September 8th, 2014 is World Physical Therapy Day (WPTD). The day is an opportunity for physical therapists from across the globe to bring awareness to the essential need for their skills. Physical therapy makes a positive impact for individuals suffering from a wide range of conditions. From injury recovery to chronic pain management, physical therapists help keep people well, mobile, and independent.

If you are a physical therapist or your life has been positively affected by someone in this field, September 8th is the perfect day to show gratitude and raise awareness.

The World Confederacy for Physical Therapy (WCPT) offers a toolkit for individuals to use to show their support of World Physical Therapy Day. There are simple things you can do, such as add the World Physical Therapy logo to your website or flyers and posters you can hang in your office. They even offer ready to use social media content so you can share World Physical Therapy Day on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms. You can also download a booklet that helps explain why physical therapy matters.

The site also provides several activity ideas for you to do individually or with your community. This page showcases events all over the world from the last several years and can provide a framework for your own experiences in 2014.

So, why does physical therapy matter?

Physical therapy is a method to treat illness or injury using physical methods such as massage, exercises, or the application of heat. It can be used as an alternative to surgery or in conjunction with other treatments. Sometimes physical therapy has an at-home component too where individuals are expected to continue their exercises between sessions to improve healing.

Physical therapy has been proven effective for a number of chronic pain conditions. Here is a closer look at some of the conditions that can be helped with physical therapy.

Low back pain

This condition can be caused by a number of different things, including injury or chronic conditions affecting the lower back. Because of this variation there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treatment.

However, physical therapy can benefit many individuals with chronic low back pain. Physical therapy is often successful because of patient education. The therapist can provide the patient with a personalized treatment plan which includes multiple at-home exercises that can help restore strength to the muscles in the lower back. Physical therapy also helps avoid complications that can arise from decreased use of the muscles in this area or other parts of the body. Often when an individual feels pain they may resist movement to avoid the pain sensation. This can lead to disuse that can cause greater problems long-term. Physical therapy counters this by offering exercises that decrease the pain or do not trigger these sensations.

Sports injuries

One of the best and most common uses of physical therapy is sports injuries. Most minor sports injuries will heal on their own, but sometimes they require a little more attention.

If a sports injury is severe enough to warrant surgery or other invasive treatments, physical therapy can help with recovery. Physical therapy helps individuals recover the full range of motion and strength in the affected area. A trained physical therapist will also have access to tools that can help someone with exercises both during treatment and at home between sessions.

Heat therapy and other processes can also be helpful to people recovering from sports injuries. Once again, the physical component of the therapy along with the ability to reinforce the progress at home between sessions is the thing that makes this treatment most successful.

Plantar fasciitis

A common condition affecting the foot, plantar fasciitis can be debilitating if not properly treated. This condition occurs when the thick band of tissue on the bottom of the foot that connects through the arch is overstretched or overused. Pain can be worse in the morning after the foot hasn’t been used overnight or when you stretch it in a certain way, such as when climbing stairs.

A trained physical therapist can work with you to determine the best exercises that can help strengthen the foot and alleviate pain associated with plantar fasciitis. Many of the physical therapy stretches can be performed at home without any expensive equipment.

Osteoarthritis

Pain in the joints such as the hips or knees is common in patients diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Considered a “wear and tear” condition, osteoarthritis is typically associated with the body’s natural aging process. However, individuals with an osteoarthritis diagnosis don’t need to feel limited by the condition. Since it is caused by the long-term loss of the soft, cushioning cartilage in the joints, osteoarthritis can cause pain during normal activities.

It has been shown that physical therapy can help strengthen the surrounding muscles provide some increased range of motion and decreased pain in many patients.

Sciatica

It is a common misperception that sciatica is a condition that causes pain in the sciatic nerve that runs through the back of the buttock and down the leg. Sciatica is the name for the pain sensation which is typically caused by other conditions that affect this nerve. However, sciatica can be extremely painful and, if surgery or other treatments aren’t a viable option, physical therapy can provide some welcome relief.

Carpal tunnel syndrome

This condition is common among individuals who use their hands frequently. It affects people who spend the day typing at computers or other similar jobs. Because of this, a diagnosis of carpel tunnel can be devastating for someone reliant on their hands for their work. Physical therapy has been proven effective for patients with this condition. A physical therapist can help with several specific exercises that can improve range of motion and restore normal function in the hand.

World Physical Therapy Day helps draw important attention to a field that provides relief and healing to multiple individuals around the world dealing with the impact of chronic and acute pain. If your life has been positively affected by a physical therapist, make sure you recognize the positive healing they’ve brought into your life by honoring them on World Physical Therapy Day.

How will you recognize World Physical Therapy Day?

Image by Roger Mommaerts via Flickr

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