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October is Physical Therapy Month

110613-N-YM336-071 October is a good month to remind people of the important role that physical therapists play in the lives of many injured people.  Physical therapists are often the first point of contact for injured people as Idaho is a direct access state.  This means that you do not need a doctor’s prescription to get treatment; you can come directly to PT without going to your doctor first.  Medicare does require a “signed plan of care” which is different than a prescription.  Your doctor must have knowledge (ie:  documented it) of your injury or pain situation prior to coming to PT.   Physical therapy is covered by all insurances, Medicare, and Medicaid.

Physical therapists are uniquely qualified to do a thorough examination.  We will take a detailed history inquiring about the nature of the pain:  is it constant or intermittent, dull or sharp?  You may be asked to rate your pain on a scale of 1-10.  We want to know what makes the pain better or worse or if there are any neurologic signs like numbness, tingling, or pain down the arms or legs.  If your sleep is disturbed due to pain, this may be a sign of a more severe condition vs. one that does not disturb your sleep.

An objective exam may involve testing range of motion, strength, balance, or neurologic function.  We always touch or palpate the injured area and often will examine the joint above and below to see if it is involved.  Treatments vary widely among therapists.  I always encourage patients to inquire what type of training a PT has had and what there specialty area is.  Many therapists have a treatment room as well as an open area with equipment.  Modalities such as electric stimulation and ultrasound are often used to decrease pain and swelling.  Hands on techniques such as joint and soft tissue mobilization are often used to decrease joint stiffness, swelling ,and to improve joint hydration.  Exercise is often used in the clinic especially following surgeries to improve muscle strength.  Home programs are very important to ensure there is carry over when the patient is not in treatment.  Physical therapists are required to document patient evaluation and treatment.  We must have a treatment plan with functional goals.  We will often send a report to the primary care physician.

Physical therapists often specialize their training.  In addition to treating orthopedic injuries of the spine, shoulder, knee, etc, they may specialize in neurologic issues such as stroke, MS, or spinal cord injuries.  Amputations, burns, and cardiac rehab are other areas of specialty.  Some PT s treat according to age groups:  pediatrics or geriatrics.

For questions regarding Physical Therapy please contact Mary Boyd, MS, PT at 290-5575

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