National Physical Therapy Month is a nationally recognized celebration each October that was established by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). It aims to highlight the benefits of physical therapy and recognize the 88,000 physical therapists, physical therapist assistants and students of physical therapy who help improve the physical wellbeing of today’s society by restoring motion and minimizing pain in their patients daily lives.
National Physical Therapy Month evolved in 1992 after originating in 1981 as National Physical Therapy Week. This week was originally celebrated in June but the transformation to the month-long celebration was moved to October so it wouldn’t conflict with APTA’s annual conferences and expositions.
Today, National Physical Therapy Month has become so popular that the month is now recognized and celebrated in the National Health Observances calendar.
Each year, APTA creates a central theme to focus on all month long. The public education initiative this year is “Top 7 Myths About Physical Therapy”. Many of us have heard physical therapy misconceptions. So, we are here to help set the record straight and turn fiction into fact!
Top 7 Myths of Physical Therapy:
1. MYTH: I need a referral to see a physical therapist.
FACT: APTA conducted a survey and discovered that 70% of people think they need a referral or prescription in order to be evaluated by a physical therapist. However, all 50 states allow patients to be seen by a physical therapist without a prior referral from a physician.
2. MYTH: Physical therapy is painful.
FACT: The goal of physical therapists is to minimize your pain and discomfort, not make it worse. Physical Therapists work within your pain threshold in order to help you heal and improve movements and functions that are caused from chronic, long-term, or short-term injuries.
3. MYTH: Physical Therapy is only for injuries and accidents.
FACT: Physical therapists do in fact treat injuries and accidents, but their skillsets aren’t limited to just that. They are educated and skilled in evaluating and diagnosing potential problems before they lead to something more severe, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, or chronic headaches.
4. MYTH: Any health care professional can perform physical therapy.
FACT: Even though 42% of consumers know that physical therapy can only be performed by licensed physical therapists, 37% of people still believe other health care professionals can also administer and complete physical therapy evaluations. Physical therapists are specially trained and certified in physical therapy. Some continue their education and receive certifications and competencies in specific area, such as neurology, orthopedics, or hand therapy.
5. MYTH: Physical therapy isn’t covered by insurance.
FACT: Not all, but most insurance policies cover some form of physical therapy. Beyond insurance, physical therapy has proven to reduce costs for patients by helping them avoid unnecessary medical scans, surgery, or medication. Physical therapy also helps patients prevent falls and further accidents by addressing conditions before they happen or before existing conditions become chronic.
6. MYTH: Surgery is my only option.
FACT: 79% of people believe physical therapy can provide a successful alternate to surgery. Studies and multiple cases have shown that physical therapy can be as effective as surgery in treating a variety of conditions, such as rotator cuff tears, degenerative disk disease, meniscal tears, and forms of knee osteoarthritis.
7. MYTH: I can do physical therapy myself.
FACT: Every patient needs to be treated by a trained professional who can provide the proper care and expertise. The therapist will evaluate the patient’s needs and use his/her specialized education to make a diagnosis and create an individualized treatment plan.
With these facts, it is time to seek the treatment you deserve and appreciate the trained physical therapists that help get you there. APTA’s new vision of “Transforming society by optimizing to improve the human experience” can now become a reality through the celebration of National Physical Therapy Month and the knowledge gained from debunking these myths!