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Optimize Your Body's Movement and Aging Well with Physical Therapy

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October is National Physical Therapy Month, a time to recognize and appreciate the physical therapists and physical therapist assistants in your life as “movement specialists.” “Aging Well” is the theme for 2015, and physical therapists and physical therapist assistants are the experts in helping individuals overcome pain and stiffness, optimize your body’s movement, and preserve independence as we age greatly reducing the need or dependence of long-term prescription drug use and even surgery in many cases. The vision statement for the physical therapy profession is; “Transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.”  

More than 204,000 physical therapists are licensed in the United States today. Physical therapists are the experts in diagnosing, restoring, and optimizing the movement of your body crucial to your quality of life and vitality at work, home, school, and play. Therapeutic exercise and functional training are the cornerstones of physical therapy treatment and plans of care. Physical therapists evaluate patients or clients and develop a plan of care that promotes movement, reduce stiffness and pain, restores function, improves fitness and sport, and prevents or assists to manage disability. As you make important health care decisions for you, your family, and your workplace, it is great to remember physical therapists and physical therapy assistants.

Here are just a few things that physical therapists can do for you:

  • Physical therapists evaluate and treat patients to improve joint mobility and range of motion from arthritis, relieve pain, increase strength and balance, improve coordination and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from musculoskeletal injuries or disease.
  • They also restore, maintain and promote overall fitness, vitality, and health.  
  • Their patients may include accident victims from motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) and slip, trip and fall injuries (STFs) and individuals with disabling conditions such as lower back pain, arthritis, heart disease and stroke, diabetes, fractures, total knee and hip replacements, cumulative trauma disorders (CTDs) such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, blackberry thumb, and more.
  • Physical therapists determine the patient’s ability to be independent and re-integrate into the community or workplace after an injury or illness. A physical therapist’s goal is to improve how an individual functions at work, play and at home.
  • They may use manual therapy techniques such as joint mobilization, myofascial release, muscle energy technique, friction massage, trigger point release, positional release and soft tissue mobilization. Manual therapy techniques are used to speed the rehabilitation process by reducing pain and stiffness, improving range of motion, restoring proper joint biomechanics and restoring quality of life and functional movement much faster.
  • Physical Therapists also use modalities such as Iontophoresis, ultrasound, electrical stimulation, cold and hot packs, and ice massage to relieve pain and inflammation and to reduce swelling. They may also use mechanical or manual traction or deep tissue massage to relieve pain from facet joints or bulging discs.
  • Therapists teach patients how to use assistive and adaptive devices such as canes, walkers, crutches, and wheelchairs to improve their safety and independence.

Where Do Physical Therapists Practice?   

  • Outpatient clinics or private practice
  • Outpatient hospitals
  • Acute care hospitals
  • Patients home (home health)
  • Skilled nursing, extended care, or sub-acute facilities
  • Academic institutions
  • Schools (pre-school, primary and secondary)
  • Inpatient rehab facilities
  • Hospice
  • Industrial and workplace environments
  • Wellness, prevention, and sports and fitness centers
  • Local, State, and Federal Governments
  • Research Center
  • Other

Employment Outlook and Job Satisfaction for Physical Therapy

U.S. News and World Report ranked physical therapists sixth on its list of the 100 best jobs. Physical Therapists were given a grade of “A for Personal Satisfaction” as a quality of life indicator in 2012 by CNNMoney.com. Benefits of choosing a career in physical therapy are; making a daily difference in people’s lives, loving your job, choosing your job location, and being an entrepreneur.   

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of physical therapists is expected to grow by 39% through 2020, much faster than the average for all occupations. Job opportunities should be particularly good in acute hospital, rehabilitation hospitals, outpatient clinics, home health, and workplace and wellness environments due to baby boomers’ advancing ages, chronic conditions such as diabetes, obesity, and chronic pain in our workforce. 

A growing number of employers in the Siouxland area are using physical therapy services pro-actively to evaluate worksite ergonomics, improve workplace body mechanics and posture habits, and teaching employees how to WorkSmart using a “staggered stance/ athletic-ready posture” to protect their lower back, shoulders and knees from injury. This WorkSmart Industrial Athlete ergonomics training greatly improves productivity, body mechanics and posture habits of employees, helping to reduce musculoskeletal injury risk factors, thereby reducing the days away from work and restricted time claims and days and their associated health care costs by 30 to 90% in one to three years.

For more information on the career of physical therapy or to schedule an appointment with a physical therapist, call UnityPoint Health - St. Luke’s rehabilitation services at 712-279-3178.