Physical therapist Emily Parrish demonstrates a unique device called the Astym, which stimulates the body to heal.

By Brad Lucht

SERC Physical Therapy is the latest tenant to join the Red Bridge Shopping Center. It opened January 9, but a ribbon cutting is expected sometime later this spring.

Emily Parrish, Clinic Director, started scouting for a new location a year ago in August. “My director knew for several years that I wanted to open my own clinic,” said Parrish, “but I didn’t want to move outside the Kansas City area.”

“This general location of South Kansas City was prime because there were not very many other locations offering physical therapy,” said Parrish. “I’m seeing someone from south of Harrisonville, a gal from Belton. With my specialty, people are willing to travel.”

Parrish received her Ph.D. in Physical Therapy at Rockhurst University, where she also received her undergrad degree, which included minors in psychology and religious studies.

“When you talk about pain, first of all you have to understand the individual and that pain is never the same to a specific type of person. Pain might be the lack of knowledge of joint stiffness vs. someone who had a nerve injury and 30 years of numbness, tingling or burning. So first of all we have to understand kind of what pain is. And I do very specific, individualized education for patients.

“The key is understanding the person and their pain.”

How does one go about seeing a physical therapist? Under most circumstances you need a doctor’s prescription to see a physical therapist.

“The doctor makes a diagnosis, based on their medical model, and then they refer a patient (to us) with that diagnosis, to evaluate and treat,” Parrish explains. “Then we make a physical therapy diagnosis, and a plan, and we send that plan back to the doctor and they usually sign it, knowing that we know what we’re doing.”

What if someone comes directly into the clinic?

“If you had a shoulder problem, and you needed therapy, we’d say “OK, go to the doctor and have them send us over a fax,” or, I would call the doctor, and if the patient is on a good relationship their primary, they’ll send us over a fax script. It has to start with a doctor.”

The type of physical therapy you receive will depend upon your diagnosis.

“You can’t go wrong educating them on some kind of cardio once they are able to tolerate it,” Parrish outlines. “Stretching also is important, but it has to be done right. And it depends on the body area that you are working on.

“Strengthening is huge, because that requires a lot of balance in the muscle systems,” Parrish continues. “If you have one muscle that is weaker, obviously, the pain is associated with that, so your body is going to compensate, other muscles will get tight, and it’s just a complete dysfunction. It’s amazing how intricate it can become.”

Education is emphasized in Parrish’s treatment approach.

“It all depends on how they healed,” Parrish explains. “Your body heals in the environment it is in, so it is literally conditioned. We have to figure out, with them, what the triggers are, why their nerve is sensitive. A lot of times people are like, “you have pain, let’s inject it,’ then the pain comes back.

“There is a lot that goes into this that isn’t necessarily physical therapy, which is why my pain therapy certification is so unique.”

“It’s empowering in a way to heal without medicine,” Parrish adds. “And when I mean medicine, I mean pills, or patches, or braces. Therapy is one of the most conservative ways to start any kind of treatment.”

SERC Physical Therapy is located at the southwest corner of the Red Bridge Shopping Center. Clinical Director Emily Parrish can be reached via email at, or by phone at (816) 942-3336. SERC is on the web at

Leave a Reply