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  • Writer's pictureJohn Seivert

What does National Physical Therapy Month Mean to You?

October is National Physical Therapy month, which means it is time to celebrate the great strides we have made in our profession. But first, a little bit of history for you to see how far we have come in the big picture of healthcare.

When I graduate from the Northern Arizona University PT program in 1984, I was awarded a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy. At that time, PTs were functioning as rehabilitation aides under the guidance of the American Medical Association. We worked directly off a medical doctor’s referral and followed the orders to prescribe various modalities like ultrasound, electrical stimulation, and traction to low back and necks. We functioned as technicians. In the 1990s, the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) raised all universities’ entry-level requirements to a master’s degree. This increased educational requirement added another two years to a Master’s in Physical Therapy (MPT). As PT’s demands continued to grow with an aging population and more active adults needing care for injuries and chronic conditions, our profession saw the need to further our training. The doctorate level of training was implemented. The mid-2000s saw every PT school in America offer a Doctorate in Physical Therapy (DPT) to increase more education and training. The professional organization’s demands created the proper knowledge and training to be the musculoskeletal experts today. With direct access available to all patients, PTs have done a remarkable job of improving the quality of care, saving millions of dollars by providing cost-effective treatments in so many healthcare areas. The amount of quality peer-reviewed research in demonstrating the efficacy of PT in all the rehab arenas has increased more than 500% since the 1980s.

Here is a look at some of the research conducted by PTs and MDs, demonstrating the value of getting PT for your problems and how it can save you from needless surgeries, medical procedures, and medications.

In 2015 a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine stated, “Lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS), or the narrowing of the open spaces in your spine, can be treated just as successfully with PT as with surgery – and with 15% fewer complications.” A recent study on LSS in Spine, June 2020, found that patients that attended twice a week PT session did much better than patients that received once a week or a third group that received home exercise instructions.

Pre-hab (getting PT sessions before your total joint surgery) is becoming increasingly important due to the mounting evidence of improved outcomes with fewer PT sessions after surgery. Diane Covington, Physician’s Assistant Orthopedic Surgery, Duke University, stated, “It’s true that people who are in better shape going into surgery are in better shape coming out.”

Pain is the leading cause for people to ask their doctors for a referral to PT. The National Institute of Health, 2010 stated that pain affects more Americans than diabetes and cancer combined.

In a revision of a 2008 American Academy of Pediatrics policy statement, the group restated its support for resistance training in the pediatric population and guided assessment, risk avoidance, appropriate training age, and other topics. PTs are trained to teach and instruct these young adults how to prepare and exercise correctly and safely.

A physical therapist can help you move better. Whether you are having trouble reaching into the cupboard, getting out of bed, or putting on your shoes and socks, a PT can help. We spend one-on-one time with you to make sure we address all your concerns and make sure your PT’s goals can be reached. We come up with a comprehensive plan for you to do in PT and at home. We don’t give needless exercises, but exercises that demonstrate improvements. We want to empower you to do things needed to keep you healthy in the long run.

A great example of this is my patient Bruce (not his real name), who came to see me because he had great difficulty getting up off the ski slopes when he falls downhill skiing. Bruce is 82 years old, and we were able to improve his knee range of motion, work on alternative strategies of getting up, and improve his spinal flexibility. All these strategies worked beautifully, and Bruce finished the last of the ski season without a glitch.

Lastly, I like to think of PT in the same way we treat our car or see the dentist for regular check-ups. It is a familiar story that all of us PTs share, a patient had a tight or stiff joint, and they didn’t do anything about it for several years, and now the joint is a lot stiffer, painful, and all the muscles around the joint are weak. These long-term issues make it harder to treat than had we seen that stiff knee two years earlier. Remember, the human body is made to move. It craves it. Our body is built to function around movement. So, get moving, feel better, and if you hurt, see a physical therapist.

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