Here's my story:
I grew up in northern Michigan in a small town called Cadillac. It's a great place with access to almost any outdoor activity you could imagine. This meant skiing in the winter and running, tennis, basketball, golf, barefoot waterskiing (training camps with Brett Sands, Andy Sable and Ron Scarpa), slalom waterskiing, wakeboarding, soccer and biking during the other months of the year.
I played soccer for Kalamazoo College in southern Michigan. While majoring in health sciences and minoring in economics, I learned how to manage intense classes and intense training for soccer. I loved that balancing act – soccer was a relief from my schoolwork and other responsibilities and the consistent exercise always made me feel good.
In the winter of my second year at Kalamazoo, I managed to break my back (T5 compression fracture) while on a weekend ski trip at Caberfae, my hometown ski resort. I was lucky - I did not suffer any spinal cord damage and did not need surgery - but was required to wear a back brace for 3 months. Since the injury, I have fully recovered and have no lingering physical limitations. Six months after the injury while on foreign study, I was skiing in New Zealand and surfing in Australia. Being active and hurting myself has given me a clearer picture of what my patients go through each time I provide them with treatment or fitness training.
On the day that I graduated from Kalamazoo College, I headed east for a summer business program at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. I then immediately went north to the University of Vermont where I earned my Doctorate in Physical Therapy. While at UVM, I was fortunate to have many great opportunities including the ability to start a pro bono physical therapy clinic, tutor graduate students in neuroscience and ski and hike in the Green and White Mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire. I also had the opportunity to start a physical therapy club. The UVM Physical Therapy club and its members helped put together a number of fantastic community service events including a food drive, a 5k fun run and a health career promotion day at local high schools in coordination with the Vermont Healthcare Workforce Development Partnership.
UVM offered the opportunity to complete clinical rotations anywhere in the United States. I first went to the Cambridge Health Alliance in Boston, MA where I learned the basics of an outpatient, orthopedic practice. I then spent 8 weeks at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, MD and worked with some of the best and brightest in the world on the Neuroscience floor. My next 8 weeks was spent in Portland, ME at an inpatient rehab facility and I was exposed to an incredible group of patient and caring physical therapists. And my final 14 week rotation was spent in Big Sky, MT at an outpatient, orthopedic practice where I was exposed to fantastic physical therapy practices and the best environment for outdoor activity.
I remained in Big Sky, MT after graduating from physical therapy school and continued to pursue my passion for outdoor activities. I downhill skied 50+ days every winter and skate skied in the evenings for cross training. Summers brought the opportunity for golf, tennis, biking, soccer, trail running and triathlon training.
In addition to my outdoor passions, I have a strong passion for learning. While in Montana, I became an Orthopedic Certified Specialist. This specialty requires the review and learning of information dense material on different pathologies of each part of the body and an understanding of the most up-to-date research backed treatments. Only a small percentage of physical therapists hold this certification and it allows us to better analyze each patient and understand their specific issue. However, many of the treatments suggested are rather old school…
A new kind of physical therapy:
Although the Orthopedic Certification material was great, what I have learned through the Gray Institute's teaching of Applied Functional Science is the real reason I love my job so much. It allows me to use a logical thought process to help better my patients’ lives through movement. Every exercise is prescribed for a precise reason. With my understanding of how the body moves, I know exactly what is happening, or should be happening, at every joint in the body in all 3 planes of motion during every movement I ask my patients to perform.
This means I spend minimal time treating patients on the table. Table-based treatment typically involves the use of manual therapy, such as massage, stretching and/or range of motion. It is a method in which the patient does not actively participate in the treatment but instead remains still or passive. Manual therapy can be a powerful tool, but I believe it should play only a small part in a patient's road to improved movement and fitness. The activities we all live for are exactly that - active. Table-based or non-active treatments, such as manual therapy, provide little translation to the activities we enjoy in life.
This is why Forefront Physical Therapy offers a new kind of physical therapy. Our treatment philosophy relies on utilizing patients' own abilities to drive improved function so that they can get back to the activities they love and gain improved performance at the same time. This means that a patient who comes in with low back pain will be actively participating in their therapy. It is likely that this patient will be doing different lunges, squats and reaching patterns to simultaneously and functionally create motion and strength in order to improve movement faults and fix the real cause of their low back pain (which typically arises from hip or feet issues).
I moved to Seattle to gain access to a new environment of outdoor opportunities as well as to start Forefront Physical Therapy. Seattle is rated as one of the most health conscious and active cities in the U.S. This is exactly the type of population I enjoy working with and the type of people I love to be around.
Since moving to Seattle, I have become a Nike Golf 360 Performance Specialist. This specialty, powered by the Gray Institute, builds on the theme of understanding movement patterns in all 3-dimensions and utilizing that knowledge to analyze a client's golf swing and enhance their game through improved mechanics.
My next continuing education step is to become a Fellow of Applied Functional Science through the Gray Institute. This is a one year fellowship and I look forward to improving my understanding of how the body moves so I can better serve my patients and clients in the future. Every physical therapist who works for Forefront Physical Therapy will have initiated this fellowship within 2 years of employment.
My greatest passion is helping others. The reason I do so much continuing education and participate in so many different activities is so that I can better serve my patients. I look forward to working with you.
Thank you for visiting my blog! I will be writing about different injuries, treatment techniques, fitness programs and general health advice. Please feel free to request specific topics to be covered.
Daniel H. Benson, DPT, OCS
Founder & CEO of Forefront Physical Therapy