they get better, and then you’re in trouble. And lastly, do not to forget to show up late every day.

And once again, this post in no way reflects any PT that I have ever encountered, but I do know they are out there.

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5 responses to “How to: Be a terrible therapist

  1. Change a few things around, Mike, and you’ve got a piece on the state of personal training. It’s simply easier to plug a client into the workout of the day than it is to individualize the training. It’s easier to copy exercises from a fitness magazine than it is to assess and tailor a workout based on one’s strengths and weaknesses. Forget critical thinking. Most people are just damn lazy.

    Looking at it from a different angle, however, if you make even the least bit of effort it’s easy to stand out.

  2. First time i am posting here. nice website & very precise, concise articles, love them. its true what Steve said about inter- changing the therapist’s scene with personal training scene. Most PTs (personal trainers) i come across are either idealists, or downright dumb. bridging the theory with practice, having a personal philosophy about training & a systemic approach is really missing. then bring in the moods, the whole experience goes for a toss. This article is a reminder for rest of us to practice our trades with due diligence. cheers

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