Written By: Kristy L. Harken, PT, DPT
October is National Physical Therapy Month so it only seems appropriate that this month’s blog post would explore physical therapy as a profession and examine the many benefits that physical therapy has to offer.
Physical therapy as a profession has a long history in the United States dating back to the 1800s with the poliomyelitis epidemic. Since that time, the profession has grown and advanced with the improvements in medical and surgical techniques. Today, we can find physical therapists in a variety of settings including hospitals, outpatient clinics, long term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, and home health. And we find physical therapists working with a broad spectrum of patients and disabilities including orthopedic conditions, cardiovascular diseases, pediatric patients, neuromuscular disorders, cancer survivors, athletes, and workman’s compensation.
Today, all graduating physical therapists earn their clinical doctorate degree—that’s 4 years of undergraduate study plus an additional 3 years of physical therapy school. We are doctors of physical therapy just like an optometrist is a doctor of optometry and a chiropractor is a doctor of chiropractic. While none of these professions hold a medical doctorate (MD), we all hold terminal clinical degrees in our specific field of study (DPT, DO, DC).
Physical therapists are best known as movement scientists. Education focuses on how a non-pathological body is supposed to move, how various diseases affect those movements, and how to correct or adapt movements that have become pathological.
Here are a couple of examples of how physical therapy works with different disease processes:
- Osteoarthritis of the knee might cause pain during ambulation (walking). Research has shown that manual therapy in combination with supervised exercise has functional benefits for patients with knee osteoarthritis and may delay or prevent the need for total knee replacement surgery. Physical therapists are skilled in delivering both manual therapy and appropriate exercise interventions to help decrease osteoarthritis knee pain.
- Parkinson’s disease causes chemical changes in the brain that cause abnormal brain activity and result in movement impairments. Recent research suggest that physical therapy, including gait and balance training and strength training and exercises, may improve or delay the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Physical therapists have the education required to understand the impaired movement patterns and the knowledge to coordinate exercises and activities to positively influence Parkinson’s symptoms.
- Cancer patients and survivors often suffer from a variety of issues during and after cancer treatments. Many patients will experience pain, weakness, numbness, swelling, loss of balance, etc. Exercise has been shown to decrease physical and psychosocial side effects of cancer treatment as well as improve cardiovascular, metabolic, and immune function among other related issues. Physical therapists have the knowledge to program effective exercise interventions, safely monitor and assess the patient’s response, and make appropriate changes based on that response for cancer patients and survivors.
These are just a few of the areas/disabilities/diseases that physical therapists can help with. There is a strong chance that physical therapy can help you with any ache or pain you’ve been dealing with, no matter how old it is. Use physical therapy as a first line of defense; give it a try before the pain medications and the surgeries and before you decide to give up on whatever ails you.
Goodcare AtHome Rehab looks forward to helping you to a better version of yourself. Give us a call today!