The Vital Role of a Physical Therapist Assistant

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Daymar College

What a Physical Therapist Assistant Does Day-To-Day

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, physical therapist assistants work under the direction and supervision of physical therapists. Physical therapist assistants help patients who are recovering from injuries and illnesses regain movement and manage pain. Physical therapist assistants are involved in the direct care of patients. Physical therapist assistants typically do the following:

·         Observe patients before, during, and after therapy

·         Help patients do specific physical therapy exercises as part of the plan of care

·         Treat patients using a variety of techniques

·         Use devices and equipment to help patients

·         Educate a patient and family members about what to do after physical therapy treatment

Where Physical Therapist Assistants Work

College graduates from career college Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) degree programs can seek employment in a wide range of settings, including:

Hospitals – acute care is provided to patients who are admitted to a hospital for short-term patient care from illness, surgery, accidents, or recovery from trauma.

Private practices – physical therapist assistants work with patients in an office providing patient care for injuries associated with accidents, trauma, sports injuries, and other dysfunction, helping to reduce pain and increase flexibility.

Outpatient clinics – individuals visit the clinic’s physical therapist to assist in the rehabilitation of musculoskeletal and neuromuscular injuries.

Home health settings – provide physical therapy in the patient’s home. Physical therapy assistants will support the physical therapist as they work with senior citizens, pediatric patients, those with developmental disabilities, and those that need rehabilitation from injury.

Nursing homes – physical therapist assistants provide physical therapy to elderly patients, long-term nursing care, rehabilitation and old-age therapeutic services.

Schools – physical therapy is provided within an educational environment, to children with chronic conditions, involved in accidents or recovery from surgery.

Sports facilities – working in a gym or fitness facility to reduce the causes of injury from physical exertion and sports. The physical therapy manages movement dysfunction and enhances physical abilities of athletes.

Wellness Centers – physical therapy is taught to individuals to prevent illness and injury and promote a healthy lifestyle.

Hospice – physical therapy is administered to patients in the last phase of incurable disease to help them maintain functions as long as possible and to manage pain.

Physical Therapy Industry Growth

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment of physical therapist assistants is projected to grow 31 percent from 2016 to 2026, much faster than the average for all occupations.

The ever-aging population and the longer life expectancy of many adults is increasing the demand for physical therapy services. As the population gets older, they suffer from more disease and illness that requires physical rehabilitation and therapeutic services.

Types of Conditions Treated by Physical Therapists

Many conditions are treated by physical therapist and their assistants to offer corrective therapy, pain management, and quality of care, according to the American Physical Therapy Association. These conditions include post-myocardial infarction, carpal tunnel, rotator cuff tear, TMJ disorder, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and tennis elbow.

Carpal Tunnel – a numbness and tingling in the hand and arm caused by a pinched nerve in the wrist. Not only can making the same hand movement over and over cause carpal tunnel, but hypothyroidism, rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes can contribute to carpal tunnel and require the need for physical therapy services and/or surgery.

Rotator Cuff Tear – can weaken the shoulder making daily activities difficult and painful. When the rotator cuff is torn the tendon no longer fully attaches to the head of the humerus. Physical therapy services may be needed before and after surgery to rehabilitate the rotator cuff.

TMJ disorders – group of conditions that cause pain and dysfunction in the jaw joint and the muscle that control jaw movement. Treatments include ultrasound, moist heat and ice and exercises to stretch and strengthen the jaw muscle through physical therapy.

Spinal Cord Injury – damage to any part of the spinal cord or nerves at the end of the spinal canal. The use of physical therapy can help minimize further injuries, reduce pain, and promote the regeneration of nerve cells to improve the function of the remaining nerves after a spinal cord injury.

Multiple Sclerosis – a chronic disease involving damage to the sheaths of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. Patients with multiple sclerosis will use physical therapy to improve symptoms of numbness, muscular coordination, and body fatigue.

Cerebral Palsy – a condition that causes impaired muscle coordination caused by brain damage before or at birth. Physical therapy is used to improve blood flow and pain that may be caused by the lack of muscle control.

Muscular Dystrophy – a hereditary condition marked by progressive weakening and wasting of the muscles. Muscular dystrophy is caused by abnormal genes that interfere with the production of proteins needed to form healthy muscles. Physical therapy can help the symptoms of muscular dystrophy and help prevent programs in the joints and spine. Some therapies include range-of-motion and stretching exercises to prevent limbs to become fixed in position and help joints stay flexible.

Tennis Elbow – pain focused on the outside of the arm, where the forearm meets the elbow. Less than 5 percent of cases are linked to tennis. Tennis elbow is caused by repetitive stress injury caused by overuse. Physical therapy helps reduce pain and tendon inflammation to offer relieve from tennis elbow.

Elderly Chronic Conditions Resulting in Additional Physical Therapy Services

Many chronic conditions are more prevalent as people live longer. They can suffer from heart attacks, strokes, osteoporosis, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, diabetes, obesity, falls and depression. These conditions may need corrective physical therapy services to rehabilitate the patient, hence the need for additional physical therapist assistants.

Heart Attack – happens when the flow of oxygen-rich blood to a section of the heart muscle is suddenly blocked and the heart can’t get oxygen. Most heart attacks occur as a result of coronary heart disease where a waxy substance builds up in the coronary arteries. Heart attacks can cause patients to be immobile and loose muscle mass. Physical therapy can help rehabilitate heart attack patients.

Stroke – occurs when blood flow to an area in the brain is cut off. The brain cells are deprived of oxygen and glucose during a stroke. According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, about 54 million Americans have osteoporosis. Further 50 percent of women and 25 percent of men over the age of 50 will break a bone due to osteoporosis. The stroke can cause loss of movement in the body structure that physical therapy can help improve.

Osteoporosis – a medical condition where the bones become brittle and fragile with old age. Physical therapy can counteract bone loss with increase muscle mass and blood flow.

Parkinson’s Disease – a progressive disease of the nervous system that causes tremor, muscular rigidity, and slow movements that mainly affects elderly people.

Arthritis – The CDC estimates that arthritis affects almost 50 percent of adults over the age of 65. Physical therapy can be important to keep those active, that have arthritis, to minimize pain.

Diabetes – a disease where the body’s ability to produce insulin is impaired, resulting in an elevated level of glucose in the blood. Physical therapy can be important to increase blood flow in the feet and lower limbs were diabetes can cause numbness and reduced blood flow.

Obesity – an excess of body fat in a person with a Body Mass Index of 30 or greater. Obesity can cause limbs, muscles and ligaments to be strained causing the need for therapeutic services like physical therapy.

Falls – Approximately 2.8 million people over the age of 65 are treated for falls, according to the CDC. Falls can happen with the elderly as they may have difficulty with walking and balance. One out of five falls causes a serious injury resulting in the need for therapeutic services.

Depression – Exercise is one of the recommendations to help the elderly with depression. 59 percent of people over the age of 65 don’t meet the CDC recommendations for exercise. Physical therapy can be important to help the elderly stay active and fight depression.

Ready to make a difference in peoples’ lives and become a physical therapist assistant? At Daymar College, our Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) degree program can prepare you for a rewarding career that allows you to help others on a daily basis. Our Physical Therapist Assistant (PTA) training school in Tennessee can give you the skills you need to work under the supervision of physical therapists, helping patients with medical issues regain mobility and independence while performing day-to-day activities.