A love of science, anatomy and people is a perfect career for Emily Rust

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by: OUTLOOK PHOTO: JIM CLARK - Emily Rust has been seeing physical therapy patients for three years at Therapeutic Associates in Gresham Station. The 27-year-old Colorado native is gratified when her patients are able to resume their daily activities pain-free and is pioneering a womens health program at the clinic.

When you find yourself in need of physical therapy, the process isn’t quite as painful if your therapist has been there and done that.

Twenty-seven-year-old Emily Rust is an avid outdoorsman and former figure skater who once found herself under the care of a physical therapist following a sports injury in high school. The experience launched an unexpected career and has led her into advanced training in manual therapy, women’s health and orthopedics.

Emily is a Colorado native who ended up in Oregon via a circuitous route. She earned her undergraduate degree in biology at Loyola University in Chicago and went on to complete her doctorate in physical therapy at Northwestern University. After clinical rotations in Chicago and Austin, Texas, she headed west, landing in Beaverton to finish her rotation in a clinic owned by Therapeutic Associates. It was there she met John Parr, director of physical therapy for the company’s Gresham office, who hired the spunky brunette three years ago.

How did you become interested in your field?

“My grandfather was a family practitioner and my uncle was a surgeon. I worked in my grandfather’s office one summer and I was in and out of there a lot, with a broken arm and things. I did think about medical school, but surgery wasn’t what I wanted to do day-to-day. I really liked science and the body, but I also really like talking to people. This was a great way to combine the two. You get to do this really neat stuff with science and the body, but you also get to have this wonderful personal relationship with your patients.”

Physical therapy seems to be common as part of recovering from an injury or following orthopedic surgery. Is there an instance where therapy would be warranted without the presence of a known injury or surgical procedure?

“If you’re not able to do the things you like to do or you’re having pain from it, that’s a perfect time for physical therapy. We can provide you with activities to help you regain your strength and coordination so you can enjoy those activities pain free.”

Have you ever been through therapy yourself, providing you with first-hand knowledge of what your patients go through during treatment?

“I went to physical therapy in high school. It was a lower back thing. I’d been figure skating for a long time and wanted to try something different, so I joined the track team. They had me running hurdles. I have short legs. Leading with that one leg, I over-stressed the muscles in my hips and pelvis. I had great coaches and instructors and I was in really good shape. But it shows that injuries can happen to anyone.

“(Physical therapy) is all about learning optimal movement patterns so that your joints and muscles stay healthy. Sometimes it is a random issue, but if you don’t treat the abnormal movement patterns, you can have that same injury time and time again.”

You are developing a women’s health program, which targets areas of the body that most people don’t associate with orthopedics. How does a woman’s health relate to physical therapy?

“To me, it’s more about the core — the pelvic muscles and pelvic floor. They are the support muscles for the lower back and hips. If the muscles aren’t supporting everything from below, the whole region is affected. It can be the reason for incontinence after pregnancy or a hysterectomy or cause lower back or pelvic pain. That’s how this program ties into the orthopedic arena. Right now, it’s just for women, but I’m hoping to expand the therapy for men and children.”

What do you enjoy most about your job?

“In physical therapy, it’s called ‘discharge.’ We call it ‘graduation.’ When you have someone come in who’s really down, and you get them to the point where they schedule a vacation to Europe because they can walk again, or play with their kids again without pain, that’s pretty exciting. Working with someone for weeks or months and seeing them achieve their goals — that’s a good day!”

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