Individualized treatment plan returns a dancer to the stage

Dancer-Barnes-Jewish-HospitalAll athletes and active people can be susceptible to injury and chronic pain; it comes along with the territory. When injuries do occur, it can be both physically and psychologically frustrating to be told you have to stop the activities you enjoy.

The Washington University Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation specialists at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, known as physiatrists, craft individualized, nonsurgical treatment plans for patients with a wide array of musculoskeletal problems. They work to preserve, modify or return function to the patient, while reducing the likelihood of greater injury. This approach can be highly effective for people seeking plans that will allow them to be active during their treatment.

Physiatrists treat patients for a variety of symptoms, which can include disorders involving the spine, sports injuries, occupational injuries, osteoporosis and musculoskeletal health. If a surgical referral is needed, physiatrists work closely with orthopedic surgeons at Barnes-Jewish Hospital to provide integrated care and rehabilitation.

“I think we bring a missing link to orthopedics,” says Devyani Hunt, MD a Washington University physiatrist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, who specializes in rehabilitation. “We take a comprehensive view of a patient’s condition, beyond what the bones alone might be telling us. We view an injury within the whole musculoskeletal framework, in order to optimize patients’ mechanics and function.”

The physiatrists at Barnes-Jewish Hospital treat people with a variety of backgrounds who seek comprehensive evaluation and diagnosis for their orthopedic care, but they also have some high-profile patients. This roster includes several local athletes, including players from the St. Louis Rams and the St. Louis Blues. Some of the rehabilitation team also serves as the on-site physicians for performers in traveling shows stopping in St. Louis, which have recently included Cirque de Soleil and The Lion King.

Hunt and her colleagues also treat local dance groups, many of whom are dance majors at Webster University. Jessica Manker, a recent Webster graduate who majored in ballet and modern dance, visited Hunt with several issues over the course of her education, most recently for an injury she sustained when she fell on her back during a rehearsal.

“Dr. Hunt is a former dancer, so she’s really knowledgeable about the specific movements we do, which isn’t the case with all doctors,” said Manker. “With my back injury, she watched me move and bend and perform choreography to see what was aggravating the pain. She doesn’t approach injuries as black and white, she looks at all the contributing factors before deciding how and when to treat the problem.”

Washington University rehabilitation specialists use a variety of tools to treat their patients, but Hunt says the key is to start with an accurate diagnosis. “Whether they’ve sustained an injury from a single incident or have chronic pain from repetitive activity, our ultimate goal is to provide options,” says Hunt. “The best diagnosis takes all facets of functionality into account, in order to give our patients a really focused treatment plan.”

These diagnostic tools include electromyography (EMG), which is used to diagnose nerve injuries. Ultrasound or fluoroscopy, enable physiatrists to obtain “live” x-ray images during a procedure, and is sometimes used to perform diagnostic and therapeutic injections. Treatment for many conditions, such as lower back pain and neck pain, may include medications, physical or occupational therapy, bracing, support devices or therapeutic injections.

For Manker, Dr. Hunt’s guidance ultimately allowed her to perform in her senior showcase a few weeks ago. “She understood how important this performance was to me, and she made sure that my treatment plan would allow that to happen,” says Manker, who just joined St. Louis’ MADCO dance company. “I’m so grateful to her for that.”

To schedule an appointment for a comprehensive evaluation with a physiatrist or another orthopedic specialist, call (314) TOP-DOCS or visit

Patients with acute orthopedic injuries can also be seen without an appointment at the Injury Clinic which is located at the Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Orthopedic Center in Chesterfield. The Injury Clinic is open until 8 p.m. during the week, and until noon on Saturdays.

Photo credit: Gerry Love

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Category: Orthopedics

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Barnes-Jewish Hospital at Washington University Medical Center is the largest hospital in Missouri and the largest private employer in the St. Louis region. An affiliated teaching hospital of Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital has a 1,800 member medical staff with many who are recognized as "Best Doctors in America." They are supported by residents, interns and fellows, in addition to nurses, technicians and other health-care professionals.

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