Do you have an orthopedic surgery coming up and the doctor has mentioned physical therapy and rehabilitation? Is Mom or Dad hospitalized unexpectedly and now needing physical therapy post hospitalization? While you might be fully aware of what physical therapy is, do you REALLY know what it is they do? Why is physical therapy important? And why should we be celebrating it this month?
National Physical Therapy Month is this month, October! The goal of the month-long celebration is to raise awareness of the important role that physical therapists and physical therapy assistants play in helping people decrease pain, improve mobility, and engage in healthy lifestyles. National Physical Therapy Week was initially celebrated each June starting in 1981. In 1992, the week was moved to October so as to not conflict with the American Physical Therapy Association national conference in June. It was then declared that the entire month of October would be designated National Physical Therapy Month.
Physical therapists are healthcare professionals who work with individuals who have lost the ability to perform functional activities in their daily lives. As part of their job, they work one-on-one with patients to diagnose and treat a wide range of medical problems and conditions including bone fractures, muscle sprains, amputations, post-op surgical needs, strength training for assistive devices, walking or bed mobility, stroke, cerebral palsy, spinal/joint pain, weakness from long-term conditions such as copd or chf, and the list goes on. Physical therapists will perform an initial assessment to determine what the best course of action will be to restore mobility, alleviate or manage pain, or prevent further deterioration. During the assessment, the therapists will examine you and talk to you about your symptoms and your daily activities. They may evaluate how you ambulate, your balance, coordination and control, among other physical abilities. From this, they will begin to develop a treatment plan or care plan, complete with therapies involved and a timeline for expected recovery or improvement. While formulating this plan, they also consult with doctors, nurses, coordinators, and another clinical staff. The plan may include exercise and training, traction, cold, heat, as well as prosthetic devices, assistive devices, and other equipment. Goals will be included and may involve helping joints move better to increase flexibility, building muscle to increase strength, or endurance to maintain stance and ambulation. Some goals may even include identifying potential problems and ceasing them before they can become a problem.
The actual therapy almost always includes exercise. Exercises can include stretching, weight lighting, walking, biking, and climbing. Tools may be used doing your therapy program and can include mobility balls, weights, stationary bikes, treadmills, stairs, pulleys, and elastic bands. Cold may be used to relieve pain, swelling, and inflammation. Heat may be used to help relax and heal muscles and soft tissues by increasing blood circulation. While on the program, you will learn tips to take home with you so you can maintain and continue the exercise program. Therapists will keep detailed records of their evaluations, treatment, and your progress toward your goals. It is normal to feel mild soreness or swelling while on your treatment. Even so, always talk to your therapist about how you are feeling. During the course of therapy, there will be re-examinations to see if you have achieved your anticipated goals and outcomes, and develop new ones along the way. Closer to the end of therapy, discharge plans will also be developed. The goal in physical therapy is not only for you to restore, maintain, or promote optimal physical function, but optimal wellness and quality of life as it relates to your health. Your daily tasks and activities will hopefully seem a lot easier once you return home. For example, walking, going up stairs, or getting in and out of bed may have been impossible if you had not chosen to get physical therapy. Sometimes improvement may simply be learning and changing how you do your regular activities in order to give or maintain the best possible health benefits.
We are so proud of our physical therapists at Mitchell-Hollingsworth as we hear patients sing their praise after rehabilitation. They are often known for their encouraging attitudes, supportiveness, and the willingness to never give up on anyone. They are remembered for their tips and tricks for safer living at home. Patients go home knowing rehabilitative exercises, and optimal use with assistive devices such as crutches, walkers, and prostheses. They teach the way to protect joints and reduce injury, and ways to make your home safer if you have strength, balance, or vision problems. We encourage you to use this time as a reminder to thank a physical therapist. Thank them for the wonderful role they play in society in helping to manage pain, improve mobility, restore function, and last but not least, educate.