02 November 2008

Physical therapy: It’s all about movement

By Erik Nieuwenhuis
October is National Physical Therapy Month, and this year’s theme is “It’s All About Movement!”Physical therapists are the movement experts. We help people move forward. e help people who have had a stroke or an amputation regain their independence. We help millions of Americans manage or eliminate their neck or back pain. We educate and lead workers and companies to work smart and improve the ergonomics in their workplace and homes. We help children with cerebral palsy improve their overall function and participation in life.Movement is essential to our everyday lives at work, home and play. Movement is an essential ingredient in your daily health and quality of life! Having the ability to move safely and effectively is crucial in our lives and the lives of the people physical therapists treat. The physical therapy profession empowers people to move forward and take control of the movement that is essential in everyone’s life.

What is a physical therapist?Physical therapists are good people to know. They’’re educated in understanding the interaction of all your body parts. Their hands-on approach begins with examination, diagnosis, and then treatment of the immediate problem. Then they teach you how to take care of yourself by showing you how to do exercises and how to use and move your body properly to gain strength and mobility while preventing injury and wear and tear to your body. You’ll find them advising on proper work smart posture and body mechanics in the workplace, treating injuries, consulting on fitness/wellness and self care of the working, aging body. You’ll also find them treating patients in the hospital, clinic or home settings. Today physical therapists provide help for every part of the body and to everyone from infants to the elderly, serving more than one million people each day.Where do physical therapists practice?- Outpatient clinics or private practice n 41.5 percent- Outpatient hospitals n14.5 percent- Acute hospitals n 13.1 percent- Patient’s home (home health) n 7.9 percent- Skilled nursing, extended care, or sub-acute facilities n 5.6 percent- Academic institutions n 4.8 percent- Schools (Pre-School, Primary and Secondary) n 4.1 percent- Inpatient rehab facilities n 3.5 percent- Hospices- Industrial, workplace or occupational environments- Fitness centers, health clubs, sports training facilities- ResearchAPTA website June 2007 http://www.apta.org/Educational requirementsCurrently, nearly 200 colleges and universities nationwide offer professional physical therapy education programs.Des Moines University, the University of Iowa, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of South Dakota offer physical therapy programs close to the tri-state area. Western Iowa Tech Community College also offers a physical therapy assistant program. Most physical therapy programs require a student graduate from an accredited four year college and take prerequisite classes for the physical therapy school the student is applying to.Employment outlookThe demand for physical therapists is expected to grow much faster than the average for all occupations through 2014. The demand for physical therapists should continue to grow as the number of individuals with disabilities or limited function increases. Job opportunities are expected to be particularly good in acute hospital, rehabilitation, and orthopedic settings because the elderly receive the most treatment in these settings. Plus, widespread interest in health promotion should increase demand for physical therapy services at the worksite and health clubs. A growing number of employers are using physical therapy services to evaluate worksites, develop exercise programs and teach WorkSmart and safety habits to employees to reduce injuries, claims and costs.Daily job tasksWe treat patients to: improve mobility, relieve pain, increase strength and balance, improve coordination and prevent or limit permanent physical disabilities of patients suffering from injuries or disease.Physical therapists restore, maintain, and promote overall fitness and health.Our patients include accident victims from motor vehicle accidents and slip, trip and fall injuries, individuals with disabling conditions such as lower back pain, arthritis, heart disease and stroke, diabetes or those with amputations, fractures or total knee and hip replacements among others.Physical therapists determine the patient’s ability to be independent and reintegrate into the community or workplace after an injury or illness with the goal of improving how an individual functions at work, play and home.Therapists also teach patients how to use assistive and adaptive devices to improve their safety and independence.Sources:1. American Physical Therapy Association Website at http://www.apta.org/2. US News and World Report 20063. Erik Nieuwenhuis MS, PT My Life and Career as a Physical TherapistContact Erik Nieuwenhuis at St Luke’s IMPACC WorkSmart and WELLness Services at 712-279-1842 or Nieuween@stlukes.org

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