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What is Integrative Physical Therapy?

Updated: Jul 7, 2022

By Ana Soulia, PT, DPT | Inertia Physiotherapy Missoula, MT

Where Standard Physical Therapy Treatment Falls Short.

The standard approach to Physical Therapy includes a subjective evaluation or interview about your current complaint. You are asked about the timeline of your injury and what makes it better and worse. The therapist does a physical assessment of the body part that hurts and likely the adjacent joints. Treatment is directed to deficits found around the area of compliant. This approach works for some, but for many it falls short. Prime examples of when a standard approach isn't adequate include:

  • When your pain or problem doesn't have an obvious onset or injury.

  • When your pain or problem is persisting well beyond when you would expect it to have healed.

  • When you have multiple injuries and multiple sites of pain.

  • When you get treatment on one area and it results in something else hurting.

  • When you have tried and failed to improve or achieve lasting results with a standard approach.

What we know is that pain is an output from the brain and it is the result of multiple factors. the Bio-Psycho-Social model of pain means that there are a variety of factors that play into how and why we experience pain. The Integrative Approach to Physical Therapy takes all of these into consideration and in doing so paints a more clear picture of the whole person. This helps to define a treatment plan that targets the system(s) that needs the most support to heal. In an integrative approach, the diagnosis is just the beginning. The real goal is to find out the why.

The Integrative Physical Therapy Evaluation

The integrative evaluation starts with taking a much more thorough history. By taking the time to hear your whole story, the therapist puts together the timeline that led to your current complaint. The timeline connects the dots and helps paint the picture of how you got where you are today. You will be asked questions about your lifestyle, medications, digestive health, prior injuries/traumas, surgical history even if it's not related to your current complaint, family support, childhood and even the circumstances of your own birth. Perhaps one of the most powerful questions is, "what do you think is going on?" This question takes into consideration your point of view and helps the clinician understand your perspective. By asking the question, we can either validate or challenge your belief about your body and this can be the mental shift you've been looking for.

The physical exam is a whole body exam, not just the region that hurts. It starts with a posture scan because our body is designed to work optimally with proper alignment. Abnormal findings provide clues to about where to intervene. It is then tailored to a reflect a functional task that has meaning to you. This is a movement or posture that reflects the thing that you would like to do better and without pain and we call this your "meaningful task". By assessing the body during your "meaningful task" we can identify the area of the body that is causing the most problem or your "primary driver." The whole body is connected so the primary driver can be anywhere in the body, in any of your systems. Further assessment of the primary driver identifies the precise system(s) that need support.

Integrative Physical Therapy Treatment

The dysfunction or restriction can be in any of 5 main systems: neural, articular, visceral, myofascial or emotional. Targeting the right system(s) with the right tool(s) is the key to having the most positive impact on the whole body. It means listening to the individual body and applying intervention where you need it most. This supports the body's natural desire and ability to heal and results in more profound change that has a lasting benefit. It means you won't be sent home with a long list of exercises that aren't specific to your problem. What you will receive is treatment targeting your primary driver, education about your body and condition and what to do about it. You'll get 1-2 exercises or activities to support your improvement and you will understand why you're doing them and sometimes learn what to avoid or change in your daily life to prevent your pain from returning.

The goal of Integrative Physical Therapy is to get you doing what you love without pain, reliance on medication or need to perform a series of "PT exercises" for the rest of your life. The end result is a lasting change in your mind and body with the freedom to live the life you want.

If you are intrigued by the concept of Integrative Physical Therapy and you're in the Missoula area, you are invited to reach out and schedule a FREE phone consultation. This no obligation conversation is a perfect way for you to share your problem and get some insight into whether Integrative Physical Therapy is right for you. Follow this link or give us a 406-880-7945 to schedule your initial conversation today.


About the Author- Ana Soulia is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and founder of Inertia Physiotherapy in Missoula, Montana. She specializes in treating complex problems and persistent pain issues with a wide variety of tools. She is passionate about helping her clients feel better, move well and thrive!

Her Integrative Approach to PT emphasizes the need to evaluate the whole person in order to understand how all the systems contribute to pain and nagging injuries. If you are in the Missoula area and you'd like to know more about Ana and how her practice is different please visit to learn more.


1001 S 4th St W. Suite 4

Missoula, MT 59801

Ph: 406-880-7945

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