Making Sense of Your Body

Making Sense of Your Body
by Jennifer LB Leese

October is National Physical Therapy Month and Shannon Murphy wants to let the community know who physical therapists (PT) are and what they can do for you. Murphy is the owner of BodySense PT, a privately owned physical therapy practice in Boonsboro.
According to American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) physical therapists are experts in restoring and improving the motion that is so crucial to your well being. They help you improve mobility, manage various health conditions, and achieve a better quality of life. In Maryland, individuals have been able to make appointments with a PT directly, without a physician's referral, since 1979. Surprised? Many people are. That is one thing that Murphy hopes to change.
"In our complicated health-care system, it can sometimes take patients weeks or months to get actual treatment," she said. "If you're a frail senior who suddenly gets dizzy, waiting weeks for treatment can be the difference between staying safe in your home and going to the hospital with a hip fracture." Seeing a PT directly doesn't mean that you skip the doctor. Murphy always works with physicians to make sure that people are getting the medical workup they need. "It's not an either/or situation," she explained, "just an issue of timing. PT shouldn't be the 4th or 5th step in many cases." And yet many patients don't know where or how to begin. Part of that means making patients aware of what PT is in the first place.
So-- what IS physical therapy? It is a broad field in which highly-trained therapists work in a number of specialties, ranging from neonatal-care to spinal cord injury, prosthetic training to performing arts. One therapist even joined ESPN to counsel fantasy-sport-fanatics about the rehab implications of injury reports!
At BodySense PT, Murphy treats a wide range of orthopedic and neurological conditions--including arthritis, back and neck pain, joint problems, surgical conditions, overuse injuries and those suffering from vertigo, strokes, sprains, and fractures. Her patients range the gamut, including high school athletes, construction workers, paramedics, office staff, veterans and grandparents. "I love them all!" she said. "Between the different personalities and injuries you see, it's never boring." That is an attitude she hopes shines through. "People have good experiences here because they feel valued. We don't minimize their problems or rush off to the next client. Focused care works."
After years of commuting to Germantown for her previous position, Murphy is proud to now live and work in Washington County. The opportunity to open BodySense PT found her by accident. She was originally approached about staffing a clinic that ended up passing on plans to open an office in Boonsboro. Although she had reservations ("I knew precisely how much work it was going to be," she said), there were too many unique benefits to ignore. With a strong primary-care network, a major school complex, forecasted demographic growth, and the void of physical therapy services in South County, it was the perfect location from a business standpoint. From a personal one, it meant working much closer to home. "It was a way for me to treat patients the way I wanted," she said, "contribute to the local economy, and get off of I-270!"
BodySense PT opened part time in June 2008, then full time three months later. Now completely remodeled with an inviting aesthetic (the space was previously occupied by LifeFitness Physical Therapy several years ago), Murphy is eager for the community to know about the clinic's location and services.
As for Murphy, her professional experience is impressive. She holds a masters degree in physical therapy and has worked in outpatient rehabilitation for over ten years. After graduating from Sherwood High School in 1995, she was accepted to Davidson College in N.C., where she worked as a student athletic trainer and spent a semester abroad in Queensland, Australia - a part of the world where PT is more widely accessed by the general public. She graduated magna cum laude from Davidson in 1999, and with honors from University of MD in 2002. She started her professional career in acute-care at Frederick Memorial Hospital, transferred to an outpatient clinic of the National Rehabilitation Hospital in Germantown, and has spent the majority of her career treating complex spinal conditions and directing aquatic-therapy programs for a range of disorders.
Murphy says that in her current position, most of her caseload consists of degenerative conditions (like arthritis, rotator cuff pathology, and bad discs) and sport injuries. She also treats vestibular patients (people with vertigo, balance problems) and those with neurological disease (Parkinson's, MS, etc). As a physical therapist, it's all just part of the job. "We are problem-solvers," she said. "We are interested in understanding causes, finding solutions, and helping people help themselves."
BodySense PT is located at 9 Saint Paul Street, 3rd floor in Boonsboro beside the firehouse and directly above South Mountain Family Practice and South Mountain Women & Children's Center. Ample parking and elevator access are both available.
Appointment hours are currently Monday / Wednesday / Friday from 7am to 2pm and Tuesday / Thursday from 2 to 6pm.
If you think you might need a physical therapist, call BodySense PT today and mention this article - it will entitle you to a free consultation by phone or in-person. Call 301-432-8585 or send an email to You can also visit them online at
Also look for Murphy's column "The Therapist Is In..." this October where she will help readers understand how the body moves, why things go awry, and how to keep your body running like new.