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The Past, Present, and Future of Physical Therapy WHY IT’S AN EXCITING TIME TO BE A PATIENT
O ctober is Physical Therapy Awareness month, a time when everybody in the PT field tries spreading the word about all the great things treatment can do for patients. In the midst of all of that, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about how much the industry has changed since I founded Focus Physical Therapy more than 16 years ago. When I look at all the ways the physical therapy paradigm has evolved and the direction it’s going in, it’s easy for me to say that now is a more exciting time than ever to be a physical therapist — and an even better time to be a patient. California has been some form of a “direct access” state ever since I can remember, allowing patients to seek out PT treatment on their own without a referral from a doctor. But since 2015, when legislation switched to allow 12 visits to a physical therapist — or 45 days, whichever comes first — it’s become even easier for those suffering with pain and injury to get the help they need. Still, if you ask most people, they assume they need a physician’s prescription to come in for treatment. Luckily, that’s steadily changing. Over the past 16 years, I’ve seen physical therapists take an increasingly central role in treating disorders that affect the human body’s movement (muscles, tendons, ligaments, nerves, discs, etc.), which is a good thing. More and more patients are coming to us first to address these issues. Primary physicians understand many aspects of the human body better than anybody, but when it comes to movement-related chronic aches and pains, they receive little training in medical school. But treating these problems is a physical therapist’s specialty, what we go to years and years of school to study, and what we do day in and day out.
or refer the patient to a specialist (who frequently then refers them to physical therapy). But we can immediately begin to identify and treat a problem at the root level — and at a drastically reduced cost with reduced risk of complications. Even if a patient did go to a physician first, in many cases they’ll end up in physical therapy anyway, after months of being shuttled around. So, it’s heartening to see patients cutting out the middleman for pains and strains and heading right to us, the movement experts. Meanwhile, doctors benefit as we clear out their schedules, allowing them to focus their time and energy on those life- and-death cases that genuinely need their specific expertise. Most healthy people go to their dentist a couple of times a year, and maybe their physician for a yearly physical. But very few people go to their physical therapist for a yearly musculoskeletal screen to ensure that their body is moving the way it should to prevent injury. Meanwhile, musculoskeletal dysfunction is one of the top five reasons for a doctor’s visit in America, the vast majority of which could easily be prevented if a physical therapist could catch the issue before it becomes a serious problem. Looking toward the future, we’d like to see movement screens become more common in the coming years, as we encourage patients to think of physical therapists as someone you should see every six months or so, not only to reduce the prevalence of injury, but also to reduce the substantial burden on their wallets. We’ve come a long way since I founded Focus, but we still have a long way to go. All in all, the outlook is promising for the entire medical establishment, as physical therapists take the helm on musculoskeletal/ movement disorders and treat more patients than ever with powerful, noninvasive treatments that provide long-lasting benefits.
Primary care physicians will usually do one of three things in the face of chronic pain: prescribe medications, use expensive diagnostic testing,
Focus Physical Therapy • Call 949.709.8770 • 1 -Julian Manriquefocuspt.net
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