From microwave diathermy to neurorecovery robots, Alan McGill, PT has seen the field of physical therapy evolve dramatically in his 26 years at Bacharach.


Alan became interested in physical therapy as a student at Slippery Rock, but in 1983 there were very few physical therapy assistant programs in the country.  Accepted to a PTA program at Fairleigh Dickenson, he graduated in 1986 and started working at a private practice in Trenton.  While there, he applied to the Physical Therapy Program at (then) Richard Stockton College, and worked at Bacharach as a PTA while going to Stockton to earn his BS in PT.


“I have been at Bacharach for 26 years,” said Alan, “and the greatest changes have been insurance changes. They are constantly changing, so we are constantly adapting.”


As for changes in the delivery and practice of physical therapy, “We used to use microwave diathermy (deep heating to increase circulation) but it was big and bulky and diathermy wasn’t any more effective than ultrasound.  However, I rarely use ultrasound because therapeutic exercise can be more effective in warming up soft tissue like muscle.”


“There are so many other approaches like Instrument Aided Soft Tissue Mobilization or the Graston Technique.  These have been around for ages but are getting a foothold now in Western medicine. These techniques increase blood flow, break up scar tissue and increase mobility. They are the modern version of Gua Sha which was around for centuries.  That and cupping are seeing a resurgence.”


“Advancements in surgical techniques which are less invasive, like ACL surgeries and joint replacements.  Remember Joe Namath?  Now ACL surgery is arthroscopic.  I remember years ago seeing a total shoulder replacement, where the patient could not get his shoulder above 90 degrees.  Now they are almost full range of motion. “


Alan described having the neurorecovery robots to add to the array of therapy tools.


“It’s incredible.  We see such great results – from session to session patients improve dramatically.  One patient began doing only 50 feet with a walker, now he is doing over 300 feet with just a cane, and stairs.”


How would he advise a young person considering physical therapy as a career?


“Explore as many potential genres within the field as possible so you can make a good decision.  There are so many specialties – pediatrics, sports medicine, ortho, stroke and neurologic conditions – try them all before you decide.”


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