October recognized as Physical Therapy Month

October is recognized as Physical Therapy Month, and the American Physical Therapy Association offers tips to stay healthy.

Teresa Schuemann, of Colorado Physical Therapy Specialists in Fort Collins, said families should be at the forefront of establishing physical activity habits.

“It’s much easier for children to adopt healthy lifestyles if they see their parents making physical activity a priority,” she said in the release. “Parents should emphasize a healthy lifestyle instead of focusing solely on weight and support the family’s healthy choices rather than pounds lost.”

The association contends that physical therapists can help families balance the many priorities they have for their children and help them find ways to incorporate physical activity into children’s play, leisure time and daily family routines.

For obese children and adults, promoting movement, reducing pain when it is present, maintaining or restoring function, and preventing disability are the goals of a physical therapist-designed exercise program, according to the release.

“Physical therapists address how obesity affects the way the body moves and functions,” Susan Deusinger, professor of physical therapy and neurology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo., said in the release. “This is accomplished through individual and group exercises to restore flexibility, increase strength and cardiovascular endurance, reduce pain, and address postural stability and balance. These help the individual to better perform activities of daily living while decreasing disability associated with long-term obesity.”

Physical therapists also incorporate behavior modification into weight loss programs, according to the release. For instance, treatment may include identifying causes of unhealthy behaviors, learning how an individual’s readiness to begin or continue positive behaviors impacts progress, and recognizing any barriers that may compromise healthy habits.

Physical therapists help the individual set goals and monitor his or her behavior, according to the release. Frequent contact, feedback and continuous motivation and support are all components of behavioral programs that physical therapists provide in individual and group settings.

Obesity is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes, a chronic disease marked by high levels of sugar in the blood that is associated with numerous health complications, according to the release. Improving capacity for physical activity and increasing muscular strength are crucial to preventing loss of physical function and independence, the association reports.

An individualized program developed by a physical therapist can help reduce the need for medications, lower risk of heart disease and stroke, and help manage glucose levels. For people with complications associated with diabetes, physical therapists can help restore quality of life through the use of special tests to check foot sensation; decrease cramping pain during walking; evaluate and care for skin ulcers and sores that are slow to heal; improve walking ability by adapting shoes or orthotics; instruct on how to protect the feet if they have lost sensation, and recommend shoe wear or assistive devices, according to the release.

According to the association, the guidance and encouragement of a physical therapist who understands individual needs, priorities, and challenges and who is able to closely support and monitor progress can be the determining factor in helping an individual to achieve his or her goals.