This is how I found Touchstone Physical Therapy, and became a very happy client of this amazing practice. My doctor first sent me to a practice that was not amazing. That was not a happy experience, but I include the story because it taught me, as a consumer, to tell the difference between a practice that was based on tricks and one that was based on the firm knowledge of an experienced, ethical physical therapist.
So, two years ago, I started having a neck problem that required physical therapy. My doctor first sent me to a practice (not Touchstone) that was adjunct to a medical clinic.
The physical therapist took my history but she didn’t measure anything. She suggested a regimen of a short set of exercises I could do at the clinic, heat treatment, massage, and treatment with a T.E.N.S. unit. My appointments lasted about 45 minutes. I went three days a week.
Each time I went, the therapist would ask me if I had experienced improvement. I would say none or “Maybe a little.” I wanted there to be some improvement and kept trying to believe it was happening, but it didn’t seem to be there. She subtly pressured me to say I was doing better.
Since I wasn’t reporting much improvement, she added another treatment, where she “broke up adhesions” with a stainless steel tool. At the time, I also had a problem with my elbow, so she did this technique on my forearm as well as on my shoulder muscles near my neck.
This technique hurt and left bruises. At first, the pain of the treatment and the bruises made me feel that at last we were “doing something.” I could feel and see the effects. Unfortunately, my neck didn’t improve. And having bruises all up and down my forearm didn’t fix my elbow.
I kept wondering why there was no objective measure of my progress. One day at the beginning of the third week, I asked her if she could not measure something, anything, about my neck. Could she not measure the range of motion so we would be able to judge whether there was progress? She said, “Well, that’s kind of hard…..” Her voice trailed off. That was it for me. This just couldn’t be right.
I went back to my doctor and asked for a different referral. I asked him to find me the physical therapist in the area who used the most evidence-based approach. He did. I went to Michael Teston of Touchstone Physical Therapy. The difference was like night and day.
Michael is a licensed physical therapist, qualified to practice in Arkansas and Missouri. Touchstone Physical Therapy is a family-owned private practice established in 2000.
At the beginning of my first visit, Michael used an instrument called a CROM—Cervical Range of Motion Instrument—to measure aspects of my neck movement. It turned out that the symptoms of my condition could be directly measured after all! The CROM was patented in the 1980s and experimentally verified in 1990 as a superior method for measuring neck range of motion, so it’s not new on the block. It’s an instrument in the inclinometer family.
Michael measured and recorded the range of motion of my neck on three axes and also measured the strength of my neck. I didn’t have to ask him to do this. It was the natural first step of an approach where progress could actually be measured. He told me how much range of motion I had, in degrees. He told me how my results compared to what was normal for my age. He talked to me about my neck condition and described which muscles I would need to strengthen to alleviate the problem that had developed. He is supremely knowledgeable in his field and great at explaining things.
The difference in approach was so obvious. It turned out that some of the exercises I had been instructed to do by the previous practice were contraindicated by my condition. Michael was able to explain why. The heat treatment had also been hindering my progress. Most important, and so basic, was that Michael didn’t ever do anything without a specific reason. And he would explain it to me.
My sessions at Touchstone were completely different. I did closely monitored exercises that were optimized to help my condition. I had help and friendly supervision at every turn. I got clear, educated answers to my every question.
After the allotted sessions that my insurance would cover, Michael got out the CROM and measured the range of motion in my neck. I had gained 12 degrees of rotation on the affected side. The range of motion was now was close to normal for my age. I also gained a 20% improvement of side bending my neck the other side and my neck strength rose from a 3/5 to a 4/5 on the physical therapist’s Muscle Strength Scale. This was after 12 sessions spread over about a month.
But this was just the beginning. Michael explained that it could take more than a year to gradually build the musculature that I needed to gain to maintain the joints and get all the range of motion my body was capable of. He had given me exercises I could do at home but I asked if there was a way I could continue coming to his practice to use the gym equipment. Yes. For an extremely reasonable monthly fee, I could go as often as I wanted. I usually go two or three times a week.
At Touchstone, I made progress. I received measured results of the treatment I got. I got knowledgeable answers to my questions. Touchstone is a place I can go that I trust is helping me do the best I can to keep my neck functioning well. I will go there without hesitation for any other physical problem I get. Michael Teston has a wealth of experience and knowledge of the conditions that plague us today, from “text neck,” to the effects of sleeping on the wrong kind of mattress, to doing the wrong kinds of exercises, to repetitive stress injuries, to the conditions of elite athletes.
I now go there as part of the “graduate program.” Touchstone is a bright light in my life that I feel very lucky to have. Michael Teston also knows how to get, train, and keep great staff. The place is a pleasure to visit, and that, in turn, makes it easy and pleasant to do the exercises that keep my neck in shape.