Texas Physical Therapy Specialists welcomes Menke to Liberty Hill clinic

Dr. Ben Menke is the new clinic director for Texas Physical Therapy Specialists in Liberty Hill. (Christine Bolanos Photo)

Dr. Ben Menke is the new clinic director for Texas Physical Therapy Specialists in Liberty Hill. (Christine Bolanos Photo)

By Christine Bolaños

When then 11-year-old baseball pitcher Ben Menke suffered an elbow injury, little did he know his physical therapy visits would change his life.

“I played a lot of sports. I’ve always been interested in the body and how it worked and how to heal from injuries. It just kind of naturally led me to that field and I never had a reason to stop liking it,” said Dr. Menke, PT, DPT.

The chance to work closely with his patients is what most attracted Menke to his field.

“Where I would be interacting with people on a regular basis along with learning about how the body works and helping people get back to the things they needed,” he said. “We have patients come in who can’t even lift an arm and by the time they leave, they’re throwing or reaching overhead, they’re lifting weights, that kind of thing.”

Witnessing the difference physical therapy makes on a patient is the most rewarding part of Menke’s job. The clinic makes a “big deal” out of the outcome by celebrating a patient’s success with a “graduation.”

“Sometimes they’ll improve and not realize and then be like, ‘Oh, yeah. I didn’t remember I couldn’t do that,’” he said.

There is a particular type of vertigo treated at the clinic that allows for immediate changes in the patient.

“A person will come in and have these constant vertigo symptoms. It’s very debilitating. They’re in great distress and then we do the treatment. They come back the next day or two days later and they’re like over 50 percent better for sure,” Menke said. “Then we do the treatment again and then they can be totally cured from their vertigo if it’s that type of vertigo.

“This one lady in particular came in a month ago with this particular type of vertigo and neck pain,” he added. “It seemed like her vertigo symptoms were the most important to her, the most aggravating and so we treated that and pretty much cleared it up in like three days. Then we treated her neck pain and her neck pain (decreased) and in three or four weeks she was like a new woman.”

Those are the type of experiences that are particularly rewarding to him.

“One of the things that we do here that is uncommon for most physical therapy clinics is called trigger point dry needling. It’s a relatively new one in this field,” Menke shared. “It’s an advanced manual therapy technique. You get a lot of improvement quickly for various conditions depending on what their condition, the dry needling may play a big role in their success, along with things like spinal manipulation that we do here.”

The manual therapy is a value added to patients’ visits as well as an emphasis on doing physical therapy exercises at home.

A visit to the clinic involves 15 to 20 minutes of paperwork for first-timers and a one-on-one evaluation where Menke learns their history and listens to their story about what led them to seek physical therapy.

“I do objective testing: Test their range of motion, test their strength, do special tests that we do to figure out what the physical therapy diagnosis would be and come up with a treatment plan, and show them a few exercises they can start doing at home,” he said.

Future visits consist of hour-long sessions where the patient comes in and works with their technician who supervises them through exercises.

“It can be anywhere from 15 to 30 minutes that is spent with the therapist doing manual therapy. It consists of things like joint mobilization, massage, stretching, spinal manipulation, the dry needling so they can get more benefit from the exercise,” he said. “That’s one of the things that differentiates physical therapy is that it’s a combination of manual therapy with the exercise so it’s just not one or the other. That’s what researchers are really behind is combining those two for most orthopedic conditions to get the best outcome,” he said.

The clinic has been modified for a more open setting where Menke can interact with patients and his staff even if he is not working directly with the patients.

As clinical director, Menke makes sure the clinic runs smoothly, handles staffing issues, does marketing such as talking to physicians, providing free screenings to promote the clinic and writes thank you letters. He is also in charge of getting new equipment.

He also meets with the regional director on a regular basis and discusses strategies to implement clinic growth.

The clinic staff includes Dr. Menke, Terri, the “director of first impressions,” Physical Therapy Assistant Ann, and a physical therapy technician.

Menke was born in Austin, raised in Pflugerville, studied at University of Evansville in Indiana, and moved back to the area upon graduating to be closer to family. He and his wife, Emily, a kindergarten teacher, work and live in Liberty Hill.

He said drivers-by and patients may notice a change in Texas Physical Therapy Specialists’ logo. The change occurred in December, but was unrelated to Menke’s coming in to the clinic.

“I recently took my board exam for orthopedics. The plan is if things go as planned, I would pass the test in June and potentially be an orthopedic certified specialist which is something that’s extremely rare for physical therapists anywhere to be specialized,” he excitedly shared.

Texas Physical Therapy Specialists has operated in Liberty Hill since 2006. Dr. Tony Lauretta was clinical director before Menke, and has since moved to the company’s Cedar Park location.

Texas Physical Therapy Specialists provides sports physical therapy, spine care, women’s health, orthopedics and worker’s compensation. Learn more at www.TexPTS.com.