As more Americans look to maintain health and wellness as they age, there is an increased demand for preventative measures in healthcare.  The various diet and exercise trends highlight this shift in attention.  Yet still, many are left with questions on how and where to start. As more people look to prevent injury, more efficiently use their healthcare benefits, and return to doing activities they love, physical therapists find themselves playing a larger role in helping people maintain their health. Subsequently, physical therapists are emerging as a first point of contact in preventative care.

Physical therapy is effective in reducing pain and preventing injury

Traditionally, physical therapists help individuals rehabilitate after an injury.  However, they also play an important role in injury prevention.  By recognizing areas for improvement ahead of time, one can expect to minimize risk of injury all together.  Physical therapists evaluate movement impairments and prescribe exercises and treatment techniques to restore function, reduce pain, and prevent disability. From there, treatment plans can be made to address specific deficits with personalized outcome goals in mind.

Additionally, the effect of direct access for physical therapy without a physician referral has made it easier for patients to interact with physical therapists on a preventative level as well.  A call to a physical therapy clinic can result in an appointment within 48 hours, meaning individuals can begin working towards their goals right away.

Physical therapy can decrease the need for further medical treatment

Physical therapy is a cost effective, non-invasive approach to diagnosing and treating a variety of conditions and injuries. For example, a recent report1 found people who receive physical therapy first for an episode of low back pain are half as likely to need surgery, injections, or imaging.  In addition, the number of physician office visits reduced by one third. Furthermore, these patients reported a significant reduction in prescription opioid use.

The same goes for many other ailments! In fact, many patients find that physical therapy can delay the need for surgical intervention of many in depth surgeries such as hip and knee replacements.  Not only that, but multiple reports suggest that physical therapy treatment can be as effective as many common knee and shoulder surgeries2,3,4,5.  Ultimately, avoiding surgery means reduced burden for individuals both physically and financially.

Physical therapy can assist with maximizing quality of life

The adage “sitting is the new smoking” is often used to describe the rise of disease and impairments caused by a sedentary lifestyle. Yet over half of people who start an exercise program quit within 6 months. Oftentimes, this is due to discomfort, pain, and frustration. However, these aspects are routinely addressed in physical therapy treatment. As a result, this can lead to successful development and adherence to an exercise regimen-whether it is at home or a gym.

For some, the goal of improving fitness is less of a priority than improving daily function.  Physical therapists collaborate with patients to remove barriers that prevent every day activities and provide guidance and support to help them achieve their goals. Whether a person has difficulty getting in and out of bed in the morning or is training to run a marathon, physical therapists can assist in improving function for all age and skill levels.

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Cody Lindsey PT, DPT is a physical therapist and Clinic Director at Edgebrook Physical Therapy in Rockford, IL. Click here to find out more about the services offered at Edgebrook Physical Therapy