Today it Hurts… Tomorrow it Works!
While celebrating World Physical Therapy Day and National Physical Therapy Month, we are reminded that physical therapy brings motion to life.
If you want to move forward in life, be sure to mark your calendar for a couple of exciting events in September and October. On Friday, September 8, 2017, we celebrate World Physical Therapy Day and in October, we extend the celebration by honoring National Physical Therapy Month. Apparently this Fall, it’s time to get up, get out and get going!
World Physical Therapy Day gives physical therapists from all over the world the chance to raise awareness about the importance of physical therapy and how it keeps people well, mobile and independent. This year’s theme is Movement for Health, supporting the message of Physical activity for life, which promotes the important role physical therapists play in healthy aging. This annual observance of physical therapy highlights the positive impact physical therapists have on their patients and their communities.
Shortly thereafter in October, National Physical Therapy month is kicked off, and for good reason. A fun motto surrounding physical therapy notes “Today it hurts; tomorrow it works!”
Watch most any newscast these days and you will most likely see some spot about the opioid crisis in America, wherein people turn to prescription opioids for pain management, which in turn has created a national health crisis. However, there are safer alternatives to treat chronic pain conditions, one of which is physical therapy.
By definition, physical therapy is “the treatment of disease, injury, or deformity by physical methods such as massage, heat treatment, and exercise rather than by drugs or surgery.” Physical therapists, then, educate patients on “how to prevent or manage their condition so they will achieve long-term health benefits using treatment techniques designed to promote their ability to move, reduce pain, restore function and prevent disability.”
National Physical Therapy Month (NPTM) is held each October by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). It is designed to recognize the impact physical therapists and physical therapist assistants have in restoring and improving motion in people’s lives. The central focus of this celebration is to focus on avoidance of masking the pain with opioids and instead treating it with physical therapy.
Why should you choose physical therapy for the safe treatment of pain? From personal experience, I sustained a sports-related injury a few years ago and initially was directed towards a pharmacological approach to treat my pain. A bit wary about taking medication, I reluctantly took the pills as directed but immediately realized the side effects were worse than the pain I was experiencing. I inquired, then, about physical therapy as an alternative means to combat the pain and was pleasantly surprised at the results.
According to the APTA, living with pain is not something anyone desires, but no one should risk his or her health in order to be pain-free. For the past two decades, opioid prescriptions have been on the rise, including painkillers such as Vicodin, OxyContin, Opana and methadone, as well as combination drugs like Percocet.
When dosed as recommended, these prescription drugs can be an appropriate part of one’s medical treatment, but the risks associated with the drugs can include depression, overdose, addiction and even withdrawal symptoms when the patient ceases to use them. Shockingly, when a person becomes addicted to prescription opioids, he or she is 40 times more likely to become addicted to heroin.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has stepped up to the plate by initiating a call to action for health care providers to provide patients safer alternatives, like physical therapy, which is a proven way to manage one’s pain without the associated risks and side effects of opioids.
No matter what your age or ability, a physical therapist can help you move towards a pain-free life, as pain-free movement is critical for quality of life, your ability to earn a living and your independence. A physical therapist is trained to identify, diagnose and treat movement problems. They design individual-specific treatment plans to reach goals, overcome challenges and meet the patient’s needs.
Additionally, physical therapy is a potential means to avoid more invasive approaches to treating pain, such as surgery. When sidelined with a second sports injury, my primary care physician was wise enough to suggest I undergo physical therapy first to see if my pain could be eliminated, and for a condition such as mine – a meniscal tear – physical therapy has been reported to be as effective as surgery. And in all honesty, I actually enjoyed my sessions with my physical therapist. Yes, they were grueling and challenging at times, but it sure did beat the alterative of going under the knife, and no medication was required.