Physical Therapist Profile – Belinda Wurn, PT
Bachelor’s in physical therapy from the University of Florida, 1974
Belinda Wurn is the national director for Clear Passage Physical Therapy, which has locations throughout the United States. Since earning her physical therapy degree in 1974, she’s accumulated more than 25,000 treatment hours to patients with pain, infertility, and sexual dysfunction. She has also completed extensive post-graduate training in her field and has helped developed the techniques used in her practice.
Question: What drew you to physical therapy?
Wurn: “I loved science and was drawn to practicing medicine. I was in the process of applying to medical school, and I did volunteer work at the V.A. Hospital in the Physical Therapy Department one summer to see what the field of physical therapy was like. I loved and was fascinated by the art and practice of this medically related field that allowed me to work with people and help to improve the quality of their lives.”
Question: What do you love about your job that keeps you at it each day?
Wurn: “It is so incredibly rewarding to witness every week how our patients (especially really complex and chronic pain patients) are able to resume more active and pain-free lifestyles after we treat them. Basically we are giving them their active lives back with a much higher quality, at a higher level of functioning, richer andÿfuller, like it used to be before they were either injured or had some sort of surgery.
“Our focus is on assisting patients to get out of pain and hopefully to bypass planned surgeries. We now have also published positive research results in several highly regarded, peer-reviewed medical journals. We initially began opening totally blocked fallopian tubes using only our hands — an achievement thought impossible without surgery until studies on some of our patient successes appeared in major medical journals.
“Recently, we published the first of several case studies that examine our ability to clear small bowel obstructions — a common life-threatening condition often complicated by additional surgeries. We attribute our success to manually ‘peeling apart’ or detaching powerful adhesions that form after surgery, trauma, or infection that can cause pain and dysfunction, often challenging physicians and their patients.”
Question: What are the challenges?
Wurn: “The primary challenge is in attempting to communicate with some physicians who are not open-minded as to the value of the work that we do, and how we can help so many of their patients who are in a lot of pain. So many patients get no answers from their physicians as to what to do about the pain they are experiencing besides taking drugs or having surgery. The work that we do addresses the cause of the patients’ pain, so a much more permanent resolution is achieved, without drugs or surgery.”
Question: What’s one of the most memorable experiences you’ve had in your professional career?
Wurn: “I can think of so many! I guess back in 1990 or 1991, we had four patients who came to us for lower back, pelvic, or hip pain. All had been trying (unsuccessfully) to get pregnant. When they each came back and told us that they were pregnant, we couldn’t believe that we had been able to do something with our hands that apparently freed up enough adhesions to unblock their fallopian tubes, or help the uterus and uterine ligaments to become more mobile so implantation was able to ‘stick’ and develop into full-term babies!”
Question: How do you stay on top of – and help pioneer – the best practices?
Wurn: “After I was recovering from cervical cancer in 1984 and started having chronic pain, I saw so many different types of medical specialists and really got no answers as to what to do to relieve my symptoms other than take medications or have exploratory surgery. That was not acceptable to me, so I then studied with some of the finest therapists, physicians, and osteopaths in the U.S. and Europe before developing our unique treatment approach. Larry and I combined the most effective techniques of the instructors with whom we studied. Over the past 25 years, Larry and I, along with our therapists, have refined those techniques, and have developed our unique treatment approach used in Clear Passage Physical Therapy clinics today. We attend continuing education seminars on different manual (hands-on) techniques in an attempt to keep up with the latest techniques andÿwe continue to develop our own techniques as well.
“Our job is really two-fold and both sides are gratifying. We are required to accurately quantify results, so we can present accurate evidence to the medical community. Our job as a treating therapist is to study our patients’ medical history and listen deeply to their feelings, goals and intuitions about their own case. Then, we use our hands to facilitate the body’s remarkable healing ability.”
Question: What advice do you have for people just starting their education or their professional career in physical therapy?
Wurn: “‘Create your vision, and step into it.’ Follow your heart and do what interests you the most. Whether it be women’s health, sports, orthopedics, pediatrics, etc. If possible, spend some time in each setting if you are not sure which specialty area is for you. Then, take as much continuing education as you can in those topics. Or else work at a clinic that is known for being a center of excellence in whichever specialty to make sure that is what you want to do for most of your professional career. If you are not sure which in direction you are drawn — work in a general hospital setting where you can see patients of many different diagnoses, and then you will see in which direction you get pulled.”