In today’s society, physical therapists are treating new ailments that either didn’t exist, or weren’t as prevalent in the past. Conditions such as obesity, back pain, and cancer survivorship have seen large increases in the last 20 years. These conditions result in side effects that are often treated with physical therapy. Patients with these conditions utilize physical therapy services to regain mobility and strength.
As a PT, you’ll be asked to treat a growing number of patients with these conditions currently — and most likely in even greater numbers in the future.
Increased portion sizes, addictive, salt and sugar-laden foods, sedentary lifestyles, and up to 9 hours a day spent in front of the TV and computer screens, are some of the factors contributing to our growing American waistlines. Obesity is defined as a body mass index of 30 or more, regardless of gender. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in every three adults in the U.S. is considered to be obese.
Patients and doctors rely on physical therapy to alleviate pain associated with obesity. For example, PTs may need to treat the following conditions that can be exacerbated by excess body weight:
- Joint pain
- Hip or knee replacement
- Herniated discs
As a physical therapist in today’s world, therapists need to be able to address obesity-related issues and recommend therapy accordingly.
Many American workers spend 40 or more hours each week seated in front of a computer screen. As a result, spinal pain — specifically lower back pain — has become a common problem. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, almost two-thirds of Americans have lower back pain, and 37 percent never seek care to alleviate it. This creates a huge opportunity for physical therapists, as many people don’t realize they can treat and alleviate back pain, or even prevent it altogether.
Back pain is a preventative condition, but the interaction between the spinal column and nerves are complex and the symptoms are mystifying. Therapists who specialize in treating the spine often have full schedules and waiting lists for new patients.
Educating the general public about back pain is one way to establish your services as an effective alternative to surgery and build credibility as an expert. When minor back pains become major, your clinic will have a reputation as the place to go for help.
According to the American Cancer Society, in 2015, there will be an estimated 1,658,370 new cancer cases diagnosed and 589,430 cancer deaths in the U.S. As cancer treatments become more effective, the number of cancer survivors has skyrocketed. Beyond surgery and chemotherapy, patients require rehabilitation to help them survive cancer. According to the British Journal of Cancer and the World Confederation of Physical Therapy, moderate exercise can reduce the rate of death from cancer by 34 percent, and can help improve survival rates by 33 percent.
As cancer treatments can be extremely hard on patients’ bodies, more doctors are prescribing physical therapy treatment sessions during and after cancer to help maintain strength and reduce fatigue. After treatment, patients who are unable to perform activities of daily living are in need of rehabilitative services that include physical therapy, as well as occupational and speech therapy.
The increasing need for physical therapy
Physical therapists have a unique opportunity to improve the health of our population, help patients alleviate pain, and add to their overall quality of life. As conditions such as obesity, back pain, and cancer become more common, PTs will be in higher demand than ever before.
Looking to grow in your PT career?
Look no further than PT Solutions. We’re a healthcare staffing firm run by therapists for therapists and we’ll work with you to find a placement that meets your career needs. To learn more, check out our job search page, or contact one of our experienced therapy employment specialists today!
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