Healthcare Profile: Physical Therapist Ralph Simpson

Therapist helps on the path to surgery recovery

By Jeanne Tallman

Whitefish physical therapist Ralph Simpson is constantly learning new ways to help people recover from surgery or injury. He enjoys being associated with many young surgeons who have been trained in innovative and tested modern technologies.

Physical therapy, like all other facets of medicine, is an evolving and ever changing science. Simpson stresses that if there is good surgery and good therapy, the patient will have a good outcome. It is a collaborative process. Physical therapists assist people but don’t do things to people. The patient, Simpson says, “is the partner in recovery.” Whether it is hips, backs, shoulders, necks or knees, Simpson says, figuring out the different ways to help a person return to optimal function after injury or surgery is the goal of a good physical therapist.

“Those are the broad strokes in any physical therapy work,” he says. “If you have a total knee replacement, I like to be involved early on,” says Simpson. “First is to control the swelling with compression and elevation. Ice controls the pain. Our goal is to reduce pain medications as soon as possible. I will keep you off the leg the first 10 to 14 days.” An injured shoulder’s biggest problem is usually rotator cuff repair, according to Simpson. Rehabilitation protocol is influenced by the size of the repair and the health of the repaired tissue.

Simpson says physical therapy focuses on return to full function while protecting the repair. He says communication with the surgeon is always paramount in the recovery process. When Simpson first started in physical therapy, he began in a large, crowded non-stop clinic 30 years ago. His frustration with that model pushed him to work one-on-one with professional athletes where outcomes and quality of care came first. He spent several years traveling on the P.G.A. circuit.

Young Tiger Woods was one of his patients. As part of his work with professional golfers, Simpson also co-authored a book about physical conditioning for golf.•

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