Bethany Hightower grew up in the valley playing soccer. From the time she was in junior high, she took interest in medicine and wellness. She wanted to pursue a career that would blend her interest in athletics and keep individualized patient care at the forefront. At 14 years old, she was thrown through the healthcare system after suffering an insidious onset of low back pain. Little did she know, this experience would pave the way for her career as a Physical Therapist.
Her story begins where most people’s pain stories begin. At the doctor’s office, getting X-rays.
The X-Rays were negative. The doctors had no answers and neither did Bethany. So, Bethany was sent to an orthopedic specialist. The specialist spent a few minutes with her and informed her to “stretch more”.
She was discouraged. Bethany felt that she was being overlooked due to being young. Seriously, what 14-year-old suffers from low back pain?
Bethany attempted to push through the pain and continued playing soccer. When the pain became severe enough to limit her participation in the sport, she knew something had to change.
Player Becomes Patient
She attended her first physical therapy appointment. The providers listened to her. Bethany no longer felt like the weird 14-year-old with low back pain that no one knew what to do with. And she looked forward to her physical therapy appointments! The personability of the physical therapists, the challenging exercises and ultimately achieving her goal of returning to the soccer field motivated her.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end here.
As she began to feel better, she stopped doing her home exercise program. But the low back pain returned once again.
The pain wasn’t as bad, but it was enough to keep her off the soccer field. And once again, she ended up in the office of multiple different chiropractors and myopractors.
Bethany Takes Back Control
Now 18 years old, one of the healthcare providers told Bethany that she “had the spine of an 80-year-old”. The provider stated that she didn’t understand how Bethany was able to walk, let alone play soccer. It was both confusing and discouraging.
At that point, she made a decision to view this diagnosis as an extreme exaggeration. Bethany decided not to allow it to create fear and limit her participation in soccer. And looking back on this experience, Bethany realized how impactful a healthcare providers’ choice of words can be for patients and their recovery.
Life as a College Athlete
The summer before college soccer, Bethany began weight lifting for the first time. And she was able to complete her summer workout program with little back pain. When she arrived on campus for pre-season training, she began some of the most challenging workouts she’d ever done.
The pre-season regimen consisted of three workouts a day. The result was an increase in low back pain. So, Bethany worked with the athletic trainers along with the strength and conditioning coaches to help manage her low back pain. This kept her off the injured list and on the field so she could keep her soccer scholarship.
At the end of the season, she had several weeks off before beginning the offseason training program. Offseason consisted of high-volume strength training and cardiovascular workouts.
And as Bethany continued to build strength, her back pain decreased. She was able to complete the remainder of her collegiate career without disruptions due to low back pain.
Aspects of her story are very similar to her patients’ experiences with chronic pain. People are frequently passed around to different providers. They do not feel heard. At times, doctors give broad instructions like, “exercise” without any specific recommendations.
Bethany was one of those patients who was told to “stretch more”. It was a directive that lacked specificity and didn’t alleviate her pain at all. But, physical therapy helped relieve pain and keep playing soccer. Until she backed off her home exercise program. For most, experiences like this often decrease people’s faith in the healthcare system and can lead to the belief that this is just the way things are.
Patient Becomes Practitioner
As a new graduate entering the world as a Physical Therapist, Bethany made it her mission to help change people’s view of healthcare and physical therapy. Her goal is to empower people to get active and get their life back.
She gained her initial experience as a Physical Therapist working in high-volume clinics where she would see 2-3 patients at a time. Patients spent most of their time sitting down or using light exercise bands and weights.
Pain relief is important, but the bigger picture is ensuring that a patient returns to the activities that enhance their life. Her goal is to bridge the gap between physical therapy and life-long wellness.
Bethany Joins the Spark Performance Team
This perspective helps explain why Bethany chose to take a position as a Physical Therapist at Spark Performance and Physiotherapy. At Spark Performance & Physiotherapy, the commitment to not only assist people in their recovery but also to further aid individuals in their journey to a healthier, happier life is something Bethany feels strongly about. These values of patient care align with her core values.
Bethany is excited to invest her training, energy and passion at Spark Performance. The mission at Spark is to maximize performance, promote life-long health and wellness, and optimize function to allow for continued activity through all phases of life. Bethany believes in this mission and lives it out daily.
Bethany continues to be an active individual in the valley. She returned to her athletic roots playing in local recreational soccer leagues. She enjoys weight lifting and hiking in the beautiful Arizona terrain.
Best of all, she hasn’t suffered from low back pain in almost a decade.
It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t quick. It took time and dedication.
Bethany’s drive to play collegiate soccer was all the motivation she needed. She completed her recommended exercise program and additional strength training. Her commitment to physical therapy enabled her to live out her dream of playing college soccer without pain!