We get this question a lot:

“Hey have you heard of this guy? He does this thing called the “FIT (Fill-in-the) Blank Technique. I have heard that a bunch of super high level athletes like football players and body builders use him. He’s supposed to be pretty huge. What do you think?”

Sounds like a simple question, but as a professional there really is an enormous amount of information to pick through to help answer this question for folks.

In the hopes that our readers can more easily sift through the massive amount of information on the subject of health, wellness, pain and performance professionals, I’m going to outline my exact thinking process for answering questions like the one posed above.

How to Figure Out If Someone Is Legit

One of the most easy-to-navigate systems for this is social media. It’s become as useful in vetting pros as it has been at getting charlatans an audience. However, because pseudo science and sales jargon can be so easily mixed in to what looks like good information, it’s tough to know what to look for. There are ‘special’ phrases or tricks that phonies use to build their reputation. Fortunately, any self respecting trickster is going to have several active presences on the internet such as a website, blog, twitter feed and Instagram to easily pick through. So HERE’S what to look for:

  1. Fake acronyms. These are EVERYWHERE. Anyone can claim to be a S.M.A.R.T professional. Of course, if that trainer you read about is a Specially Marketed Athlete Retweeting Troll, then yes, I guess they are S.M.A.R.T. I can’t argue that. But you probably are SMART enough (see what I did there?) to see that this is a hardly creative way to inject some official looking letters behind or in front of someone's name to project an authority that hasn’t been earned. While it might seem harmless, it’s a step in a very dangerous direction toward an end goal of confusing the health-seeking public. The reality here is that those who choose this tactic literally don’t know any better so while their credential might be trash, they can only be partially accountable for not knowing that it’s trash. In the same vein, if someone claims to do “rehab” or “post rehab” but has no formal training beyond their personal training certification, see this as a big red flag. Tread lightly if you are vetting this kind of pro and continue reading.
  2. Good credentials mixed with bad ones. While this happens less often, it’s a little more insidious and here’s why: Credentials like MD, DPT, DC, DO, MS, CSCS, LMT, RN are well known acronyms that represent training of a skill and safety level ‘fit for consumption’ by the public with decreased fear of egregious error or negligence. Licensing is an important process that is meant to discourage or prohibit an untrained person from doing something that may cause harm. This is how other trained professionals understand scope of practice for each other and is usually a good system for interdisciplinary care. However, this would also indicate that this pro has some formal training and solid knowledge in their respective field. IF a real set of credentials is mixed with some make-believe ones, then this pro may be purposefully attempting to trick prospective clients into service(s) that they know are unfounded. This lacks a bit of integrity and should be pursued with extreme prejudice.
  3. Overstating of personal or client anecdote. Every one of us has success stories. Client testimonials and happy customer stories are what keep most of us striving. Important to realize is the fact that each of us has tales of people we simply could not help. I can promise that you will hear very little from a phony about their ‘misses.’ However, an experienced professional would readily discuss these occurrences in their career. That said, all of the care that is delivered by a trained professional should be based in some of the basics of physiology, physics, and grounded in evidence informed medicine. While massage therapy may not be considered medicine, many licensed massage therapists use skills each day that are based in what we understand about soft tissue generated pain, for example. This knowledge comes from decades of learning about the human body, painful conditions and how many of the habits we each have may impact our ability to move and function. This grounding in the most current body of knowledge is an important part of safety and efficacy for the health-seeking public.
  4. Referring to “his way”, “her way”, “the only way” or the “best way” to do something citing one specific skill or approach. This one is a HUGE red flag. There are so many different ways to treat, even within each discipline of physical medicine or wellness, that picking one method as the best is completely ridiculous. Many of our own clients often ask questions like, “Isn’t this a yoga movement?” or “Is that a chiropractic treatment?” or, our favorite, “How does all of this personal training really add up to treating my low back pain?” The reason we hear these questions is because we, and our talented colleagues across the country, use many different forms of treatment and approaches to help people with pain or performance. We never think of techniques as “yoga moves” or “a wrestling drill” or “a power lift.” These are all just different examples of approaches that we interweave to create the most comprehensive treatment approach for each individual client. When vetting the ‘pro in question,’ see if they can give you a good idea of how they see your specific issue(s) and what your care might entail.
    This point is emphasized not only by really strong language in favor on one technique but ALSO language that is derogatory toward any other types of treatment approach. People who claim that theirs is the best AND that what ‘those other people’ are doing is useless should be almost completely disregarded.
  5. Overactive Instagram or blog feeds. This one is a bit of a professional pet peeve, however it does speak directly to the understanding that time is a precious commodity and those doing the best work (in our humble professional opinion: that is the people WE would seek care from) have only a certain amount of it to engage in what we would consider the “ancillary” social media platforms. Instagram is purely a ‘look at me’ platform and hardly one that you will find ANY professional spending any real time. No busy, well-trained professional has the time or desire to take that many selfies. Once or twice per week is usually a cut off point to where I begin to question the reason that this person has this “business” Instagram account. Again, real professionals doing real difficult work with real difficult/complicated folks don’t have a lot of free time to write four times per week. Beware the professional blogger. This person is collecting the currency of internet notoriety and may not have your best interests in mind.

So, when you call or email us to ask if that pro you read about is legit, this is how we find out. Be sure to spend time questioning anyone who can pass this muster and make sure that they also pass your own tests. Each of us know the types of people we like to associate with and this decision should be no different. Let’s face it; if you don’t generally like the pros you are surrounding yourself with, you are likely to be disappointed with your care, no matter how great their credentials.

Dr. Carlos J Berio, PT, DPT, MS, CSCS, CMTPT

Doctor of Physical Therapy, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, Certified Myofascial Trigger Point Therapist

Dr. Berio holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Exercise Physiology. He has treated high school, collegiate, recreational, and professional athletes of various sports including baseball, softball, football, hockey, tennis, swimming, golf and the martial arts. His experience as a collegiate and semi-professional athlete as well as a professional baseball coach make him a sought after resource among elite level athletes on the field and in the training room. The concept of ‘all the way well’ in his work as a physical therapist and fitness professional is what continues to drive Dr. Berio to be the best movement specialist there is.

Carlos remains active in several sports and is an avid agility training, power lifting and adventure race runner. He is an advocate for his patients, clients and his fellow PT colleagues. He can be reached at [email protected].

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