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Why Physical Therapy Matters

Physical therapist assistant aiding patient with rehab exercises.

In October, Halloween gets all the shine, but the spooky month also hosts Physical Therapy Month, a time to celebrate a profession that’s more helpful than haunting. If you’ve done physical therapy, you get how important it can be to recovery. The field has rapidly come into demand thanks to the competitive salaries it offers as well as the flexibility the job provides (pun intended). According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the sector is projected to grow over 18% through the next decade.

This month, we celebrate physical therapy professionals and students alike for all their hard work, while bringing awareness to the field. And we’re taking it upon ourselves to put a special spotlight on physical therapist assistants (PTAs). Considered the best healthcare support job according to the U.S. News & World Report, PTAs offer the hands-on assistance we associate with physical therapy, from stretching to massage to balance and coordination training. For anyone interested in getting into this growing field, PTA degrees are a great starting point.

What is physical therapy?

Physical therapy offers a range of services, all with the goal of helping patient improve mobility, manage pain, and prevent further pain or injury. This is achieved through repetitive exercises, stretches, hands-on therapy, and equipment work under the guidance of a physical therapist (PT). While it’s the PT who’s responsible for developing a treatment plan and monitoring a patient’s progress, it’s the PTA’s job to implement the plan, working one-on-one with patients to heal and recover. The work a PTA does varies from patient to patient depending on their needs. 

PTAs have a direct impact on the lives of those they serve. The physical therapy they provide can help people avoid surgery; consistent physical therapy over time can reduce a patient’s need for surgery. Of course, sometimes surgery can't be avoided. In that case, physical therapy can still serve as important preparation. With pre-surgery physical therapy, patients can strengthen their bodies, which allows recovery to go quicker and smoother. In other words, physical therapy offers a win-win solution for people who suffer from injuries, chronic pain, or other disabilities. And as stats indicate, that particular subset of the population is growing significantly.

Who do PTAs work with?

While PTAs work across different settings with all different kinds of patients, from those in hospitals and nursing homes to college athletes, these days people between the ages of 40-70 make up a growing number of physical therapy patients. They’re entering an era in their lives where things don’t just snap back like they used to. Injuries can have longer, more permanent effects; years of repetitive motions or activities may finally be taking their toll. All of this is to say that the need for physical therapy is becoming not just an option, but also a serious consideration for more and more people, every day.

Another factor driving the growth in demand for physical therapy is long-haul COVID. Since the virus began ravaging the globe in late 2019, many people who contracted the virus and recovered have and continue to experience “long-COVID” symptoms. Early studies show that 1 in 4 COVID-19 patients have developed long-term symptoms associated with the virus. Which means there is a growing population of people who will need the assistance that physical therapy provides. 

Is being a PTA the right move for you?

How do you become a PTA? It all starts with education.

A good place to get started is in a program like the Physical Therapist Assistant Program at Bryant & Stratton College. Bryant & Stratton College’s programs offer an entry path to the physical therapy field designed to give you the skills necessary to perform rehabilitation exercises under the guidance of a licensed physical therapist. In the program, you’ll learn how to apply physical therapy principles and theories, how to operate in a variety of clinical settings, and how to advocate for patients. You’ll also gain the knowledge needed to go for your Physical Therapy Assistant license.

It’s a great field for those who wish to help people. PTAs often talk about their excitement at helping people overcome their injuries and improve their health. Some needed physical therapy at some point in their lives, and want to help others recover in the same way they were helped. Others love the variety of the job and the relationships they develop with their patients. Whatever your reason, physical therapy is the ideal space for those looking for a job that makes an impact they can be proud of.

As people seek alternatives to surgery or are just looking for ways to maintain their bodies following injuries or neurological conditions, physical therapy is becoming an option for many patients as well as healthcare providers — maybe it's an option for you, too. People who become PTAs endeavor to help people and leave a positive mark through their work. And it can be a great step that brings you to more advanced work in the physical therapy field. If you think being a PTA might be for you, what better time than now to find out?


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