HealthQuest physical therapists shed light on how physical therapy can reduce pain and help get your life back to normal.

By Cassie Kunze

Photos courtesy of HealthQuest Physical Therapy and Medical Fitness

Sponsored by HealthQuest Physical Therapy and Medical Fitness

With over a combined 50 years working as physical therapists, HealthQuest Physical Therapy co-owners Mike Altenburg and Bill Bean share how physical therapy can help you get your life back after suffering from pain and what to expect when you commit to improving your quality of life.

HealthQuest co-owners Mike Altenburg and Bill Bean

Who should go to a Physical Therapist (PT)?

Physical therapy is a field with several areas of specialties and serves different people.  At the Southfield HealthQuest location, we specialize in musculoskeletal and neuromuscular problems.  Patients come to us with a variety of issues – from sports-related injuries and joint replacements to sprains, arthritic joints, neck and back problems, poor balance and even migraines. Our goal is to always get the patient to their point of maximal function. To some, it means getting back to marathon running, to others it means walking well enough to stay in their home and not require assisted living.

What should I expect when I go to a PT?

The first thing is an examination. We have the prescription from your doctor with  a diagnosis, and the physical therapist will review the patient’s medical history and discuss their concerns. The physical therapist does an examination to determine which  biomechanical factors are contributing to the problem. This is highly specific to each patient.  For example, looking at specific knee problems preventing  a runner from completing a marathon versus problems preventing a senior from walking up a flight of stairs.

Once the therapist completes the evaluation, they discuss the details with the patient to create a set of goals and a plan to meet these goals. We firmly believe in the importance of patients understanding the issue and being part of the goal setting process.

What types of physical therapy do you offer?

We are hands-on and exercise-based in our approach.  Most patients receive manual therapy along with a specific exercise program unique to their needs. Along with exercises and manual therapy, we use modalities to speed the healing process and reduce pain. We have success with cold laser as well as dry needling which helps patients recover faster and progress quicker. In addition, we use the other traditional modalities such as heat, ice, electrical stimulation, traction and ultrasound.  These modalities tend to be used more as an aide and are rarely the focus of treatment.

Mike Altenburg with a patient at HealthQuest Southfield

How does a PT diagnose pain?

Pain is typically the body’s response to abnormal physical stress or forces.  In physical therapy, we look at the types of biomechanical issues that cause the forces to become detrimental and cause pain.  The evaluation involves taking a careful past medical history – looking at previous injuries and joint history, such as a swimmer with a shoulder injury.  We look at contributing factors such as diabetes that may affect blood flow or healing.  Once we have a good understanding of the nature of the problem from the patient’s  perspective and past medical history, we do a thorough biomechanical evaluation to look at specific mechanical issues such as poor flexibility, reduced strength or poor posture that may affect the patient’s pain.

After diagnosis, are there steps to reduce the pain?

One primary goal of physical therapy is almost always pain reduction.  The key to pain reduction is determining its root cause.  This is done with a careful evaluation and discussion with the patient to determine the exact nature of the problem and the patient’s needs/expectations to alleviate the pain.  The treatment approach tends to be broken down into three major components:

  • First, is using exercise and modalities to reduce the acute inflammatory phase of pain. This might include ice, electrical stimulation, cold laser or dry needling.
  • Second, because pain is typically brought on by abnormal mechanical stresses, the primary focus is to correct these mechanical issues through physical means of stretching, strengthening, postural and correction of body mechanics.
  • Third, therapy almost always involves patient participation in home exercises to empower them to maintain control of the problem and prevent future problems by means of self-management techniques.

What are some common conditions that can be treated?

At HealthQuest Southfield, we treat the entire body from head-to-toe.  More commonly, we see low back and neck-related issues as well as hip, knee and foot pathology, whether it is injury or arthritic-related.  We love treating post-operative patients who have joint replacements or repair surgeries as we enjoy the process of guiding them back towards a full return to activity.

What are some lesser known conditions you can treat?

Diabetic neuropathy, balance and gait problems that increase risk of fall or further injury, fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions that have been treated unsuccessfully.  It is always a great idea to use PT as a pre-surgical vehicle towards setting yourself up for an optimal surgical outcome.

What are the latest treatments you are using to treat patients?

At HealthQuest in Southfield, we pride ourselves on applying the most recent and cutting-edge treatments available.  Currently, we have a brand-new Class IV medical cold laser that we are having success with as a stand-alone treatment for pain and as an aide to traditional manual and exercise therapy.  Also, we are using Functional Dry Needling to stimulate damaged or recovering tissue into more rapid healing and pain relief.   These are excellent new treatments we are excited to offer the community.

HealthQuest owners Mike Altenburg and Bill Bean










HealthQuest Physical Therapy and Medical Fitness

29121 Northwestern Hwy, Ste A, Southfield



The State of Michigan has Direct Access to Physical Therapy

If you have an injury, ache or pain, difficulty walking, problems with activities of daily life, difficulty performing work tasks due to weakness or poor endurance or limitations in movement, you are  a candidate for direct access. If you have questions about your overall wellness or changes you are feeling with aging, exercise your right to direct access today.



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