Christine Mwangi talks with physical therapist about staying active at home during pandemic

Jul 30, 2020

Christine Mwangi, host of WGVU’s The Black Honest Truth, a podcast exploring the distinct experiences that African immigrants and African Americans have with blackness. With her medical and health background she finds expert voices to discuss health at home in isolation. In this segment Christine Mwangi talks Terence Reuben, PT, Director of Outpatient Services - Sports Rehabilitation At Mary Free Bed, about virtual physical therapy, and staying active at home during the pandemic. 

You're listening to shaping narratives, a collection of voices from West Michigan's communities of color brought to you by WGVU, NPR and PBS in West Michigan. In a partnership with the WK Kellogg foundation, the voice of today's podcast is Christine Mwangi. 

Host of WGVU’s the Black, honest truth, a podcast exploring the distinct experiences that African immigrants and African Americans have with Blackness. A first generation transplant from Nairobi Kenya. Christine has degrees from both the U S and England, her medical and health background help her find expert voices to discuss health. At home in isolation

Today, we are joined by Terrance Ruben director of outpatient services at Mary free bed rehabilitation facility, executive director of my team triumph, Michigan chapter. And founder of PT sports pro a 15 year legacy of one-on-one personal training service for athletes. As a physical therapist what would you say has been your experience with virtual physical therapy during this time of quarantine and social distancing?

It's definitely been an interesting period, Christine, you know, to start with physical therapists are very hands on clinicians. Uh, everything we touch and feel helps us to then figure out how to evaluate and treat a patient's condition. So what with the social distancing and then some of the parameters that were set out due to COVID-19, uh, you know, we're unable to do that, to have that hands on approach to our patients. However, we do realize that our patients still need to be helped. And it's now allowed us to be a lot more creative about how we approach our patients and what can we do that can truly provide some value and some health assistance to them and to their condition. Um, yeah. And so, you know, you mentioned virtual and this is the buzzword right now with just about everything, uh, where we've gotten to, to be forced to become virtual. Or some of us have already been in a virtual sort of way for a while, and it's allowed us to grow and be more successful in that. And interestingly enough, at Mary free bed, we've been building a virtual service program for the last six months because we understand that there is a need in our community to provide that level of service. We weren't expecting to be using it in this way this so soon, but, uh, you know, again, the COVID-19 has forced our hand to really try to figure out how to fast track that and implement some of the strategies that we've developed over the past six months. So yeah, the, the virtual, but that's in the virtual services, it has changed a lot of the way we do things. But it's allowed us to actually be better at what we do in terms of being much more observant, uh, much more like, you know, clinically kind of tuned into every movement that the patient is displaying to us. So then we can figure out how best to help them.

Thank you. And speaking more to the creativity of it all, what are three tips or resources that injured people, um, can access in this time to aid in their healing process?

That's a great question. I think one of the things that we've always learned over the years of, you know, not just being an athlete, but even just being a patient is, uh, most of the time when we hurt ourselves is because we do too much too fast, too soon. And that applies to even your therapeutic, you know, benefits that you're trying to create by exercising. If you're not doing an exercise correctly, if you do too much effort, if you're doing it too fast, if you're doing it too soon before your body is able to handle that, that can actually hold you back and can create enough of a setback that you won't heal yourself. So the body has this amazing ability to heal itself. What I always say as a physical therapist, we create the best environment for it to you. And here in this, uh, you know, number one tip is don't things too fast and too soon. Hmm. So the second thing I would say is, especially if you're a patient that's injured and you have, uh, some sort of prescription to manage your pain levels through medication, quite often, patients will go well, you know, I'm not doing very much so therefore I shouldn't take my medication as much, you know, as been prescribed. And the problem with that is that the medication usually helps you to. Manage your symptoms. It doesn't eliminate your symptoms, but allows you to manage your symptoms. So then you can do other things. So my second tip is if you are on, on some medication for your symptoms, go ahead and continue to take them. So it can and help you to do just that little bit more to allow you to get better. And the third would be, is like, there's a lot of resources out there. And sometimes when you read everything that's out there, you try to go with, well, you know, I should do that. And, uh, uh, it's, it's a tough place to put yourself in because not everybody heals and responds the same way. So purely from an injury standpoint, you know, don't do too much, too fast, too soon. Number two, watch whatever your doctor has prescribed you in terms of activity levels to a certain point or medication, follow those rules as close as you can. And number three, be very judicious about the information that you're downloading so that you can do the best that you can for your injury as applies to you and your body.

So, um, let's switch gears to athletics and athletes and, and how they are also managing their training programs during this time, um, as an experienced triathlete, what is your advice? Uh, at this time to athletes whose let's say training session sessions have been canceled or training facilities are now closed, how would you help them stay physically and mentally engaged during this time?

That's another great question. Especially a, you know, I belong to different groups in town where we're used to exercising together and, uh, I work out with a group of individuals as well on a regular basis. And now we're unable to do that, but we have to be very careful, I should say about how we go about doing that. So first the, you know, stick to your plan of training. So if an athlete has a training plan for a certain race, uh, look at your plan and see what makes the most sense. Uh, so in terms of, uh, you know, if you doing weight training, you can use your body. Only different ways to,training, uh, anything from doing plank exercises to, you know, push ups, sit ups, crunches, all your traditional old school things are still valid even today. And so you said a good framework to create the right core controls. Then when you get out and you either as a triathlete, we do a lot of swimming, biking, and running. And the thing that's killing me the most right now is I'm unable to swim. But I still do exercises and drills that can at least, uh, duplicate some of those movement patterns. And then I'll still get out and get my biking in and my running in. So if I'm going to be running with a friend, we maintain all the social distance in protocols. We use our masks. We actually choose routes that are. Very few people, you know, that are out there. We'll run a times where most people don't want to go out because like, it was a little bit cold. It was starting to drizzle a little bit. Most people will stay indoors. And for us that's the best time to actually go out and do something. Cause we can avoid the crowds. And then when we biking, you know, most people look at social distinction. Thing has been the six to 10 foot distance, but when we bike, we'll stay, we'll stay more than 20 to 30 feet away from each other. And I don't bike with more than one or two other people. So we keep the group small. And again, you know, we're just kind of doing it because I think when you're biking, you want to be a part of having company is a safety issue as well. So we've kind of are there for each other. Should anything go down. So, uh, you know, from, from analytic standpoint, you don't sit down and sit at home and just do nothing during this time. Even like today, it's a beautiful day out there. So my plan is to get off and I have a bike ride at three o'clock this afternoon again, and I'm going to get up and ride. So, uh, you know, we got to figure out how to engage ourselves. And how to define those, those mental challenges that makes us that a little bit better. So when I'm out biking or running, you know, I'm still breaking out my workout into, you know, what would be considered a long distance kind of training ride or run, or a sprint distance or interval training. And I, I, those methods during my training sessions. The other big thing that athletes need to watch for, especially at this time is, you know, our food schedule though, all gone out the window on the upside, you know, we're cooking and, you know, eating a lot more meals at home and here is an opportunity to create good tasty, nutritious meals, and then follow that through even when Kobe, you know, when all the social distancing stuff is over with. So, you know, fuel yourself well, and then continue to train as if you were in your normal training session and then make those, uh, you know, changes as you need to do. So based on, you know, your environment where you can train, if you need to drive out to a place, so you can go and run it, even in a location that's quieter than do that. Versus just trying to, I take the same old routes that are super busy.

Wow. I feel like some of the, that advice, if not, all of it is applicable to non-athletes too. I was taking notes like, Oh, I should do that. Oh, that sounds like the idea. Um, just because we are all in the same situation, as far as meal prepping and what we are consuming, how often we're consuming food, this is a great opportunity. I heard somewhere else even to try diet. Or a diet that you've not been able to try because of your hectic work schedule now is a good time to try a diet and see if it works for you, because we have a lot of time to prepare the meals for that diet. And like you said, try to find things that are sustainable even after the release of the quarantine period and the orders to stay in social distance. Like this is a time to begin experimenting things that we otherwise didn't have time to do to better our health overall. Um, so. Yeah. So what resources do you recommend that people seeking virtual physical training, uh, or athletic training services can look out for.

So, you know, I can speak for what we set up to Mary free bed, because I know the way we've done our programming and created, you know, the virtual visits that, uh, you know, I know what we can offer and each, uh, each company outfit out their office, some slight variations of this. So, so at Mary free bed, you know, uh, we're doing full evaluations. And follow up visits online. So, you know, if you call our number, which is eight, four zero plays or six one six eight four zero, play . You can get an appointment with a therapist. Uh, and a lot of our therapists work with sports cases. Uh, and they'll be able to guide you through some initial stages of therapy based on what your needs are. Uh, and that's the best way to connect directly with someone versus trying to just download information online. Um, what to watch out for is, you know, take two, the time to interview the clinicians that are going to work with you. So what are you willing to do for me? How long are these sessions going to be? How do you plan to allow me to move to the next step in my rehab? And if you don't ask those questions, then, um, You're just going to be at the mercy of someone that may just do like a telephone sort of thing or video visit that is not meaningful. So for me, the, the, the number one thing is no matter how we do to how we access the information, uh, as a, as a patient, you need to receive value. And as a clinician, we need to provide value every step of the way. We take a good 30 to 45 minutes with each patient during our virtual visits, because it really allows us to get in and help these patients, uh, you know, modify the activity levels in their environment. And so, you know, the plus side is we're now seeing our patients do things in the environment that they live in. Whereas when they come into our practice, you know, we don't see that we don't know how high or low that chair is that they're going to have to sit on. And now we can actually see that at home. So we see the silver lining and providing them more specific information about their environment and how to work out within that.

Well, thank you so much for your time, this morning, Terence, this has been very, very informative. We have loved having you on the show and we thank you so much for your expertise and all your work in our committee.

Thank you Christine, it's been a pleasure.

Shaping Narratives a collection of voices from West Michigan's communities of color is brought to you in partnership with the wk Kellogg Foundation, a partner with communities where children come first. Want to hear more Shaping Narratives episodes download and subscribe at WGVU dot org or wherever you get your podcasts. Please rate and subscribe if you get a chance, it helps us to know you're listening. Shaping Narratives is produced by WGVU PBS and NPR in West Michigan through the facilities of the Meijer public broadcast center in the service of Grand Valley State University. Matt Gruppen processed all the audio, Joe Bielecki edits each episode, Vance Orr designed our graphics and manages our Web presence, Phil Lanes is our director of content. The views and opinions expressed in this program are those of the hosts and their guests and do not necessarily reflect those of WGVU or Grand Valley State University.