New Center Aims To Help Meet Growing Need For Physical Therapy

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Health

Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy of Cape Cod owners Richard and Dina Qualter (seated), with fellow physical therapists Christina Tilton and Bob Reed (standing). ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

EAST HARWICH When Dina and Richard Qualter started Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy of Cape Cod in a small former real estate office next to CVS in 2010, the space was a little cramped for the two of them to work. Since then, the demand for their services has grown steadily, and the Qualters have moved their practice into a spacious new building next door. It’s testament to the value of physical therapy when it comes to helping bodies heal from sports injuries, work injuries or surgery.

Patients coming to the center may have repetitive stress injuries or fractures, or have just had joint replacement surgery. The number one injury they handle?

“It’s probably shoulders,” Dina said. Rather than injuries, “it’s just overuse over time,” she said.

“Your body is not like fine wine,” husband Rich said. “It doesn’t get better with age.”

The center’s patients come from all age groups, but there’s no denying that the area’s aging demographic is good for business. Today’s seniors are far more active than senior citizens of even a few decades ago.

“There’s a lot of very athletic, fit people,” Dina said. They’re eager to heal from their injuries and get back to the activities they like, often golfing, she said. “They want to get better faster.”

When it comes to preventing orthopedic injuries, Dina has some simple advice for people of all ages.

“They need to focus on stretching,” she said. “We get a lot of ‘weekend warriors’” who aren’t usually active but then take up golf or pickleball or other sports without preparing their bodies for the activity, Dina said. When such patients come in for treatment, they also get some education about proper stretching. “That’s part of the therapy,” she said.

Some injuries are caused by falls, and physical therapists can use simple screening tools to assess a patient’s ability to balance. When there are potential problems, they communicate that to the patient’s doctor, Dina said.

There are some common misconceptions about physical therapy, she added.

“Some people think we’re just going to give them some exercises to do and that’s it,” Dina said. In reality, a course of physical therapy can be hard work and requires a commitment by the patient. Increasingly, doctors are ordering PT before surgery, known as “pre-hab,” which can significantly improve patient outcomes.

“They get better faster,” she said.

For patients seeking physical therapy on the Lower Cape, there is no shortage of choices. The Qualters say their practice stands out because it is a small, independent practice where all of the patient interaction—even billing—happens locally. Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy of Cape Cod is also poised to offer something unique: a medically-oriented fitness center in the same building. Fitness equipment was arriving this week, and the center will be opening soon under the name “Momentum Fitness.”

The fitness club will be open to the public but is different from a traditional gym in that members work with medical staff to devise workout routines that are matched to their medical histories, including any health conditions or previous surgeries they’ve had, Rich said. When a patient has had physical therapy after knee replacement surgery, for instance, “why wouldn’t it make sense that we keep the ball rolling?” he said.