Any PT Guitarists Out There?

Touch is vital to physical therapy. A PT’s ability to palpate the body to determine illness and injury is integral to the profession and to the field of health care. To be able to feel these things, a physical therapist needs to develop their hands.

To do so, we’ve got a long list of tasks to master. One task is to feel 4 different coins in our pocket and pull each out heads side up without looking. This takes sensitive finger pads.

Anyone who has played guitar can tell you that sensitive fingers are not conducive to playing.

Callouses build up over time so that holding down strings is no longer painful. These callouses are immediate signs of a string instrument player. Once I even had someone feel my fingers after they didn’t believe me when I said I played guitar.

Those callouses are not helping me now.

I guess this is why I’ve never heard of any physical therapists who also play guitar. I need my finger pads, and callouses would get in the way of that. That means I can’t keep playing guitar.

Unless I can find a way to perform the sensitive tests with only one hand (which may yet be possible), I’ll have to set my beautiful guitars down for a while. Coming right on the heels of trying to balance different aspects of my life, this is another facet of graduate school and my career that I need to work with.

While I am saddened by this realization, I’m not distressed. As much as I love playing guitar, I love physical therapy more. If I had to choose between a guaranteed career as a musician and treating patients, I would choose patients. I interviewed a patient in a controlled setting last week, and now I have an itch for it.

I need to scratch it. I need to interact with the people I want to serve. Playing guitar at Four:7 meetings and at mass is its own type of service, but that type is now less prominent in my life. I do not regret picking up guitar and performing my first song (Peace I Leave With You) at Pasquerilla West Hall mass as a freshman at Notre Dame. The song only had three chords (G, C, and D), but at the time it took great focus to master the timing and finger placement. That was the only song I had practiced enough to play.

Interviewing and relearning tactile sensing are hard now. My team and I were given 35 minutes to run an interview that should have taken less than 10, and it took many tries before I was able to pull all 4 coins out in order.

With practice, it will come as naturally as a G chord.

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