How I Decided To Become a PT

In a few days, it will be 2 whole years since I decided to make the jump into private practice and opened my own clinic. It seems such a long time ago , and it’s been a rough and bumpy ride, but it was worth it!!

So I wanted to share the story of how I ended up on this road . It’s all about giving back and I believe in the cycle of things , karma and unicorns, as corny as it sounds!

I started college at 21 and in my first year , went to NYC during the summer on a scholarship to Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater for a summer intensive. And it was definitely intensive – 12 hours of dancing a day for most of the summer. I did Ballet, Graham with the amazing Denise Vale, rehearsal director at the Martha Graham Dance company. Also I did West African with a guy from Ghana whose name I couldn’t pronounce, but had energy for days! And lastly, I had performance class with Dwana Smallwood, then principal dancer at the Ailey Company. If you’re into the dance world, you know how big these names were. I was in my glee!

Early on in the program my paternal Grandmother died, the matriarch of the family. My dad decided I couldn’t go home for the funeral so I didn’t get to say goodbye, which was really hard. So I buried myself in dance- which has always been my escape.

Then in the middle of summer, after an intense rehearsal at the end of the day, just sitting down I pulled a muscle in my groin. By the time I got home I was in a lot of pain. My boyfriend at the time said ‘ you should put ice on it’ and me, not knowing anything and wanting nothing to do with ice other than being in a drink , said no way!

So I did the opposite and put heat on my injury – which ,of course, is a no-no with acute injuries. Of course the next day I was so swollen and painful I couldn’t stand straight.

At that point, a terrifying thought quickly planted itself in my brain “what if I couldn't dance anymore?”

At that point, a terrifying thought quickly planted itself in my brain “what if I couldn’t dance anymore?” And the idea of that was truly frightening to me.

So I immediately sought out someone that could help me – a physical therapist that worked at Ailey at the time. I remember her seeing me, and in a couple of visits magically fixing me . My own personal unicorn. And I was never more amazed, more excited or more grateful than that moment when I could move again. Dance meant so much to me, and still does, so for someone to give me back the ability to move, and experience my love was absolutely priceless.

I remember seeing my therapist years later and recounting the story of how she helped me. She had no recollection of the incident, ha! but was still happy that I recovered from my injury and was able to finish the summer program. She herself had no idea the impact that her healing had done for me.

So that is, in summary, how I decided to become a physical therapist. I loved dance, I loved medicine, (my first choice was neurosurgery but I quickly dropped that when I realised that neurosurgeons don’t dance! ) and had found the perfect fit between the medical, dance world and helping people. There is no feeling like doing the things you love to do with the people you love. And I had met a physical therapist that gave me that ability when I had no idea how to move forward. And that gift was truly priceless to me, and I wanted to give it back.

Today, so many years after that incident, I reflect on that experience that I had in NYC. And when people come into my clinic, I’m always excited to give them the hope that I was given long ago. Because I know how it feels, and would never want anyone else to experience the despair and fear I felt. And most importantly,I know it can be better with some guidance and help from me.

“I had met a physical therapist that gave me that ability to move forward when I had no idea how to. And that gift was truly priceless to me, and I wanted to give it back.”

Lastly, there is no greater satisfaction than helping people. Nothing makes me happier than seeing someone move, or talk about returning to an activity that they couldn’t do because of pain. And all activities matter! – even the simple stuff of getting out of bed without pain can be a big deal

So if you’re in that place of not knowing what to do, what the first step to take or how to get your life back, give me a call. I’m happy to pass on what was done for me so many years ago.

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Danelle Dickson PT, DPT, OCS

Danelle Dickson PT, DPT, OCS

Physical Therapist at Performance Plus Physical Therapy
Danelle Dickson received her Bachelor’s Degree in Biology from Morgan State University in 2003, then her Doctorate Degree in Physical Therapy from the University of Delaware in 2007. After graduating, she earned her  Board Certified Orthopedic Clinical Specialist Certification in 2012. She is continually increasing her knowledge base with post graduate continuing education from manual based courses such as Institute of Physical Arts and St. Augustine courses. Additionally, she has also presented research at local (APTA) and international (IADMS) conferences on dancers, and has published her research with Journal of Dance Medicine and Science.

Danelle combines her 10+ year of clinical, research, and administrative experience  to produce a well rounded, patient driven experience at Performance Plus Physical Therapy. She currently works with patients with orthopedic, sports and Performing arts conditions, along with taking care of the local dance population, and mentoring local physical therapy students as a clinical instructor.
Danelle Dickson PT, DPT, OCS

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