Dec 02 2010
Visiting Dr. Richard Bernier at Bernier Physical Therapy Associates, located in a rehabbed old public school on Forrester Street in Newburyport, Massachusetts, was not my first PT choice after I sustained a shoulder injury back in August. But after dealing with two physical therapists before then, Bernier and his team is, without a doubt, my top choice.
I don’t typically sing the praises of medical practitioners, but the folks at Bernier Physical Therapy Associates made me feel right at home from my first rehabilitation visit. I went in for my shoulder injury, a shoulder impingement caused by diving into shallow water and smashing my hand into the sand while my driving my shoulder down and back. It wasn’t exactly a sports injury, but I am active. And yes, it is pretty pathetic that I messed up my shoulder diving into a 2 foot wave at Salisbury Beach—this certainly goes down as one of my not-so-great moments of athletic prowess.
Since starting my physical therapy and rehab, Richard Bernier and his associate, John Wile, have been instrumental in isolating and diagnosing the painful motions, and bringing me back to near-full strength and motion. (I’d like to add that as of this post, I’m not yet complete with physical therapy and a finalized diagnosis by my orthopedic doctor. I’ve moved from 50% range of motion and extreme pain to about 90%, with only slight discomfort at extended ranges of motion)
As a former collegiate and current competitive rower, and a Veteran, I’ve had my fair share of physical injuries and worked with many physical therapists, but I’ve never experienced a complete initial evaluation and diagnosis as was performed by Richard Bernier. After peppering me with a litany of questions about what happened, how I feel and my range of motion (which was sadly missing in many previous medical exams), Bernier then proceeded to move and test my arm and shoulder in at least 15 different motions to get a better sense of my shoulder’s physical condition for himself. Richard also used a ‘rotating double ruler’ (my layman’s term for it) to measure the range of motion. He then discussed a number of physical therapy options and fully explained all the PT treatments they could and would use to heal my shoulder.
At this point, I was totally impressed. Never in my life had I experienced such a thorough physical therapy diagnosis—or a medical one! Then Richard Bernier brought out the ultrasound machine. As he was moving the treatment handle around on my shoulder, he explained how it works and the short and long-term effects it had on tissue repair and long-term healing process.
I thought to myself, “Get out! A doctor is actually taking the time to explain and walk me through the treatment process as he goes?” Anyone who has been rushed through today’s streamlined ‘efficient’ medical visit brought on by the constraints of the medical insurance industry knows that this type of experience is rare indeed. And to top it off, Richard Bernier is a down-to-earth person who took the time to get to know me during the entire process. His demeanor was friendly and relaxed.
Bernier then walked me through a number of physical therapy exercises to strengthen my shoulder during the entire rehabilitation process. At least once per day at home, I need to perform six isometric exercises through the use of pressure of my fist on a doorframe to strengthen my shoulder muscles. He also gave me a green Thera-Band to use at least once daily for resistance exercises for strengthening and increasing my range of motion. On physical therapy days, I was instructed to start with a make-shift ‘lat pull-down’ tool that isolated my left shoulder, with the purpose of loosening the muscles, increase blood flow and lubricate the shoulder joint. At the end of session, after the ‘lat pull-down’ and isometric exercises, I would spend ten minutes on the shoulder ergometer to provide yet another range of motion exercise while aerobically conditioning and strengthening.
I was also impressed by the facilities at Bernier Physical Therapy Associates. This was full service to the max! The first room had an array of pedal and shoulder ergometers, some basic nautilus machines and strengthening tables. The second room, which was the main room, was like a triage in a top-notch hospital. On the right side there is a big alcove with some advanced range of motion equipment, and along the left wall there are about 8 diagnostic medical tables, each with a curtain run for privacy, just like a hospital. The room also had a number of racks with PT gear for muscle strengthening and motion exercises. There is also a small back room with some water tanks for hot water therapy. Richard Bernier also has a small desk area to keep records of the day’s patients, while he and John Wile work with their patients. Both are often seen jotting down notes and observations as patients are busy performing their PT exercises.
Richard, John and their support staff of Esta, Martha and June are also intimate with the mysterious inner-workings of today’s insurance maze. Bernier and Wile know the issues that patients have to deal with when it comes to finances and today’s medical insurance challenges, but Martha and Esta blew me away with their insight and knowledge of how to negotiate ‘the system,’ pitfalls and loopholes. Just ask. They’re quick to walk you through maximizing your insurance dollar. Bernier is also a member of the American Physical Therapy Association and the New England Physical Therapy Network, and between him and John, they have more than 50 years of practical and clinical experience.
After spending the better part of November with Richard Bernier and John Wile, I can’t recommend Bernier Physical Therapy Associates enough. Though I came in with a shoulder injury, I witnessed Richard and John working on countless patients with lower back pain and lumbar problems, knee pain, neck pain, shoulder injuries, spinal issues, sciatica, as well as a number of occupational therapy cases. Every patient was comfortable, well taken care of and the atmosphere was so amiable that during many visits Bernier and I would shoot the breeze with numerous patients and the staff as everyone diligently worked through their PT regimens.