Current Osteopathic medicine is a fusion of Allopathic and classical Osteopathic medicine that emphasizes the physical manipulation of the body’s muscle tissue and bones. Because of the rugged nature of Alaskan’s recreational and professional outdoor activities, physical medicine is a very practical approach to helping many people with non-invasive procedures to diagnose and treat pain.
Dr. Erik Olson, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, relocated from Northern Wisconsin. He is a Board Certified D.O. physician and received his medical degree from Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in 2008, the founding school of osteopathic medicine. He completed his residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, at University of Wisconsin, in Madison, Wisconsin, and graduated 2012.
Benjamin Briggs: What is physical medicine and rehabilitation?
Erik Olson: It’s a pretty broad field. We initially start our training in in-patient rehabilitation, working with people who have had large strokes, spinal cord injuries, and complicated surgical procedures that require a lot of rehabilitation that they would not be able to accomplish at home or as an outpatient. So we oversee their rehabilitation in a hospital setting and address their medical issues as they arise while they are recovering. We are also trained in other areas including musculoskeletal diagnosis and treatments such as for joint and muscle injuries, arthritis, back pain, etc. We work with physical, occupation and speech therapists to help improve pain, strength and performance with activities of daily living. When needed we also perform interventional procedures such as joint and back injections. to help alleviate pain so the goals set in therapies are obtainable.
Benjamin Briggs: What is a D.O.?
Erik Olson: Osteopathy started in the late 1800s. by a man named Andrew Taylor Still. He was originally trained as an M.D. who worked in surgery during the Civil War. He was frustrated by the lack of improvement in many of his patients. Many of his family became ill with diphtheria. Due to the treatments at the time, he lost several of his family members. He then developed different types of treatment designed to encouraged the body to heal itself. He developed manipulative treatments intended to optimize the nervous system and the lymphatic to promote healing and the immune system. Over time, with the improvement of medicine, osteopathy started adopting pharmaceuticals and surgery in addition to manipulation to treat patients. D.O.s now practice similar styles of medicine as MD’s in addition to manipulation.
Benjamin Briggs: What specific training must a physiatrist have?
Erik Olson: We have been trained to integrate and optimize the medical treatment plan. We have to have good communication with the various treating providers for a patient. We try to build a comprehensive treatment plan to hopefully address the full needs of the patient and optimize their opportunity for a good outcome. Whether it be planning a treatment plan to help a spinal cord injury patient return home safely or help somebody who injured their back recover and return to work successfully.
Benjamin Briggs: Why is it important to see a physiatrist who is board certified?
Erik Olson: It helps to ensure that the physiatrist you may be seeing has learned the key areas in rehabilitation to give you the best evidence based treatments for his or her condition.
Benjamin Briggs: How do D.O.s diagnose?
Erik Olson: It is a multistep process. First, you have to communicate with the patient and take an effective history. Listen to the patient, they will almost always tell you what is wrong. Key points include determining how the injury happened, what the symptoms are, what makes it better or worse and what treatments or imaging has been done to determine the cause of the patient’s symptoms. The next step is performing a good physical exam to help narrow down what structures seem to be affected and, hopefully, in combination with the other information come to a diagnosis and then a treatment plan.
Benjamin Briggs: How would our readers go about contacting you?
Erik Olson: You can contact Alaska Spine Institute in Anchorage, Alaska by calling (907) 563-8876 and specifically request me or one of our other board certified physicians.
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