Teaching the Chinese Olympic Committee of Physical Therapists: Advanced Manual Techniques for the Pelvis and Lower Quadrant

The Pelvic Education Alliance (PelvicEA) taught a 2-week course to the Chinese Olympic Committee of Physical Therapists.

The Pelvic Education Alliance (PelvicEA) taught a 2-week course to the Chinese Olympic Committee of Physical Therapists.

In August, we took on the opportunity of a lifetime as we made their way to Beijing, China to teach a course to the Chinese Olympic Medical Committee of Physical Therapists. 

What the Students Learned

We taught a 7-day course on advanced manual techniques for the Pelvis and Lower Quadrant in Beijing, China. We covered manual therapy to the pelvis, low back, hip, knee, and ankle regions of the body, as well as internal techniques for the pelvic floor and coccyx. In addition, we worked on advanced body mechanics training and exercises for the Olympic athlete. Lastly, we treated the athletes for both Summer and Winter sports for an additional 7 days.

The Chinese Olympic medical staff included physical therapists, trainers, physicians, acupuncturists, traditional Chinese medicine physicians, and research specialists. No matter what their area of expertise, everybody practiced the techniques. Everyone was interested in learning. It was incredible! It’s interesting to note that all medical staff participate in the care and rehabilitation of the athlete, and it was great to see their collaboration and excitement to have new tools to bring into the clinics. In total, 44 clinics were represented by medical professionals from all over China.

“This course has shown us the kind of course we want to have here in our country.”

- Mr. Lee, Director of Clinical Education for the Chinese Olympic Committee

The students particularly appreciated the demonstration and lab component of the course, the concrete aspect of learning prioritized in the coursework. They represent a culture that prefers tactical, hands-on, tangible learning versus only theoretical application.

What We Learned

Chinese Exercise Culture is Strong, Even with Older Age

The physical activity levels within Chinese culture are astounding! Check out this video we captured at a local park and "gym" area, where local Chinese folk defied widely accepted standards (at least in America!) of physical capabilities by age. The average age of people exercising in local parks is 65!

Our Students Were Eager to Learn

The Chinese commitment to sports excellence was apparent. Coaches, athletes, and supporters keep their eyes fixed on the prize—gold medals. Needless to say, preparation and training is of the utmost importance for their athletes. They have intense training centers for their athletes, and brought in therapists and medical staff from all over China to learn from the Pelvic Education Alliance. 

Their commitment to excellence was also seen in the way they learned. Janine noticed that the students watched everything they did with extreme intent. For example, if you shifted your position slightly to get more comfortable, they would observe so closely that they assumed it was sometimes part of the treatment technique itself. 

It was also clear that they don’t like to make mistakes, and they weren’t huge fans of a “trial and error” method of learning. It seemed that they instead preferred to observe and comprehend the methods fully before trying it out for themselves. The Nesin team mentions, “They were like sponges ready to absorb information. It was great to see their passion and enthusiasm.”

Language Barrier Proved to be Somewhat of a Challenge

When outside of course-related contexts, we realized that most of the words we had learned were all related to physical therapy, which didn’t prove to be entirely helpful when it came to, say, looking for the restroom.

An interesting thing to note is that analogies don’t translate well in the Chinese language. Trying to explain that a person’s body should be positioned “like a tree” produced more puzzled faces than nods of agreement. Still, the courses were made possible through a fantastic interpreter. Janine, Michelle, and Gwen liked being able to pause and collect their thoughts between sentences while the interpreter passed along the message in Chinese!

Our Presence was (Apparently) Worthy of a Feast!

Beyond the standard, and somewhat expected, barriers of language and food, we found the host culture to be incredibly hospitable. Culturally, hospitality is an important practice for them. They take a lot of pride in caring for visitors, and they do it extremely well.

How well? They held two literal feasts in our honor! Janine later mentioned that she has, “...never been an area in the world where we’ve taught where they felt so embraced and welcomed...The students and entire COC staff were amazing hosts. We even had our own bus to transport instructors and students to and from the course every day.”

The Future of Global PT Education

This fusion of orthopedic and pelvic floor physical therapy is new and upcoming in the U.S., and certainly so in China. Surprisingly, though, Janine did mention, “Because it’s a relatively new field of expertise in the US, we weren’t sure how much exposure they might have had to this area of PT practice, but it turned out they’re more aware of pelvic floor PT than we thought. It was moving to see that providing concrete skills and concrete information would immediately impact their patient care,” Janine shared. “It was obvious that they were going to be practicing things as soon as they got back to their clinics on Monday morning.” 

The person who initially invited PelvicEA to teach its course to the Chinese Olympic Committee is also on a mission to change the face of physical therapy on a global scale. Dr. Lilian Chen-Fortanasce hopes to change or improve the education of the students and the overall direction of physical therapy in China. Though it has been 20 years since she lived in China, she is leading a crusade to improve the standards of physical therapy practice in China. Janine mentioned, “It’s wonderful to meet people like Lilian who are determined to do what they can to have a positive impact on the world.”

Because of their collaboration, medical professionals like Dr. Chen and organizations like PelvicEA are moving closer toward to goal of having higher standards set when it comes to residencies, fellowships, and the overall training of physical therapists all over the world.

Overall, the combination of cultures present while teaching the course to the Chinese Olympic Committee proved to be nothing but a positive, humbling, and rewarding experience. Even with the contrasting approaches to learning and lifestyle customs, both the Pelvic Education Alliance and the eager professionals within the Chinese Olympic Committee worked together to make for an extremely successful teaching experience abroad.

“When living and functioning in a culture other than your own, the difficulty of learning another language...trying to convey complex information in that language...” Janine recalls, “it was difficult at times. But being a part of changing the course of PT in a country is humbling to say the least, and so worth the extra time and effort. To know that we changed the trajectory of their practice leaves you on a ‘high’ for a long time. And to work with staff and athletes on the Olympic level is the thrill of a lifetime.”

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