The leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the United States is chronic disease.¬† Heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes and lung disease are chronic diseases which can be caused by a person’s lifestyle.¬† Behaviors like physical inactivity, unhealthy diet and tobacco use are all associated with chronic diseases.¬† These diseases are preventable. ¬† However, the medical system in the United States is more prone to treating these illnesses after they’ve occurred.¬† Ideally, health care providers should look towards prevention first.¬† The World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have labeled lifestyle diseases an epidemic.¬† In response to the epidemic, health care providers are stepping up to the plate to take the first step towards lifestyle disease prevention.
Health: How a Physical Therapist can Help
Physical therapists are the most ideal providers to promote health and wellness in their patients.¬† A patient may see their physician only periodically for well visits or for the occasional illness.¬† When a patient attends physical therapy they typically spend an hour with their therapist 2-3 times per week for several weeks.¬† It is easy to build a strong patient-provider relationship this way.¬† Physical therapists are well positioned to have dificult lifestyle choice conversations with their patients and establish a system to monitor accountability.
Did you know that physical therapists have basic knowledge and skills to promote health and wellness in five important areas?¬† Physical therapists can screen for and identify problems with:
- Physical inactivity
- Nutrition and weight management
Physical therapy patients may be surprised to learn that it is possible their unhealthy behaviors or habits contributed to the pain or injury for which they were seeking physical therapy.¬† Physical therapy can reduce or eliminate pain.¬† If patients continue previous behaviors such as poor diet or sedentary lifestyle and do not incorporate some exercise or physical activity into their life it is likely the pain will return.¬† Sleep and stress also play a vital role in healing and recovery and should be addressed if problematic.
Physical therapists are equipped with tips, tricks and resources to help their patients in the areas above.¬† They can provide education, help with accountability, motivation and support.¬† If you have a trusting relationship with your physical therapist they can be there to help reinforce your healthy habits along the way.¬† Ask yourself “Do I engage in health promoting activities?”.¬† If the answer is “no”, then your physical therapist can be your guide and your way to get started, just ask.
- Bezner JR. Promoting health and wellness: implications for physical therapist practice. Phys Ther. 2015;95:1433-1444
- World Health Organization.¬† Global action plan for the prevention and control of NCDs 2013-2020.¬† Available at:¬† https://www.who.int/nmh/events/ncd_action_plan/en/.