Monthly Archives: April 2013

Physical Therapy Helps an Aging Population


Maintaining physical health and fitness becomes increasingly more important as we grow older.

With age come a number of physical hardships that are common to older people – including heart disease, stroke, arthritis and other serious health conditions.

The Baby Boomer generation has become the largest group in the United States. By 2030, the 65-plus population will double to an estimated 71.5 million and will grow to 86.7 million people by 2050, according to the U.S. Census.

And as more of the general population moves toward middle and old age – the treatments and resources provided by physical therapists are becoming popular tools to combat the challenges of aging.  

As we grow older, our bodies require “reprogramming.” We lose flexibility, strength and balance, and maintaining a healthy lifestyle becomes increasingly more difficult.

Older people are also more likely to experience falls that can cause serious long-term injuries – reducing the quality of life and driving up high medical costs.

Most fractures among older adults are caused by falls, with the most common being fractures of the spine, hip, forearm, leg, ankle, pelvis, upper arm and hand, according to the CDC.

And for older adults recovering from even minor injuries it is generally much more difficult than for someone younger – stressing the importance of injury prevention.

Staying fit and healthy is critical in helping the body transition as it grows older – and to avoid injury.

But unfortunately, approximately 70 percent of older adults report no regular exercise, according to the CDC. The lack of mobility and physical activity can make lifestyle adjustments hard.

Physical therapy aims to change this statistic.

Physical therapists are trained to tailor specific plans that help older patients achieve fitness goals, maintain health and, most importantly, stay injury free.

Using a series of exercises, physical therapists build up strength and improve balance – the foundation to avoiding serious and life-threatening injuries. Specialized exercises can also help decrease the loss of bone density and muscle mass, a common problem seem among older people.

Physical therapists provide the tools and resources to reduce the aches and pains of aging and to help ease daily activities that maintain their independence.

While aging may be a difficult transition, physical therapists are key to providing the knowledge that will instill preventative measures that help you now – and in years to come.

For more information and tips on staying “fit after fifty” visit


Guest Blog: Diagnosis Focus or Treatment Impact?

ImageThe Physical Therapy profession is expansive in its scope covering specialized populations, diagnoses, method formulas and models of practice.

A Physical Therapy professional’s style has not been specified by the American Physical Therapy Association, our main governing body. This is good because we have latitude to practice medicine. Have you considered whether you as a clinician focus on diagnosis or treatment? The answer holds importance for you, your patients and our profession.

How does ‘diagnosis focus’ look professionally?

The clinical exam (and follow-up exam) will include the required and necessary clinical tests for the given referral diagnosis – in short, a standard exam. A diagnosis is then applied like a label. The physical therapist’s assessment reviews exam findings, without analyzing associated factors. The patient is given a sheet of general exercises. That’s it – clear cut, clean, and complete. The physical therapist has performed all he or she is obligated to do – to apply tests which any reasonable physical therapist would use for the same referral diagnosis and give general exercises.

Is that all we as physical therapists do?

Many in the medical community believe such things, as do many patients. If a patient arrives believing physical therapist will not take away their pain or restore their full function, do we change their opinion merely through the actions of examination and diagnosis? Patients are always being given diagnoses! Every other provider they see labels them with a diagnosis – do we as professionals enhance a person’s care by diagnosing a condition specifically and giving general exercises? Is that the purpose of the Doctorate of Physical Therapy degree – to prove to the medical community we can diagnose accurately? Practicing in such ways requires low investment of time and effort and will save time…for the provider. We are the musculoskeletal experts – so when we diagnose and apply a general treatment plan, how are we demonstrating our expertise?

How does a ‘treatment impact’ focus look professionally?

The exams will still include relevant clinical tests – in addition to observations or functional tasks employed by the physical therapist to reproduce the patient’s dysfunction. The diagnosis may be the same as for a ‘standard’ exam but the assessment includes a critical analysis of the relevant factors. (ie, the assessment is not a regurgitation of exam findings or a diagnosis label standing alone). The exam ‘extras’ guide the tailored treatment plan as much as the ‘standard’ tests – and in subsequent visits, the plan is modified (often at each exam). This approach requires more provider effort, thought, planning and analysis – and time.

In the end, the ‘treatment impact’ focus has greater potential for full pain-relief and function restoration – because patients present with more (stuff) than do subjects in research studies. A ‘diagnosis focus’ physical therapy practice will meet all obligations and requirements defined by our practice and by research studies. How often do patients present with clearly defined diagnoses, as subjects in research studies?

This ‘treatment impact’ approach also leads to more provider fulfillment since you as a provider use your knowledge and skills to improve a patient’s life, not just diagnose and apply general treatments. Let’s overcome the assumptions of the medical community and patients – let’s excel and advance our profession.

Let’s apply our expertise!

Stephen Seward, PT

For additional blog posts and information on career enhancement and young PT professionals be sure to visit Stephen’s blog: “Advance Your Physical Therapy Career”