APTA Combined Sections Meeting 2018

Last week, I had the pleasure to travel to the APTA Combined Sections Meeting in New Orleans, LA.  Reasons for this trip were to provide coverage of the conference for this website, woo hoo!  So, myself and my colleague Rachael flew down to New Orleans:  me to cover the more orthopedic and manual therapy side of things, and her to cover more of the pelvic health side of things.  I should mention that neither of us have received or will receive any financial benefit from mentioning some of the organizations in our coverage of the conference.  So, there are no conflicts of interest to report.  Below are a few things that went on during our time there.


Day one

Let me just start off by saying that New Orleans was a great location for the conference, but WHEW, I had forgotten how humid the South is (especially on the coast).  Having grown up in South Carolina and going to grad school in Charleston, I was well familiar and used to humidity.  Unfortunately, living in California for five-and-a-half years, you get used to not being in humid climate.  Soooo, walking around New Orleans reminded me of how easy it was to sweat with little physical activity 🙂

We arrived at the convention center early Thursday morning to retrieve our passes and get rolling with our duties.  Because of an error on my part, we were reeling for a bit until Erin Wendel-Ritter, APR (Manager of Media Relations and Consumer Communications) came in and saved the day… so a special thank you to her for helping us while she was ridiculously busy.

My initial business for this day was scheduled around meeting and talking with Dr. Stanley Paris.  Many of you will know who he is:  a titan of a manual therapist that was almost single-handedly responsible for starting a revolution of manual therapy education here in America back in the 1960s and 1970s.  Our meeting lasted a little over two hours and it was a blast.  At 80 years old, Dr. Paris continues to amaze with how active he is within our profession.  Once editing is finished, I’ll post that conversation up here.

After this time with Dr. Paris, I met up with some colleagues and friends in the exhibit hall.  WOW!  The exhibit hall was gigantic and filled from front-to-back and side-to-side.  Virtually anything that you could imagine regarding physical therapy was located in there.  Literally.  Entry-level DPT programs, continuing education organizations, vendors for every single piece of equipment that you’ve likely seen in a clinic, and even vendors for other things you’ve never even thought about.  That is what makes the exhibit hall so much fun, especially if you’re a young therapist.  I saw a piece of equipment I hadn’t seen before that allows patients and therapists to rapidly adjust resistances of elastic tubing that are contained in tubes.  These are attached at various portions of a large frame to allow an infinite number of possibilites for angles of resistance.  To top it off, large straps that are tied to the resistance tubes can then be wrapped around the body of the patient, giving a remarkable angle of resistance along oblique or diagonal planes.  All of this adds up to virtually an infinite number of possibilities for resistance or assistance in terms of exercise with a patient.

For those of you who are statistics enthusiasts, this APTA CSM attracted more than 17,000 individuals in attendance.  That’s right… 17,000.  A record for this conference.  Ever.  On top of that, 40% of those in attendance were actually students.  A marvelous thing that so many of our future colleagues and leaders were dedicated enough to make this trip.  Speaking of the shear number of people there, the conference was so big, it couldn’t even stay within the confines of the convention center (which was absolutely massive by the way).  Conference proceedings and educational sessions spilled over into the Hilton next door (which was also massive).  It seemed like a lot of the Orthopedic sessions were located in the Hilton, so I spent much of the first day over there getting my bearings.  Whoever made the decisions to have the convention center and Hilton host the conference proceedings made a good decision.  The downtown area and famous French Quarter were all within walking distance for us.  If anyone had difficulty with walking long distances, a cab could easily be gotten for relatively cheap fare.

I managed to catch an educational session that was updating the audience on research findings for strength and movement patterns in individuals with hip pain.  Always nice to hear what researchers are finding with such a common problem for patients.

After this session, the evening was very busy with two receptions that we went to.  The first was an alumni reception for my DPT program, the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC), at the House of Blues.  I got to catch up with all of my former professors and speak with them for a while.  I don’t know about y’all, but I loved my program and my professors, so getting to see them all again was a real treat.  Also, a fun thing about that evening was noticing that ALL of the professors from MUSC (except for one) made the trip to New Orleans.  Simply impressive.  I remember liking my program while I was is in it, but being able to look back years later after practicing for a while, I’ve realized how fortunate we were to have such a good program.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay the whole time because there was another reception we had to get to.  That was the American Academy of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapist (AAOMPT).  This reception was at Manning’s, a bar/restaurant down close to the hotels and convention center.  I got pretty giddy going here because of all the people you get to network with.  Dr. Paris had mentioned that I should speak with Elaine Lonneman, the current president of the AAOMPT.  Well, I didn’t know her well enough and had not been introduced yet.  So, I felt a little uncomfortable just walking right up to her.  No problem, Dr. Paris took care of that and introduced us!  She were extremely nice and accomodating to speak with me that evening.  In fact, as our conversation was ending, Elaine then asked me “well… is there anyone else you’d like to meet here?”  My answer:  “oh wow, well… I did see Ken Olsen here earlier.  It would be great to meet him.”  So, Elaine takes me over the Ken and I get to meet and speak with him for a bit.  For those of you who may not know who Ken is, he is the current president of the International Federation of Orthopaedic Manual Physical Therapists (IFOMPT).  That evening, I also got to catch up with Mike Rogers and Bill O’Grady, two guys who I’ve gotten to speak with in the past.  You can find those conversations in the archives here.  So, overall, a wonderful night.

However, we weren’t done yet!  Rachael wanted some dessert after leaving the AAOMPT reception.  So, we decided to sit at the restaurant of our hotel to get something.  We lucked out because they were just about to stop service, but we could sit at the bar and still get something.  After sitting down there, we struck up a conversation with a woman next to us.  Turns out that she was a PT attending the conference as well.  She was from Connecticut and was actually friends with the program director for Rachael’s DPT program back in New York.  Not only that, but she had been an early teaching assistant and instructor with my mentors in the late 1970s and early 1980s.  Wow!  Talk about a small world.  That is one of the special things about going to conferences like this… the networking and realization that our profession really is a small-knit group.  Especially those who go to meetings like this.

Well, that concluded day one.  Quite busy if you ask me, but well worth it.


Day Two

My plan for day two was to get some recordings of short conversations with a presenter or two, then some of the exhibitors to highlight some interesting things in the exhibit hall, then hopefully some students to get their perspective of the conference.

The first session I sat in on that morning was titled “A Zebra Among Us:  Recognition & Management of Hypermobility Spectrum Disorders”.  This was a great presentation to sit, in part, because the instructors really made an effort to show how common this disorder is.  In fact, they cited research that shows it is the most common connective tissue disorder.  More common than rheumatoid arthritis or fibromyalgia!  Luckily, I was able to sneak one of the presenters away and speak with her.  You can listen to that here:


Heather Purdin MS, PT, CMPT


After speaking with Heather, I made my way back to the exhibit hall.  There, I got to speak with a few different continuing education providers that I thought were unique in what they were trying to teach us physical therapists to improve how people move efficiently.  You can listen to those conversations here:


Functional Movement Screen & Selective Functional Movement Assessment – Aline Thompson PT, DPT, OCS


Postural Restoration Institute – Jennifer Platt DPT, ATC, PRC


Myofascial Decompression – Christopher DaPrato PT, DPT, CSCS, PES


That evening was rounded out with a quick dinner, then a walking ghost tour though the French Quarter.  With a city as old and rich with history as New Orleans, it was pretty cool to hear some ghost stories.  Some were so weird that you question if they’re actually real… but, looking them up… yep, they really happened!  If you get a chance, I’d recommend taking a tour with Haunted History Tours.


Day Three

There were a few highlights this day from the conference itself and then many from the New Orleans afterward.

I attended an educational session in the morning that was titled “What Every PT Student Should Know About Pain Neuroscience Education” and was taught by four gentlemen:  Louie Puentedura PT, DPT, PhD, OCS, FAAOMPT  &  Stephen Schmidt PT, M. Phys, OCS, FAAOMPT  &  Adriaan Louw PT, PhD  &  Kory Zimney PT, DPT.  This was quite the session because all of the speakers were charismatic, entertaining, and engaging.  There were several things that I really liked about this session.  First, the presenters really made an effort to point out how PNE is really a part of the whole picture for returning the patient back to better health.  It is not the only, or main thing, that we should do with our patients.  Second, do you remember the Gate Control Theory of pain?  It was come up with Melzack decades ago.  However, I was unaware (and ashamed about being unaware) that he evolved and revised his thoughts with the “Pain Neuromatrix” in the late 1990s because the original model of gat control was not fully encompassing of all the systems that impact pain.  Third, I significantly appreciated Adriaan’s perspective and what he emphasized regarding the following:  screen patients accordingly for red flags, use outcome measures, do a THOROUGH interview (“do NOT half-ass it”), do a thorough low-tech examination.   All of this to gain an accurate picture of what is going on with the patient… which are all B-A-S-I-C-S… which reminds me of a saying… “the masters do the basics well”… hmmmmm.  Fourth, I enjoyed recommendations for questions to supplement when speaking with a patient, instead of the “usual” pain questions:  “What do YOU think is going on with your back?  What do YOU think should be done for your back?  Why do YOU think YOU still hurt?  What would it take for YOU to get better?  Where do YOU see YOURSELF in three years in regards to your back?”  All this is done to give the patient a chance to voice their opinions of what matters to them the most, and put things in perspective about learn how to tailor their rehabilitation.  If you’d like to learn more about Pain Neuroscience Education, you can find their books at www.OPTP.com.

Next up for the day was to find a student or two to discuss what they thought about the conference in general.  Preferably, ones that have been to a conference or two before and then ones that this was their first conference.  Luckily I found both from a couple of students in the DPT program of the University of Southern California!  You can listen to that here:


USC DPT Students at APTA CSM 2018 – Nicole & Fletcher



I was also fortunate to get to sit down with the CEO of the Foundation for Physical Therapy, Barbara Malm.  For those of you who don’t know what the Foundation is, you can listen here to learn more:


Foundation for Physical Therapy – Barbara Malm, MBA (CEO of the Foundation)



After speaking with Fletcher and Nicole, then Barbara from the Foundation, we decided to see what other fun things the city of New Orleans had to offer.  Our first stop was Coop’s Place.  A literal hole-in-the-wall, a complete dive in the French Quarter, but absolutely phenomenal New Orleans style food.  Seriously, there was a line out the door to get into this place.  And it wasn’t some fancy-shmancy restaurant at all… making it all the better 🙂  I had a local Abita beer and the Jambalaya.  Rachael had the Jambalaya as well, and a hurricane.  If you’re in New Orleans and haven’t been to Coop’s Place… go… it is well worth the wait.  You can learn more about them here.  Once we were done at Coop’s Place, we stopped by the famous Café Du Monde for some beignets.  Little pillows from heaven is what they are.  While I won’t understand why they needed so much powdered sugar for them, it didn’t deter me from enjoying every single bite.  You can learn more about Café Du Monde here.



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Our evening was rounded out by visiting Restaurant August.  Fine dining indeed, this was.  Getting a reservation for a reasonable time was next to impossible.  Luckily though, they have a bar/lounge area where you can order off of the full menu, and you don’t need a reservation!  So, we ventured over there and as luck would have it, they just happened to have a table for two open.  No wait… woo hoo!  The food was absolutely unbelievable.  If money is an issue (like it is for almost all of us), then I’d suggest saving enough to go to a fine restaurant at least once a year to enjoy the quality of the food there.  The service was impeccable, sometimes having three people taking care of us and our little table.  Then, the food was on a whole new level of flavor.  I had a Wagyu ribeye and Rachael had a dish of pork prepared three ways (tenderloin, shoulder, and belly).  Prior to that, we had an order of foie gras prepared three ways.  All-in-all, a fantastic experience and I’d highly recommend visiting there if you have the chance.  You can learn more about Restaurant August here.



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Well, that just about does it for this trip to New Orleans, LA for the APTA Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) for 2018.  We had a blast getting to cover parts of the conference (another post with Rachael’s experience will come up soon).  Just like all CSMs, there is sooooo much going on there that it could be easy to get overwhelmed.  My strategy was to prepare ahead of time to see which programs and sessions interest you the most to take full advantage of our time there.  Hopefully, this review of the conference has spurned some of you to want to visit the next Combined Sections Meeting in 2019.  It will be held on January 23-26, 2019 in Washington, DC.  If you want to learn more about the next CSM, or other conferences from the APTA, you can check that out here.





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