Wednesdays with the Women of Vitality: Katherine Ireland

If you have been following our blog each week, you have been introduced to the founders and veteran physical therapists at Vitality and have also gotten a chance to meet Karen, who is likely your first encounter at our clinic.  Now it's time to get to know a few of our newest addition to our Vitality team.

Today, we’re introducing you to Katherine Ireland.  She joined us in January 2018 after completing a residency program in Pennsylvania.  She is also a Doctor of Physical Therapy graduate of Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science.  Are you noticing a trend here?  Katherine is pursing her board-certification in women's health physical therapy this year and we are fortunate to have our first certified lymphedema therapist on staff.

Meet Katherine Ireland:  

Why did you decide to pursue physical therapy as a career?

From a young age I was interested in a health-related career.  I have always wanted to help people.  I was drawn to physical therapy because it offers a unique opportunity to work one-on-one with patients for an extended period of time. This allows me to build therapeutic relationships while helping patients heal, regain strength, and improve their quality of life.  

How and why did you decide to specialize in women's and pelvic physical therapy?

I have always had a passion for women’s health and female empowerment through education, health, and wellness. I have also always been intrigued by what the human body can do. Women’s and pelvic physical therapy was a perfect blend of these passions. Nothing makes me happier than helping women and men regain their health while renewing their trust and confidence in their bodies.

What did you do before you started work at Vitality?

I completed a residency in women and men’s health physical therapy at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in Pennsylvania. This highly specialized program provided me with advanced training in treating pelvic health conditions and lymphedema (chronic swelling, typically of the arms or legs).

Why did you decide to become a certified lymphedema therapist?

One of my first patients was a young woman with post-mastectomy lymphedema. She came to physical therapy because she was unable to fit into her long-sleeve shirts, reach overhead to wash her hair, and carry her 3-year-old son due to her cancer treatments and subsequent arm swelling. It was while treating her that I saw the meaningful impact PT treatment had on her recovery, both mentally and physically. By the time she left therapy, she was controlling her swelling through manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) massage and a compression sleeve, she was able to reach overhead, and she was carrying her son without difficulty. This experience spurred me to become a certified lymphedema therapist to continue helping those who suffer from this chronic swelling condition.

What is Lymphedema?

Lymphedema is abnormal and chronic swelling (edema) in part of the body, most often in the arms or legs. This condition is due to damage or abnormalities in the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is part of your immune system, but is also very important in returning fluid from your extremities. Lymphedema can occur from birth or is acquired later in life. One of the most common causes of lymphedema is damage or removal of lymph nodes due to cancer treatment, such as surgery or radiation therapy.

Do you treat people following cancer treatment who do not have lymphedema?

Absolutely! We commonly treat people following cancer treatment to reduce pain, improve mobility and range of motion, and improve strength—whether they have lymphedema or not. If an individual is at risk for lymphedema, we incorporate education and prevention techniques into our treatment. Recovery following cancer treatment is essential to your quality of life, and we at Vitality are committed to helping you regain your life and vitality.

What is your most memorable moment as a physical therapist?

My most memorable moment was helping a patient regain control of her bladder after 20+ years of constant, pad-soaking leakage. On our last session together, she was able to bounce on the trampoline—an activity she used to enjoy with her children but thought she could never do again—with full bladder control!

Describe Vitality in 3 words.

  • Individualized
  • Compassionate
  • Evolving

What makes Vitality different from some of the other physical therapy clinics in the area?

Vitality offers hour-long, one-on-one sessions and is committed to treating the whole patient.

What advice do you have for women who are experiencing achiness, numbness, and/or radiating pain in their back or pelvic area, incontinence, or restricted movement?

Don’t hesitate—we’re a team of certified pelvic floor and lymphedema therapists who are here to make you comfortable while developing a comprehensive treatment plan to meet your goals.

When not in the PT clinic, you can find me…

Exploring the city, dining with friends, or pursing creative interests—notably sewing and knitting.

At Vitality, we help women be at their best by specializing and treating disorders related to pelvic and back pain, bladder and bowel dysfunction, and restricted movement. Together, we’ll develop a personalized treatment plan to help you relieve your aches and pains, and support your body.

Contact us today!