The professional eye!
Here in New York City we have some of the best ballet dancers in the world! They come from a variety of countries and backgrounds. For years, a group of very famous ballet dancers religiously attended ballet classes taught by the worlds’ worst ballet dancer. Okay, so maybe the teacher wasn't the worlds’ worst but she was not an imposing, technically-gifted virtuoso or former prima ballerina. And, she had never been onstage in any real capacity. Yet, here they were taking class from this lousy dancer.
So why did they take classes from this teacher with limited turnout and ugly feet (if you have had any exposure to ballet, you know all ballet dancers are obsessed with turn-out and feet)? The reason is quite straight-forward: she had an eye that could pick out and correct flaws in any dancers’ technique. She could watch a dancer take a ballet class, analyze which muscles were or were not working, where the center of gravity was located, and most importantly, help that dancer understand how to improve.
But, wouldn't you think that any professional dancer with all of that skill could do this by themselves? After all, every ballet studio is filled with mirrors just for that reason. So why would a professional, highly respected dancer have someone else pass judgment on their technique (and pay for the privilege)?
Simply put, and every professional athlete knows this, you cannot step outside your body. You cannot critically examine yourself in action. Without a highly-skilled observer to provide you with feedback, bad habits sneak in, and your previously beautiful technique becomes sloppy. How does this apply to the average human being? Well, that professional, independent perspective is exactly what you want from a good PT.
You go to a PT because a problem (also known as a “diagnosis”) has developed. Perhaps suddenly through an accident, or more slowly through disease, aging or repetitive movement patterns. A good Physical Therapist will take a holistic approach and critically examine your unique circumstances. They will analyze your habits, lifestyle, physical strength, flexibility and movement patterns. Then provide you with clear, useful guidance. With good advice you should understand where to make changes, why, and how to implement them. Be forewarned, change does not happen overnight and requires real work. However, for a lot of people it means returning to a pain-free life with an increased ability to function and enjoy every day. It takes time, but a good PT will help you make it happen.