Small Steps, Big Impact
While I’ve long appreciated the role that physical therapy plays in prevention and rehabilitation, I never truly realized how vital physical therapists are until recently.
While I’ve long appreciated the role that physical therapy plays in prevention and rehabilitation, I never truly realized how vital physical therapists are until recently. When a health care crisis hits close to home and you see various members of the medical team in action, first-hand observation can be an eye-opening experience. As my brother navigates through the challenges of his stroke, I’ve witnessed the importance of his physical therapy team. Working closely with occupational therapists, physical therapists improve the patient’s quality of life.
Physical therapists are considered movement experts in medical care. They diagnose and treat individuals of all ages with medical problems or other health-related conditions that limit their abilities to move and perform functional activities in their daily lives. Many of you may have sought help from physical therapists due to the nature of dental hygiene practice. They treat repetitive motion disorders, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as other pain (eg, back, shoulder, arm) related to our working conditions. Other maladies physical therapists help remedy include:
- Developmental delays
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Hand injuries
- Sports injuries
Physical therapists provide services in a variety of settings and the US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects this profession will grow by almost 40% by 2020. Physical therapists must earn a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree (DPT) from an accredited program and pass a state licensure exam to legally practice. As part of their education, physical therapists participate in approximately 6 months of clinical experience at hospitals, extended care facilities, or other settings. Residencies and fellowships can also be pursued after a DPT is obtained, thus enabling a physical therapist to specialize in a specialty, such as cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases, geriatrics, neurology, sports physical therapy, and women’s health.
The impact of a dedicated physical therapist is remarkable. I’ve seen my brother progress from not being able to support his own weight while sitting in a chair to standing on his own for several minutes. As I watch my brother relearn to not just stand, but to walk and ambulate, it’s obvious that physical therapy improves these abilities. Just as important, such improvements have a profound, positive influence on an individual’s mental state. That first step, no matter how small, has an immediate and lasting effect that contributes to the next step…and then the next. With God’s grace and hard work, those who were once helpless can advance to a better state, and physical therapists make that possible.
Jill Rethman, RDH, BA
Editor in Chief
From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. October 2018;16(10):8.