Versailles native gives back by restoring movement, encouraging activity
Published April 2018 in Ripley Publishing Company newspapers
Photo published June 2019 (original story used provided photo)
“Stay as active as you can, that’s the biggest thing,” Physical Therapist Libby Litmer gives as her top advice to her community. The more sedentary a person is, she says, the faster they lose muscle mass and physical ability, which often leads to a lower quality of life.
Litmer spends her days working with patients at the King’s Daughters Medical Building (KDH) in Versailles, just off the town square. She usually sees about 10-12 people per day, for a variety of ailments, including low back pain, athletic injuries, and joint replacements. Her main goal? “Getting people back to doing what they love,” she says, adding, “Pain keeps people from those things. I want to help them enjoy life again.”
Litmer also strives to connect with her patients. “You’ve heard of that ‘six degrees of connection’ thing? Well, in Versailles, it’s more like three degrees,” she jokes. Laughs aside, Litmer has come to believe that social well-being is just as important to one’s quality of life. Her position enables her to foster both physical and social health.
Community connection, after all, was a motivating factor in deciding to return home to Ripley County. Folks around Versailles might remember the now Doctor of Physical Therapy as Libby Wehr, a South Ripley graduate who competed in volleyball, basketball, and track. She credits her teachers throughout her career at South Ripley for piquing her interest in the sciences. “Mrs. Linkmeyer made science fun,” she recalls of her school memories.
That interest grew as an undergraduate of exercise science at Hanover College, where she served as student trainer for the football team. Her duties included guiding team members through exercises in practice, taping before games, and encouraging injury prevention.
At Hanover, finding a niche in human movement, she decided to pursue a doctoral degree in physical therapy from Rosalind Franklin University in Chicago. Upon graduation in 2012, she worked for two years in the IU Health system in Indianapolis, and then moved to Jacksonville, Florida with her husband, Blake, while he was active duty in the Navy.
While in Jacksonville, Litmer completed a year long orthopedic residency program. “It developed my expertise in evaluating and treating conditions,” she recalls. Through that residency, she is now a credentialed Orthopedic Clinical Specialist, one of few therapists in the tri-state to hold this designation. She also completed coursework in manual therapy while in Florida, and plans to take the Manual Therapy Certification exam soon, another respected credential in her field.
The Litmers moved to Versailles from Jacksonville, and Libby has been seeing patients at the KDH Versailles office since September of 2016. The young couple welcomed their first child, a boy, in August of 2017.
“I want to give back to the community that raised me,” she says of being home. In addition to raising her family and helping patients in her full-time job, Litmer has more ambition. She volunteers with the Main Street Versailles group, for one, and is looking forward to this season’s farmers market. She would also like to start a group exercise class around town for older adults. Versailles does host group exercise classes on a regular basis, but Litmer thinks there is an opportunity to better serve the “young at heart” who might find traditional exercise classes to be too intense.
Of course, at the KDH facility, Litmer works with people of all ages. “Eight years old, to 92,” she quips regarding the ranges of people she’s treated. Her sessions are usually 45 minutes long and directed towards the patient’s individual needs. Often, restoring mobility is the first goal of a treatment plan, which can include soft-tissue manipulation and range-of-motion exercises. Then, she works to build strength along with healthy movement patterns, so people can do those things they love in ways that keep their body happy.
For anyone experiencing physical pain, Litmer says the first step in getting treatment is to talk with their doctor. A physician can write a referral for a physical therapy evaluation, which starts the process of Litmer’s work. “It takes time,” she says about improving pain, but she absolutely believes that the effort is worth the reward of a better life.