We recently sat down with one of our Advisors, Steve Thompson, and asked him some tough questions about the PT profession. We’ve already told you why we think it’s a great time to be a PT, now Steve shares his take on PTs explosive growth (the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that PT will grow 39% from 2010 to 2020!).
Age Is Just a Number
I believe PT is growing for several reasons. First, the baby boomer generation is aging and reaching Medicare eligible ages and as they age, they will need more support and help to maintain lifestyles to which they are accustomed. Also, the population has aged, the number of joint replacements being performed is increasing as well and those patients need skilled therapy to recover from this complex surgery. The idea of senior citizens is transforming as well. Many of our “senior citizens” are becoming “athletic seniors”. As this population ages and wants to keep an active lifestyle, physical therapy stands to be a front-runner in helping keep this population active. Physical therapists are the best-trained healthcare professionals to assess and treat movement impairments. As we age, we will most likely develop more and more movement impairments and therefore, PT will be needed and the growth in the profession will be justified.
The other reason that the profession of PT is growing is that consumers are looking for alternatives for improving their health and wellness. Many of my patients don’t want to go through the “expensive” avenue of traditional medicine and are looking for other alternatives than their primary doctors. These same patients are also avoiding medications that are often offered to them for musculoskeletal pain and looking at physical therapists to provide a solution for their musculoskeletal injuries that don’t require surgery. Physical therapists can provide health and wellness assessments to help people gain strength and flexibility and can be a key member of the healthcare profession via the health and wellness markets.
A Practical Alternative
Many people come to physical therapy with chronic musculoskeletal conditions that are not candidates for surgery. In many cases, but not all, chronic neck and back pain conditions can be addressed conservatively with instruction in body mechanics, posture, core stabilization exercises and lifestyle and wellness alterations which can be often more cost effective and beneficial than a patient taking medications. Also, as people come to physical therapists for questions and assessments, we recognize those conditions that we can treat and those that we need to refer to the appropriate physician specialty. Many physicians and chiropractors do not agree that physical therapists have adequate training to know when to refer out to a physician but this is untrue. The number of patients with chronic injuries will clog up the healthcare system so PTs are positioned to become an excellent alternative to physicians being a primary resource for chronic conditions.
Steve Thompson, MPT, is the CEO of Sport and Spine Therapy of Marin. He is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and a board certified Orthopedic Physical Therapist. He has also completed the Folsom Physical Therapy year-long manual therapy course. Steve still maintains his patient caseload while continuing to pursue other specializations in Active Release Therapy and Dynamic Neuromuscular Stabilization.