By Emily Merrell
I had never been to a physical therapist before. I thought physical therapy was for professional athletes, old people and those recovering from a surgery. But as my aches and pains started intensifying, I sought one out. My knee was popping every time I squatted and didn’t want to give up squatting or my knee. I was worried I needed to get surgery since bad knees run in my family, so when I met Lindsay Marka, founder of Marka Health, I was relieved that all I needed was some dedicated stretching. Lindsay made something so intimidating and serious feel fun and a regular part of my day. The best part of working with her is that I’ve now tried a variety of things from cupping to scraping to stretches. Read more to learn more about Lindsay and her journey to becoming a physical therapist.
SDS: Why should I go to a physical therapist instead of an orthopedic?
LINDSAY MCGRAW: Both an orthopedist and a physical therapist are great to see when you are experiencing pain! Both will evaluate how you move and help you create a plan for recovery. Both have doctorate degrees and years of medical training. Where they differ is that a physical therapist can perform hands on treatment to help you feel better and show you exercises to help you move better. At Marka Health, we have hour long sessions which give us the ability to really get to know you and learn how you live your life. Because Marka Health comes on-site to your home or office, we get to see how you move ‘in your element’ and make real time adjustments. Working closely together requires fewer visits and can lead to a quicker, more successful recovery.
SDS: How do I know I need physical therapy?
LM: The easy answer is everyone needs physical therapy! If you have any aches, pains, injury or medical conditions, seeing a physical therapist should be something to consider. We can help you manage pain and move better to improve your overall function. Often times, you can benefit from physical therapy even before you have pain. Because we are musculoskeletal experts (aka we know a lot about joints and muscles), physical therapists can often recognize potential warning signs of overuse injuries. So if you do a lot of any activity (even sitting all day counts!) or if you are about to change your level of activity, like starting a gym program or new hobby, it can be a good idea to check in with a PT. I would love to see a world where people go in for ‘movement physicals’ once or twice a year to talk with a physical therapist about how they live and use their body. It’s just like how you go to the dentist every six months for a cleaning!
SDS: Is cupping a part of physical therapy?
LM: Cupping can be a part of physical therapy. While the origins of cupping are from Eastern medicine (it’s been around for thousands of years!), physical therapists and other rehab professionals have recently started using cupping to address movement dysfunction. The negative pressure of the suction lifts the skin, fascia and muscle to release tightness and help you move better. There are many types of treatments physical therapists use, and cupping can be one of them when it’s appropriate. Marka Health’s therapists have taken extra courses to practice cupping with other health professionals. Ask your therapist if they use it and if it might be a good option for you!
SDS: What exactly is physical therapy?
LM: Physical therapy is a type of medical care that focuses on decreasing pain and improving function. We use hands-on therapy like massage and mobilization, exercise, and education to help you move better. We can treat all types of ages and medical conditions since physical therapy is focused more on function. Physical therapists are movement experts. We have a doctorate degree that includes three years of medical school after getting an undergraduate degree. We learn all about anatomy, physiology and how injuries affect the body. We are experts in rehabilitation, aka getting people back to functioning. We make sure you can do practical things (go up and down your stairs, sit at your desk/in your car properly) as well as achieve fitness goals like running a marathon or being able to keep up with your kids.
SDS: Does physical therapy hurt?
LM: Many people think physical therapy needs to hurt to be successful and this is simply not true! There are definitely times when it can be uncomfortable, but the goal of physical therapy is to make you feel better, not worse! When a physical therapist is evaluating you, there are times we will use ‘provocation tests’ – while they do elicit symptoms it’s so we can understand what causes your pain so we can help you fix it! Other times, the pain can be muscle fatigue from working out, or sore spots during manual treatment. If you ever have pain with physical therapy, definitely speak up! At Marka Health when I work with clients I like to clarify that a physical therapist should always be able to explain why they are doing that treatment and how it should feel. We want your feedback to adjust and work with you, since this is how your treatment will be the most successful.
SDS: Who is physical therapy good for?
LM: Physical therapy is good for anyone who wants to move and live better. Some very common physical therapy populations include athletes for sports injuries, people who have had surgery, stroke, spinal cord injuries and neurological conditions, people who have problems with balance and walking, etc. Because physical therapy focuses more on function and movement, its appropriate for a wide variety of medical diagnosis, as well as people that don’t yet have an injury or pain. At Marka Health, we focus on helping people move better before they have an injury by identifying the imbalances and overuse patterns that many of us have. Most chronic injuries come from overuse or doing too much of the same thing. Our physical therapists work with you to identify how you move and help you move smarter so you don’t get injured.
SDS: Tell us more about Marka Health, what do you specialize in?
LM: Marka Health is a health and wellness company that focuses more on the prevention side of physical therapy. After over ten years of working in physical therapy clinics, I realized that many of the injuries that I was treating were preventable. Using my knowledge in biomechanics and what factors contribute to injury, we work to help optimize your movement and function so you can avoid pain and injury and do more of the things you love. I started Marka Health to help people prioritize their health. We make it convenient and easy to take care of yourself by coming to you at your home and office, saving you time and the hassle of traditional medical offices. We do one-on-one sessions, group and team events, ergonomics, and exercise. I am personally interested and into current wellness trends and exploring alternative medicine myself, and integrate it into my practice, albeit through the lens of my Western medical training. I think that the medical world has become polarizing, unapproachable and confusing. I like to imagine Marka as your health advocate and myself as a health communicator. We also continue to offer traditional physical therapy for when you do get injured.
SDS: From a PT perspective, what’s the one thing we can all be doing better every day?
LM: If I could tell everyone to do one thing I would tell them to take breaks! Most of our physical injuries happen when we do too much of the same activity. It doesn’t matter what it is – running, sitting, typing on our phones, etc. Taking breaks gives you the chance to reset and your body time to recover. It’s beneficial beyond just your physical wellbeing – taking breaks can help with productivity, creativity, and can even decrease stress. We all can benefit from taking more breaks!
Passionate about prevention, Lindsay McGraw is a physical therapist & wellness expert with over ten years experience working at top physical therapy clinics in San Francisco and as a trainer for elite NCAA athletes at UCLA. As a biomechanical expert, orthopedic clinical specialist, yoga teacher and certified ergonomist she understands what factors contribute to injury and how to optimize your function to stay healthy and perform your best. She started Marka Health in 2017 in order to bring this knowledge to people earlier in the health-care continuum. Her practice provides onsite holistic health support including hands on therapy, exercise, education, and ergonomics to individuals and companies in San Francisco.