Bridging the (BIG) Gap: Physical Therapy and Physical Activity

Bridging the Gap

When flipping through magazines or tuning into the local news and radio stations, one will recognize a topic constantly discussed: the health of our society. This is a common topic of conversation given that physical inactivity is the leading health concern of the decade.1

Over the last 50 years, an increase in sedentary occupations has resulted in daily energy expenditure dropping by 100 calories,1 which has influenced the current obesity epidemic. Leisure activities have become saturated by technology bringing about back and neck pain and further promoting a sedentary lifestyle.2 These trends have ultimately influenced the current health status of society as physical inactivity contributes to 3.2 million deaths per year.3

Often people are physically inactivate due to musculoskeletal impairments as a reported 25% of patient complaints are linked to musculoskeletal issues.4 An apparent gap exists between injury and physical activity, and who better to help to bridge this gap than the musculoskeletal experts: physical therapists.

Physical therapists have the ability to play a powerful role in prevention and wellness as they hold valuable knowledge and skills that can enhance health care both in and out of the rehabilitation clinic.

Transition Program

During physical therapy sessions, patients are given individualized attention, instruction, reassurance, and motivation to meet healing goals and progress through the rehabilitation process. Upon discharge, the individualized physical therapy instruction comes to an end, leaving patients with body part specific tasks on a home exercise program and the expectation that they will return to whole body exercise.

Those who demonstrate good exercise awareness may be able to smoothly transition into the maintenance phase, but for many, a physical therapy session is the first time participating in structured exercise. This may leave patients feeling overwhelmed and afraid to exercise on their own.

One study5 has shown that this fear can lead to the development of continued musculoskeletal pain and thus result in activity avoidance. Having formed a strong relationship with patients, physical therapists are important figures that can help a patient overcome their fears about physical activity beyond physical therapy.

A benefit of this initiative is that a physical therapist will have knowledge on a patient’s past medical history which creates a seamless transition into an appropriate exercise program. This also creates an opportunity for the patient to continue to exercise with individualized attention to chronic injuries, disease processes, or impairments. This type of program can also be combined with other health and wellness services such as nutritionists, massage therapists, and instruction on specialized exercises like Pilates or yoga.  The physical therapist’s knowledge and presence on-site influences collaborative care and the ability for immediate attention and guidance to any issues that may arise.

Be on the look-out and take advantage of the opportunities that physical therapy clinics offer to continue to achieve overall health and wellness goals. Let us help you continue on your journey!

Collaboration

Community programs are great resources for health promotion and physical activity. Specifically, many people choose group fitness classes as a way to get back into exercise. It is fun, social, and interesting, and participants can show up without prior exercise knowledge.6 A group setting promotes accountability, and workouts are planned by a certified instructor.6

Physical therapists are prime candidates to enrich the group fitness experience. Evidence states7 that under orthopedists, physical therapists demonstrate the highest level of musculoskeletal knowledge over any other health care provider. Physical therapists acquire extensive knowledge on the human body and movement sciences through education in anatomy, biomechanics, and pathophysiology while using evidence-based research to direct intervention and care.8

Combining the musculoskeletal knowledge of a physical therapist and the exercise skills of a certified exercise professional creates a dynamic and collaborative team. The certified exercise instructor can provide the motivation and experience for people to exercise, and the physical therapist can be the one to help keep them moving pain free.

So go ahead and ask us about proper form or how to use a machine correctly. We are happy to help!

The Community

Community centers, corporate offices, and fitness studios offer a variety of opportunities for physical activity. Silver Sneakers is a program available for those over 65 years of age and with eligible health insurance.9 This program entitles qualified individuals to free or discounted memberships at community recreation centers, a variety of exercise classes, and health events.9

For those who are 18-64 years of age with eligible health insurance, Healthways Prime Program offers free annual memberships to different fitness networks.9 These initiatives provide people health resources and opportunities in an effort to motivate and promote the importance of staying active.9 Be sure to look into the wellness benefits that your insurance provider offers!

So, what else can be done? Therapists can hold workshops at studios or community centers to educate instructors and participants about anatomy, biomechanics, injury prevention, and exercises. Our knowledge will not only promote safe exercise but will also build rapport and credibility amongst the participants and instructors with the hope of empowering people to continue to be physically active no matter their circumstance.

If you are a fitness studio, recreation center, or corporate office that is looking to boost your wellness program, call a physical therapist to be a part of your team!

Courtney Hasson, PT, DPT

References

  1. Blair S. Physical inactivity: the biggest public health problem of the 21st century. British journal of sports medicine. 2009;43(1):1-2.
  2. Alexander Radcliffe S. Is Technology Causing a Lifetime of Pain for Millennials?. Healthline. 2016. Available at: http://www.healthline.com/health-news/is-technology-causing-a-lifetime-of-pain-for-millennials-050415. Accessed January 16, 2017.
  3. The Global Burden of Disease 2004 Update. 1st ed. World Health Organization; 2004. Available at: http://www.who.int/healthinfo/global_burden_disease/GBD_report_2004update_full.pdf. Accessed January 17, 2017.
  4. Pinney SRegan W. Educating medical students about musculoskeletal problems. The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery-American Volume. 2001;83(9):1317-1320.4
  5. Vlaeyen JLinton S. Fear-avoidance and its consequences in chronic musculoskeletal pain: a state of the art. Pain. 2000;85(3):317-332. doi:10.1016/s0304-3959(99)00242-0.
  6. Dolan S. Benefits of Group Exercise. Acsmorg. 2016. Available at: http://www.acsm.org/public-information/articles/2016/10/07/benefits-of-group-exercise. Accessed January 25, 2017.
  7. Childs J, Whitman J, Sizer P, Pugia M, Flynn T, Delitto A. A description of physical therapists’ knowledge in managing musculoskeletal conditions. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2005;6(1). doi:10.1186/1471-2474-6-32.
  8. Physical Therapist (PT) Education Overview. Aptaorg. 2017. Available at: http://www.apta.org/PTEducation/Overview/. Accessed January 26, 2017.
  9. The Natatorium – Silver Sneakers & Prime. Fallsnatcom. 2017. Available at: http://www.fallsnat.com/membership/silver-sneakers. Accessed January 20, 2017.
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