Physical Therapy Awareness Month is in October, and we look forward to recognizing the incredible work of our amazing Allied Healthcare Professionals.
The leaves are turning, it’s officially Autumn and there’s something to celebrate!
The American Physical Therapy Association’s President Sharon Dunn, PT, Ph.D. says, “National Physical Therapy Month (NPTM) is an annual opportunity to recognize the physical therapy profession’s efforts to transform society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.”This “transformative power” is the crux of the Physical Therapy professionClick To Tweet
Anyone who has worked with a Physical Therapist on their journey to health knows “transformative” is the perfect word to describe the abilities of these medical professionals.
Did you know that the very first National Physical Therapy Week was celebrated in June 1981? In the 80’s it was only a week, but now we celebrate an entire month.
Because June conflicted with the APTA annual national conference, the celebration was moved to October.
Ever since the celebration moved to October, the APTA has chosen a focal health theme that pertains to physical therapy for each annual celebration.
Examples of past themes include:
- Lower back pain
Every year, we look forward to celebrating the important, life-changing work performed by Physical Therapists!
Physical Therapy Month Activities: #ChoosePT
This year, the APTA will honor Physical Therapists with a national campaign called #ChoosePT.
By providing a variety of physical therapy month activities, APTA and those who participate will focus their energy on educating the public about alternatives to opioid use.
Specifically, this theme intends to inform the general public about the dangers of opioid use and how physical therapy offers a natural, safe, and effective alternative for pain management.
This choice couldn’t come at a more appropriate time. The opioid epidemic in our country is reaching devastating proportions.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM), drug overdose is the primary cause of accidental death in our country. Take a look at these shocking statistics from 2014:
- 1.9 million Americans had a substance abuse disorder that involved prescription pain medication.
- 586,000 had a substance abuse disorder that involved heroin.
- 80 percent of new heroin users become addicted after misusing prescription painkillers.
- 47,055 people died as a result of a drug overdose.
- 18,893 of these deaths were caused by prescription pain relievers.
- 10,574 were caused by heroin.
This makes opioids the main driver of overdose deaths in our country.
In 2012, doctors wrote 259 million prescriptions for opioid painkillers. That’s enough to give every U.S. adult more than an entire bottle of pills which could easily lead to an addition.
The activities that take place during Physical Therapy Awareness Month focus provide an extensive effort to raise awareness of and address the human toll of the opioid epidemic.
Let’s consider the main two problems with opioid-based pain relievers:
- They do not heal whatsoever.
- They are highly addicting.
Unlike antibiotics and other healing-based medication, opioids provide no medical benefit aside from pain relief. They interact with the user’s nervous system and nerve receptors. Pain relief is enormously necessary but must be monitored by professionals due to the side effects.
Dulling the nerve receptions results in relief from pain, and oftentimes the production of pleasurable feelings.
This brings us to our second point.
The issue is that this can—and often does—result in addiction. Addiction is a brain disease that results in the pathological pursuit of pain relief or pleasure at the expense of someone’s mental, emotional, and physical health.
It’s clear that providing a safe, non-addictive, alternative for pain relief is crucial. Physical Therapy can do this, and raising awareness will:
- keep people healthy
- saving lives by reducing opioid use
- combat the socially devastating impact of the opioid epidemic
Let’s further explore Physical Therapy as an alternative to opioid use.
Physical Therapy Month Ideas: The Alternative
There are a variety of illnesses that rely on opioids, such as patients receiving cancer treatment, palliative care, or end-of-life care. For most patients who do not fall into those categories, physical therapy is the right alternative.
There are many physical therapy month ideas to consider when the goal is overcoming opioid reliance.
Oftentimes injury to the musculoskeletal system is the driver behind a prescription to opioids, as well as a referral to your trusted Physical Therapist.
Musculoskeletal problems range from arthritis and sprained joints to broken bones and congenital disorders.
Physical Therapists use a variety of medical techniques to heal the body, thereby overcoming pain associated with a former injury.
They do this by:
- Designing and helping patients perform exercise programs to correct posture, strengthen muscles, and improve range of motion
- Teaching patients how to avoid overexerting themselves and damaging their bodies
- Performing various forms of massage therapy including deep tissue massage, trigger point massage, and myofascial relief therapy to improve circulation, promote healing, and reduce pain
- Applying various treatments such as hydrotherapy, ultrasound therapy, laser therapy, electrotherapy, and various hot and cold wraps to promote healing and reduce pain
Perhaps one of the most important aspects of using physical therapy is the element of control it provides the patient.
Opioid use, the reliance on pain medication, can make many patients feel that they are not in control of their recovery.
Physical Therapy as a method of pain relief allows patients to actively participate in their treatment. This provides them with “a say” in their recovery process.
Most importantly, Physical Therapy aims to heal patients of their painful ailments.
Because physical therapy is a constructive treatment, a successful outcome reduces or eliminates the need for pharmaceutical painkillers.
As a result, Physical Therapy is prover to lower the number of people at risk of developing an opioid addiction. Now that’s something to celebrate!
How to Celebrate National Physical Therapy Awareness Month
So, how do you properly honor those who have cared for others through the Physical Therapy profession? Well, we’ll give you two ways!
National Physical Therapy Awareness Month is about celebration just as much as it’s about raising awareness. Add these two things together, and you’ve got a recipe for success!
First things first – let’s start with celebration.
If you’re a Physical Therapist or a Physical Therapy Assistant, take some time to reflect on and celebrate the good work you do. If your family member or friend is the PT, October is the time to shower them with appreciation!
For Physical Therapists, celebration means focusing on the big picture because it’s not always apparent that the work is having the desired effect.
Treatment periods are typically drawn out over many months and sometimes, patients come back multiple times with the same injuries.
But when you sit down and think about all of the patients you’ve seen enter your clinic grimacing with pain, only to leave with a bright smile three or four months later, you know you’re making a difference in the world.
And that is something you should absolutely celebrate—even if it’s just once a year!
Along with celebration, we focus on awareness.
The medical professionals who have dedicated their lives to Physical Therapy inherently know what their work can accomplish. During National Physical Therapy Awareness Month, we want to make sure everyone knows.
If you’re a Physical therapist or Physical Therapist Assistant, you can head over to the APTA’s National Physical Therapy Month Page for some suggestions on how to do this.
For example, you can download the #ChoosePT logo and use it in a variety of places like on your:
- Social media
- Print materials such as stickers and brochures
- Company marketing materials such as pens, t-shirts or buttons
You can also encourage your patients to share their experiences with physical therapy to manage pain in APTA’s upcoming publication on #ChoosePT.
And of course, you can help even more by pledging to participate in the 2017 PT Day of Service on Saturday, October 14, 2017.
This global event was founded by Physical Therapists in 2015 and centers around a day of service that gives back to the community.
What better way to raise awareness during National Physical Therapy Awareness Month than to give back?
National Physical Therapy Awareness Month is an annual opportunity to recognize the physical therapy profession and their incredible, life-changing efforts.
Additionally, this year, the month is used to raise awareness about PT as an alternative to opioid use.
Celebrate yourself or the important Physical Therapist in your life by taking time to acknowledge the important work achieved through consistency and perseverance.
Raise awareness by participating in the #ChoosePT campaign, volunteering your time, and educating others about the benefits of PT!
How do you celebrate national physical therapy awareness month?
Share with us in the comments below!