By: Dr. Tanvi Maharaja PT, DPT
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) celebrates the month of October every year as the National Physical Therapy Month (NPTM). This is a great reminder of the role of the profession of physical therapy in everyday lives, and the contribution of all PT’s, PTA’s, and student PT’s and PTA’s to the community. Physical therapy (PT) has always been focused on movement and activity; PT’s are known as the Movement Specialists, and this past couple years, more than ever, is a wake up call to pay more attention to our health and the many simple ways we can be healthier physically and mentally.
PT dates back more than a century, and has evolved from simple care of post-operative and injured soldiers in the second world war, to a very wide field now backed by science, or evidence based practice, as it is technically called. New PT programs now have a clinical doctorate degree (like chiropractors and dentists), and PT’s are extensively trained to treat the whole person and screen for undetected pathologies which may or may not be associated with their presenting conditions. In most states across the country, patients can see a PT directly without seeing an MD.
You can see a PT for almost any injury, ache, or pain. The broad subspecialties include Orthopedics, Neurology, Cardiovascular, Vestibular, Pelvic Health, and Electrodiagnostics. PT’s can help with conditions that we all know about, like joint and muscle pain, nerve pain and radiculopathies, post-surgical tendon and joint surgeries including total joint replacement, individuals with vertigo, cerebral palsy, or post-stroke, and in the intensive care unit after cardiothoracic surgeries. They can also help you with lesser known conditions such as headaches, jaw pain, facial palsy, urinary incontinence, pain with intercourse, pregnancy and post-birth conditions, tailbone pain, wound care, lymphedema, and even with fall risk in the elderly. This is a very brief summary and does not even begin to scratch the surface of everything that PT has to offer!
Physical therapy can enhance quality of life and improve function (which is usually a combination of mobility, strength, coordination, and balance). Movement and exercise not only help with condition-specific benefits, but also in the aerobic nature of any of these exercises. Thus, if you have been seeking PT for knee osteoarthritis, the exercises for the knee will also help with general conditioning, and are great for your heart, lungs, other joints and muscles besides the knee, and even for the brain. We now know that exercising improves cognition through its effect on increasing blood flow to the brain.
And exercising during PT and the conversations and education that PT offers usually helps in a little more awareness of the importance of physical activity in life and develops a mindset that evolves over time as far as healthy lifestyle changes are concerned. Most patients who exercise for a few weeks see all the benefits it has to offer, and often end up making exercising in general a part of their lives! Sounds like a win-win-win all around!
So if you haven’t seen a PT yet for that bothersome back or knee, now’s a great time!!
Happy PT month to all my fellow professionals! We ARE making a difference! To health and wellness!!