Physical therapy is often associated with getting older or injury recovery, when that’s only a small percentage of the relief it provides. This is why physical therapists, like Kai Morigawara, lead their practices with the goal of giving all kinds of patients the tools they need to live a quality life.
When we think of physical therapy, we often associate it with recovering from a severe injury or getting older and needing a little extra help. However, many individuals don’t realize that this field of medicine provides some of the most relief to patients who have otherwise been told that their conditions are likely chronic, and they’ll just have to find ways to cope.
The field of physical therapy has also grown immensely within the past couple of decades. Initially, one would only go to a physical therapist to treat severe bone disorders but as the field of medicine advanced overall, physical therapy techniques began improving.
Now, the field is vast, and helps individuals with a multitude of conditions, whether it be helping someone with vertigo, or an individual with chronic shoulder pain from a past injury. While most of us understand how amazing the work these therapists provide is, some individuals still don’t realize just how much a visit to a physical therapist can benefit their own lives.
Dr. Kai Morigawara is a physical therapist and the president of Prime Physical Therapy, located in Hawaii. Recently, Dr. Morigawara discussed the importance of physical therapy for patients who need it, and why his personal philosophy is to never see his patients again once they come in for a visit.
“My personal goal at Prime PT is to never see my patients again. A Physical therapist in general should provide you with the complete scope of what you need to do to improve your condition. Everyone is more than capable of improving their quality of life if they put in the effort and trust the processes that the experts are placing in front of them IF there is accurate diagnosis and accurate treatment”
Dr. Morigawara said his interest in the power of physical therapy first arose after helping someone close to him who suffered a knee injury while serving in the military. He recalled her putting in all this extra work to improve her injury, and when he asked why she always said she knew it would help her.
“From this example, I learned the impact of giving people the knowledge to make physical therapy meaningful and a worthwhile investment of their time. This motivation was fine-tuned through schooling for my doctorate at the USC Division of Biokinesiology and Physical Therapy, in conjunction with advice from many mentors in the field along the way. Assisting people in eliminating their pain while improving their functional capabilities has developed into a career I will enjoy for the rest of my life,” Dr. Morigawara wrote.
Physical therapy is defined as “the medical field aimed at alleviating and more importantly, preventing pain and problems associated with muscles, nerves, joints, and bones.” While the field initially was created for treating people with bone disorders and injuries, it has grown to provide relief to practically any patient dealing with some sort of physical ailment associated with their motor function.
“At Prime PT we provide help for all patients needing physical therapy. I don’t have a specific specialty, so I’m helping people with issues literally from head to toe. I’ve worked with patients of all ages as well so it’s never about how old you are even though there’s a stigma that only older seniors need PT. It is actually always about the root or source of the condition, and working with that patient’s specific needs.”
Prime PT treats all patients, as Dr. Morigawara said, however, according to their website some of the most common services they provide include injury prevention, post-traumatic/post-surgical rehabilitation, athletic optimization, functionality optimization in the muscles, bones, and nerves, and more!
“Never underestimate the power of physical therapy and how much we can actually change people’s lives. What people think is possible within this field is a drop in the ocean compared to what we’ve done, and will continue to do.”
As Dr. Morigawara continued throughout his career, he began to learn more and more about the importance of physical therapy and the power it actually holds when it comes to changing a patient’s quality of life. So when he began teaching PT students, he knew he had to explain to them the major impact they could have on every person they meet with.
“Super early on in my career I became a clinical instructor. Physical therapy is a very niche part of the medical field so the students I take on get to see first hand what we can do in this field of medicine. Seeing the results of targeting the real root of a problem, seeing reversal of chronic neurological limitations, having immediate alleviation of pains, or regaining lost capabilities, that is where my students really learn about what we do.”
“The two main factors that I teach my students is providing accuracy of anything hands-on, and confidence in the field itself. If you can’t diagnose something in an accurate way, in any field of medicine, there’s no way you can properly help the patient. Additionally, if you’re not confident in the field that you’re in, or the work that you’re doing, then you’re not going to be able to provide a patient with your best level of care, and that’s the least they deserve.”
The connection between patient and doctor is extremely important for the field of physical therapy, and it’s why Dr. Morigawara places such emphasis on confidence and attitude when it comes to treatment. He explained that patients just want to know you’re doing everything you can to help them, and that should be the easiest thing to provide.
“People are observant of their therapists and appreciate dedication and kindness. My sincerity allows me to convey my desire to improve their quality of life. This, in conjunction with a unique treatment perspective, allows for optimal patient care where every session should produce immediate and noticeable improvements.”
“The biggest difference between going to a physical therapist and going to a general physician is that we are seeing and working on these patients for a much longer period of time. We work with every patient and discuss things like their lifestyle choices, what they’re doing at home to continue the work we start in the office that will ultimately better their condition, and what they need from us in order to feel the most secure in their treatment. So a huge part of the improvement I see with my patients comes from the knowledge we provide.”
Dr. Morigawara explained how the average patient “could be going about their day and not even realize that they may be worsening their condition by carrying out basic daily functions. So when we provide information and steps that they can take home to continue to improve their condition, it then becomes a mutual effort from both of us, which creates a lot of trust.”
He also went on to explain how some individuals with less severe ailments don’t always want to put in the effort because of that temporary relief they may feel after one session, however, it’s up to the patient to put in just as much work on their own time if they want to see complete symptom prevention.
“Many of the patients I see suffer from ailments having to do with their heads; headaches, vertigo, chronic migraines, etc. and I can learn pretty quickly which new patients come in just to be pampered and feel good temporarily, but if you don’t want to take the steps to do the work at home, you’re not going to be satisfied in the long run because that’s what really makes the difference in recovery.”
“I’ve unfortunately had to drop patients in the past because I knew they weren’t taking the work seriously and just wanted to come in and get a temporary solution. Luckily that is an extremely small percentage of the patients I’ve seen throughout my entire career, and for the most part we only get patients who want to see their conditions improve and are willing to do as much work as it takes. Those are the patients that also see results after one day, it’s that extra bit of confidence from them that helps us do our jobs even better.”
The work Dr. Morigawara and physical therapists everywhere provide to their patients is truly inspiring. He explained how it can be common for patients to associate physical therapy with “pain and torture,” but more often than not those patients haven’t received an accurate diagnosis and are receiving the wrong information for what they need to do to improve their condition. So Dr. Morigawara made sure that the overall goal of his practice would always be to provide the most accurate diagnosis, treatment, and long-term solution, while also delivering the quickest relief possible.
“I often look at a patient and their condition, and I do my best to make this big complicated process of getting them better as simple as possible. Everybody’s personality and life situation is different, meaning what every patient needs guidance on, is different. It really comes down to trust. If my patients don’t open up completely about their life, then I can’t help them in the fullest way possible. I can partially help with their condition, but if there’s outside life factors that are worsening their condition we need to know that so we can provide the best, and most long term, solution.”
To learn more about the benefits of physical therapy and the work Dr. Morigawara does at Prime Physical Therapy, click here!
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.