The letters “P.T.” can stand for many things. “P.T.” is the medical abbreviation for physical therapy, but they can also stand for “Pain and Torture” to which physical therapy has some times been compared. I hope that wasn’t your experience, because it need not be in order to make improvements. The letters “P.T.” can also stand for “Piano Tuners”. Piano Tuning is closer in describing an aspect of what should occur in physical therapy. I wrote about this some years back but feel it’s time to revisit and expand upon this subject.
Let’s say you want to play beautiful music like Mozart, Bach or Alicia Keys! There are a number of components to being able to play well. In the following, I outline the similarities between learning to play piano and physical therapy.
1. Piano Lessons – Piano Lessons are analogous to learning how to perform an exercise. With piano lessons you learn how to hold your hands and fingers to strike the correct keys and chords. As you advance, you learn how to utilize the floor pedals and are challenged with more complicated chords, key variations and songs. In physical therapy, you will be taught with clear instructions how to execute each exercise. As your skill level and ability advance, so does the difficulty of your exercises. There will be cues on how to properly execute each exercise which aim to teach you to engage your muscles in a particular sequence at a certain rate and intensity. Education on proper body mechanics and body posture is analogous to piano lessons. Traditional piano lessons also teach how to read music. The music sheets are guides to help you proceed through a song and are analogous to the homework sheets provided by your therapist. Eventually, you may not need to refer to the exercise sheets, having memorized the music itself.
2. Tuning the Piano–No matter how many lessons you take, if your piano is out of tune, you will not play to your potential. In physical therapy, this means getting in there with our hands to try to correct imbalances in your body. This may mean techniques to help balance your musculoskeletal system or to assist in stretching out tight fascia which is pulling you off kilter. This is a key part. All bodies and pianos get out of tune and need periodic “tune-ups”.
3. Practice – No one gets proficient at playing the piano without practice. The same applies to physical therapy. The lessons occur with the teacher, but it is up to the student to continue to practice what is learned at home. Through patience and practice, you will improve in piano and in physical therapy. You will gain greater awareness of how you move and the modifications you need to make in your life to feel better.
The key to success in physical therapy lies not only in providing the lessons on ‘how to play the piano better’ i.e. perform your exercises, but also in the expertise, experience and knowledge of how to “tune” the piano or the body. When applying both the exercises and ability to optimize structural balance to the body, you increase the chances of successful rehabilitation. However, as with playing music, for true success, diligence and daily practicing on the client’s part are required for the exercises to become second nature. Good luck and on that note, here’s to playing beautiful music!