Last week we learned that physical therapy has been influential since 460 BC, before a healthcare system was even in place. Like most things, physical therapy has come a long way since then, and it is constantly evolving to better fit patient needs. During World War II and the polio epidemic, physical therapy services were used as post-operative recovery methods or last-resort treatments for patients who were willing to try anything for relief.
Back then, patients would be given generic exercises, some muscle massages techniques, and ankle, wrist, or elbow joint movement to help relieve pain. If the patient didn’t respond to treatment right away, it was thought that physical therapy just wasn’t right for them.
Thankfully, these outdated approaches to care have been abandoned and a growing focus on research and improved access to care for patients has allowed physical therapy to become the primary treatment for many different conditions.
As physical therapy grew, and a recognized need to educate more physical therapists on the needs of patients became more prevalent, new programs were put in place.
Today, physical therapists have gotten rid of the one size fits all approach and are using up to date clinical reasoning and evidence-based practice. This means providers are making decisions and using treatment techniques that are based on sound research and trials while always reviewing new evidence to ensure the best treatments are used for each patient's needs.
Patients are now given personalized exercises and stretches tailored to their issues and altered for their level of fitness. From pediatrics to the elderly, athletes and weekend warriors to non-athletes, our physical therapists specialize in many different techniques to help them return to their pre-injury lifestyle. As treatment progresses, patients will be given more challenging workouts that can even help take their fitness level to new heights. If seen earlier on, physical therapy can even help prevent the need for operations or medications to reduce pain. Because all patients are unique, their care will always be modified to meet their needs.
New methods of treatment have continued to develop that can benefit patients in different ways. For instance; aquatic therapy helps reduce your weight allowing you to workout without the pressure on your joints and spine, Dry Needling helps to trigger knots within muscles and help reduce pain and tightness in the muscles, and Blood Flow Restriction helps rehabilitate patients who may not have the strength to use specific muscles due to weakness or a post-operative status.
What does this mean for patients?
Due to the evolution of treatment methods, patients can start rehabilitation earlier. This means patients no longer wait weeks to begin physical therapy like they would years ago. In the early years of physical therapy, patients would wait longer for treatment putting them at a higher risk of re-injuring themselves leading to a longer recovery period, sometimes not even seeing a full recovery.
Now, patients begin prehab treatments before surgery which helps your body reduce pain and increase strength, so you come out of an operation better prepared for rehabilitation. By starting your rehab days after leaving the hospital, you are speeding up your recovery process, receiving advanced levels of healing, and recovering in a safe environment to ensure a complete recovery.
Not only do patients see results faster, but physical therapists work to get to the root of patients' mobility and pain issues and help reverse some of the effects before the need for operations or medications.
As the profession continues to grow and it becomes more recognizable, patients will have more choices for their healthcare with hopes that physical therapy will soon become patients' first stop for their physical needs.