Dennis returns home to help

Jason Ferguson

Nearly 30 years after becoming a physical therapist, Cindy Dennis has returned to her roots to lend a helping hand to the people of Custer.
Dennis, a Custer High School Class of 1984 graduate, returned to Custer in July to join the physical therapy staff at Monument Health Custer Hospital. She joins the staff of eight physical therapists (full or part-time) at the hopsital.
“It’s wonderful. I’m seeing so many people I haven’t seen in 40 years,” Dennis said. “(I’m seeing) parents of people I went to high school with and stuff like that, but also some of my classmates. It’s been fun reconnecting with everyone.”
Dennis went to college at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology before going to physical therapy school and earning a masters degree at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. She stayed in the Omaha area for years afterwards before “going all over” after her kids were grown.
Moving back to Custer was always a potential move, she said, but it was solidified when her son moved to Custer a year ago. That put her granddaughters in Custer, and she has a grandson in Rapid City.
As a teenager, Dennis worked at the local nursing home, which spurred her interest in wanting to help people. That took her into physical therapy, instead of say, nursing.
And why not nursing?
“I probably didn’t want to deal with the blood in nursing,” she said with a laugh.
Dennis said she sees around eight to 10 patients a day, and has worked with all age ranges, from pediatricts to geriatrics. She has a great deal of hospital experience, and has a special interest in sacroiliac dysfunction.
This dysfunction occurs when the sacroiliac joints of the pelvis become stiff or weak. The condition can develop at any age. Symptoms typically are felt on one side of the back.
“It’s usually more common in women because your hormones can make it more lax and hypermobile,” she said.
It’s a subject that is near and dear to Dennis’ heart, since she suffered from the issue when she was younger.
“When I learned about it in school I was like ‘great, I can fix this pain!’ It’s not really coming from my back,” she said.
Dennis spent a semester in school with a women’s health therapist as well, and learned the issue is quite common in pregnancy as well, because of the hormones and extra weight throwing the body off.
“One of my first patients was a pregnant patient and she was thrilled to learn techniques to help,” she said.
October is National Physical Therapy Month, which helps raise awareness with consumers about the many benefits of physical therapy. It’s also a great opportunity to appreciate what physical therapists and what they do to transform lives.
Dennis said in many cases physical therapy is critical, such as if you have a joint replacement.
“It literally gets stuck,” she said. “For the knee, you will never get your motion back unless you do the exercises. It will be a much worse outcome.”
In short, many injuries and surgeries require physical therapy to reach the best possible outcome and minimize pain.
Dennis said it’s rewarding to see people get better and back to being independent, and with children, it’s wonderful to help children achieve milestones in their therapy.
And now, she is getting those rewards in her home town.
“It’s just nice being back in the community and connecting with people,” she said.

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