5 Types of Therapy: Pediatric, Oncology & More

February 7, 2022


From cancer care to vertigo, physical and occupational therapists are redefining rehab.

You might think of physical therapy as something to do after breaking a leg or sustaining a spine injury. But rehabilitation goes beyond that, covering a variety of needs, from neurological to women’s health, cancer and therapy for children. Adventist Health’s Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation team shares how it provides compassionate, comprehensive care for a broad spectrum of healthcare needs.

Care for hardworking people

Injuries to the bones, muscles, ligaments and tendons are among the most common that physical therapists treat, according to Ed Leers, a physical therapist who specializes in orthopedics. In addition to injuries from exercise, he says that he frequently treats “people who have been working hard their whole lives and have developed degenerative issues,” meaning injuries that worsen over time.

“A lot of people I treat have lived with their injuries for a long time before seeking help,” Leers says, adding that many people avoid talking to their providers about injuries because they think it will lead to surgery. Surgery is just one of the possible solutions that also include rehabilitation and other conservative treatments. “Being able to work with them and show them the positive outcomes they can get is a lot of fun,” he explains. “We can go from someone not being able to lift their arm more than 60 degrees to being able to lift weights over their head. Seeing that improvement is surprising to a lot of people.”

Treating women’s needs

From childbearing to going through menopause, women experience a unique set of physical changes throughout their lives. Physical therapist Katelyn Fritz provides specialized care for women, working frequently with those who experience urinary incontinence and pelvic or abdominal concerns related to pregnancy. “People dealing with urinary incontinence can often feel really helpless,” Fritz says, “and it’s so rewarding to be able to help them feel like they have control over it again.”

Helping children grow strong

Even little ones need rehab sometimes, and physical therapist Michaela Stahl helps children from birth to age 18 navigate physical and developmental concerns and injuries. “Sometimes we see developmental delays in very young children, like a child who can’t sit independently or doesn’t have head control, and we can help with that,” Stahl says. In addition, pediatric physical therapists can help children with neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy and Down syndrome. “I love empowering parents to continue the work at home and giving families the resources they need so their children can succeed and grow up healthy,” Stahl says.

Compassion through cancer

Cancer treatment takes a physical, mental and emotional toll on a person, and side effects can add further complications. Kristen Chamberlain, an occupational therapist, specializes in oncology rehab. “I see people through the whole spectrum of their cancer treatment, often during chemotherapy and radiation or after surgery,” Chamberlain says. She can help them work through side effects of their treatment, such as swelling and fatigue that result from chemotherapy or difficulties with range of motion after an operation. “People with cancer have gone through so much, and to see them recover and beat cancer is really rewarding,” Chamberlain says. “It feels really good to give them special treatment and help them get back to having a full, meaningful life.”

Navigating vertigo

Dizziness and vertigo can be disorienting, frustrating and dangerous. Jessica Alkema, a physical therapist, aims to help people who have balance disorders regain their stability. “With vertigo issues, we can treat it pretty quickly — it usually only takes a few visits,” Alkema explains. In cases of vestibular dysfunction, dizziness or vertigo caused by inner ear problems, Alkema works with her clients over six to eight weeks of biweekly visits.

Alkema notes that the therapists at Adventist Health Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation often refer their patients to one another so that the patients get comprehensive care for all of their needs. “It’s so rewarding to be able to make a difference in people’s lives,” she says. “Whether they have pain or dizziness or incontinence, we just love helping them get back to living pain-free lives.”

Comprehensive therapy

Adventist Health’s rehabilitation program offers physical, occupational and speech therapy for people of all ages. Visit AdventistHealthSonora.org/Rehab to learn more.