While it is easy for most people to choose their favorite team to cheer on the football field in the fall, the stakes are raised even higher when it comes to choosing what providers to join your own healthcare team. Since October is National Physical Therapy Month, it seems to be a fitting time to share with you why you need a physical therapist on your personal healthcare team. Physical
therapists are highly trained movement specialists who work with individuals of all ages and ability levels to maximize their mobility and function, helping to not
only reduce pain but also improve quality of life. Physical therapists provide a host of different services & techniques under one roof, adding tremendous value to the healthcare system at minimal costs. They promote independence and empower people to harness their own health and lifestyle through education. Seeing a physical therapist early and often has been proven to be as effective as surgery and instrumental in recovery from an injury or when suffering from pain.
The vision statement of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is “Transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.” This is a profound summary statement of why physical therapists do what they do. In order to meet this call to action for our local communities, physical therapists are trained at the doctorate level to identify and diagnose
abnormal movement patterns that can cause pain, limit mobility, and decrease the risk for injuries and falls. Physical therapists will do more than just treat your pain symptoms. They work to find the root cause of your pain or movement deficit and will develop an individualized treatment plan, in collaboration with you and other members of your healthcare team, to meet your goals.
A physical therapist’s treatment plan will vary with nature, acuity, and severity of your problem. During your sessions, they may employ many different treatment options with their diverse skill set including therapeutic massage and
soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilization, and manipulation, pain-relieving modalities (such as laser treatments), targeted strengthening and stretching
exercises, balance and coordination training, functional activities to ensure proper movement patterns, treatments for vertigo, relaxation and postural training, bracing and orthotics, and education about your condition and how
maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Having a solid team of healthcare providers will help you more effectively manage your personal health, allowing quicker access to the care you need when you need it. In Florida, you can be evaluated and treated by a physical therapist for 30 days without a referral. What this means is that when you have an episode of back pain or sprain an ankle, you can go directly to a physical therapist and begin rehab right away, helping you get out of pain faster and ultimately back to your normal activities sooner. I would recommend people become established with a physical therapist to help manage and prevent problems throughout their lifespan as they do with other health care practitioners.
There is a large body of evidence that shows that when you are injured or suffering from pain, not only are your outcomes better, but it is more cost-effective when you see a physical therapist first. Patients who visit a physical therapist directly for outpatient care had 86 percent fewer visits on average than those who were referred by a physician in a 2012 study comparing healthcare costs. For many other conditions including rotator cuff tears, knee arthritis, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease, evidence has shown that conservative treatment with a physical therapist has been found to be as effective as surgery followed by physical therapy but with much less risk. New research in 2018
showed that physical therapy as the first point of contact to treat lower back pain reduces individuals’ out of pocket expenses, healthcare dollars spent and reduces the chances of receiving prescription drugs by 87% while improving pain. This is especially crucial with the ongoing opioid crisis in our country. Earlier this year the U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, MPH spoke about how he believes physical therapy will be critical in solving the opioid crisis and in value-based health care. He noted that “It’s an indisputable fact that physical therapists are well-positioned to change the culture around pain management. We know that physical therapy is going to be a part of the evolution of value-based care…stop paying for things that don’t work and
start paying for things that do work, including physical therapy.”
If you don’t already have a physical therapist on your healthcare team, now is the time to add one. You will quickly find their value on your team, not just in resolving pain but also in cost savings, preventing injuries and keeping you moving as your best self!