Green Means Go: The New Future of Physical Therapy
Social media is the future of advertisement, education, and advocacy for private practice ownership
By Dan Ginader, PT, DPT
In December of 2019, I was convinced that I had uncovered the future of physical therapy. I had just been recruited by a company called Tx:Team to run and treat in a brand new physical therapy office located within the State Government Center of Indiana.
The clinic was in the basement of the main building and attached to a medical office with a PA, nurse, and a medical assistant. All of the patients would be in-network, government employees, that worked in the building, and all of my visits would be 1:1 for a full hour. I was immediately sold.
In less than 2 weeks my schedule was completely full. All of my patients were showing up on time, I didn’t have to worry about insurance, and they were all getting better much quicker than I was used to because of the increased attention I could give them in a 1:1 setting. It was a genuine physical therapist’s utopia.
I’m sure you can see where this is going…
Three months later, in March of 2020, the world changed. Working in an office building of almost 8,000 employees went from being the best place to have an in-network physical therapy clinic, to the worst. People stopped coming to work in-person and my caseload dropped to zero patients. My view of the future of physical therapy completely shifted in an instant.
Like a lot of the world, I was terrified. Not just of the oncoming pandemic but that my job, my livelihood, was taken away from me. I began going through the other things that I could do with my life but when you go to school for a Doctorate of Physical Therapy, your list of possible job options is written on your degree. As panic and depression set in, I, like many other people, became addicted to TikTok as it was one of my few outlets for distraction and laughter.
Fast forward a few months…
Tx:Team had fought for and acquired a PPP loan so my job was safe. I was able to still go into the clinic to work on special projects and treat the occasional patient that was willing to make the trek into the office. But I was still addicted to TikTok, and I had a lot of free time on my hands in an empty and private clinic.
Because so many new people were joining the short-form video app, it was beginning to change. What was once exclusively dance and prank videos, all of a sudden started showing the occasional informational video. One in particular stuck out to me. A chiropractor in Seattle made a video on the anatomy of the levator scapulae and showed a stretch for it. It had two million views and ton of engagement from people suffering with pain and stiffness in that area due to months of inactivity. In that moment I saw a way to turn my unhealthy addiction into a productive way to help people and my career. So, I started making TikToks of my own.
The first few were awful. I cringe when I look back on them. But, since there wasn’t a lot of content on the app in that niche, they were getting some traction. After about a month of posting once a day I had slowly built up to about 1,200 followers. And then one day it happened, I went viral. A video that I had made on glute strengthening was exploding to over 2 million views and my follower count grew to over 25,000 people overnight.
I stayed consistent and still post regularly. At the time of writing this article I currently have over 850,000 TikTok followers and another 185,000+ on Instagram. All from sharing general physical therapy knowledge in an engaging and humorous (hopefully) way. Now I’m convinced that this is the future of physical therapy.
I am still with Tx:Team in mostly a physical therapy marketing role, but after a recent move to New York City I needed a new “in-person” job. I didn’t have to look any further than my Instagram direct messages. Brittany Mims had been following my profile for a while and saw that I had made the move to New York City. She asked if I would be interested in treating backstage on Broadway under one of the contracts that she held through her company, Mims Method PT. It was the easiest “yes” I had ever given in my life, and not only did I start treating backstage, but I also started seeing patients in her clinic in Manhattan.
This would be my first time treating outside of an office building, where I only treated the employees, since I got my following and I was excited to see how it would go. In the first 24 hours of posting that I had found a clinic in New York City, over 30 people inquired about setting up an appointment. Just like that I had a caseload.
I recognize that what I have took a lot of luck, and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time. I was also blessed with all of the free time in the world and a supportive company to allow me to create and post content in their clinic (thank you Tx:Team!). But I now represent what is possible through social media.
In 2021, I almost made more money on social media than I did as a physical therapist. My fears of my job being taken away from me are gone because all I need now is a phone and a TikTok account.
But the future of physical therapy isn’t what I’m doing, it exists on a much smaller scale. If you spend time on social media, I’m a firm believer that you can also make solid content with a little bit of experience. And with some consistency you can grow to, at least a small following, and that small following is all it takes to get extra exposure for your clinic and your services. Younger generations aren’t searching on Google for places to go, they’re searching on social media. Even a small presence can expose your personality and treatment style and that might be all it takes to get them in as a patient.
It’s also a useful tool to have current and former patients follow so they can stay connected with the clinic and be more likely to make follow-up appointments. Before you know it, even if your following is a few hundred people, it can turn into a reliable caseload for life.
As physical therapists, our greatest strength is as educators. And I believe we owe it to the public to provide as much of that education as we can in easy to find areas. The best current area is social media, and it’s also the best free way to market yourself.
Helping people and helping your career, all by sharing content (of things you’re already talking about and doing on a daily basis anyway), that is the new future of physical therapy.