Physical therapy is not only for sports injuries or big surgeries. Are these indications to see a physical therapist, absolutely! But who else can see a physical therapist?!
Let’s start with a little background. According to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), physical therapists are movement experts who improve the quality of life through prescribed exercise, hands on care, and patient education. Physical therapist will complete a thorough examination to determine an individualized plan of care. This includes goals that are important to the family and individual. Treatment sessions will be geared to accomplish these goals. Physical therapists will help manage chronic diagnoses, recovery from injuries, and help provide pain relief.
What kind of education will my physical therapist have? If your physical therapist graduated in 2016 or later, they will have a Doctorate of Physical Therapy (DPT). There are additional programs that your therapist may have completed if they graduated prior to 2016 called a transitional Doctor of Physical Therapy (tDPT) program. This program will provide additional education that was not necessarily included in the masters or bachelor programs. In addition, many physical therapists choose to complete a residency or fellowship post-graduation. This will provide a fast track to earning a board specialty board certification. This includes sports, orthopedics, pediatrics, women’s health, and geriatrics. Lastly, each state requires continuing education every year to maintain a physical therapy license.
As noted in the APTA Guide to Physical Therapist Practice Handbook, physical therapy has demonstrated the following benefits:
- Delay or avoid surgeries and injections.
- Decrease the use and reliance of opioids.
- Decrease the length of a hospital stay.
- Decrease hospital readmissions.
How cool is that?! At the Savannah Speech & Hearing Center, we see patients from 0-21 years of age for physical therapy. So, who else can come to PT? The short answer is that anything that puts your child at risk for delay would benefit from PT. This can be due to a medical diagnosis, such as cancer, genetic abnormality, or muscular dystrophy. This can also be due to pain caused by an injury, growth, or even surgery. What if my child doesn’t have a diagnosis? No problem! If they are having trouble moving around and accessing their environment similar to the ability of their peers, physical therapy is a great place to start. This may be toe walking, using one side of your body more, or even growing pains.
There are very few things I love more than a good check off list! To wrap up, below is a check off list to help determine if your child would benefit from PT. An evaluation with a physical therapist will be beneficial if you notice any of the following:
____ Toe walking
____ Complaining of pain in their arms, legs, or back
____ Tripping or falling more than expected
____ Difficulty keeping up with friends and siblings on the playground
____ Looking in only one direction (infant)
____ Feeds/Nurses only on one side (infant)
____ Prefer using only one side of their body
____ Delayed milestones (not sitting at 6 months, not crawling by 10 months, not walking by 15 months)
____ Trouble getting around (running, jumping, walking, etc)
____ Recent surgery
____ Off balance
____ Equipment, bracing, or positioning concerns
If you have any questions, a Physical Therapy Evaluation is a great place to start. Your PT will assess range of motion, strength, balance, posture, gross motor skills, and even endurance. This will look different depending on your age. It is masked as play for our younger kids to encourage participation. Your child may not need physical therapy after their evaluation, however, your PT will often provide an exercise program or recommendations to optimize their function.
APTA Guide to Physical Therapist Practice 4.0. American Physical Therapy Association. Published 2023. Accessed 09/6/2023. https://guide.apta.org
The awesome adaptive tricycle featured in our topmost picture was provided by Freedom Concepts!