Dr. Tracy Urvater, PT, DPT, OCS
Physical therapy has always been an aspect of healthcare that allows individuals to improve their quality of life. The progressive advances that the profession has undergone over the past decade are beyond the recognition of most medical professionals as well as among the general public.
Here are some simple facts about physical therapy that you may not be aware of:
- Most physical therapists have doctoral degrees and have advanced medical education and training.
- Physical therapist educational requirements are not synonymous with the educational requirements of a licensed massage therapist or personal trainer.
- Similar to medical doctors who specialize in a particular area, physical therapists also choose an area of concentration (orthopedics/sports medicine, neurologic rehab, geriatrics, acute care hospital rehab, pediatrics, etc.)
- Physical therapists are movement specialists with expertise in assessing the body as a whole and integrating interventions that allow reduction of pain, improved motion and strength, and overall improved function.
- Physical therapists do not require a prescription from a physician in most cases (with certain restrictions under NYS law).
- Physical therapists are qualified to perform comprehensive examinations and diagnose musculoskeletal conditions.
One research study (among others) states “physical therapists demonstrated higher levels of knowledge in managing musculoskeletal conditions than medical students, physician interns and residents, and most physician specialists except for orthopaedists” (https://bmcmusculoskeletdisord. biomedcentral.com/articles/ 10.1186/1471-2474-6-32 ) however the percentage of difference in diagnostic ability between orthopedists and physical therapists was low.
Some common comments heard from patients are: “I did my physical therapy at home.” “I had physical therapy at my gym with my personal trainer.” “My chiropractor did physical therapy.”
Question: Do you do dentistry at home? Do you do orthopedics at home? Do you do chiropractic at home or at the gym?
Driving point: There is confusion as to what a physical therapist is. Although they have expertise in proper exercise prescription, their role goes beyond exercise and requires extensive medical background for integrated treatment.
Physical therapy is a medical intervention that cannot be performed by anyone other than a licensed physical therapist; similarly, orthopedic surgery cannot be performed by anyone other than a licensed orthopedic surgeon and a chiropractic adjustment cannot be performed by anyone other than a licensed chiropractor.
Although areas within our practices overlap, a physical therapist can be the first line of medical intervention for most conditions including back and neck pain, shoulder/elbow/wrist/hand pain; hip/knee/ ankle pain; headaches; balance difficulty; vestibular disorders; sports related injuries and post-surgical rehab. Musculoskeletal wellness exams (including pre-season sports injury risk prevention) are also provided, similar to your annual physical exam performed by your primary care physician. Physical therapists perform a lengthy evaluation to properly diagnose your condition and then design a treatment program that will address the limitations until function is restored. Physical therapists may refer a patient to a medical doctor or other appropriate healthcare providers if certain signs or symptoms are discovered on examination that are beyond the scope of their practice. The ability for healthcare professionals (PT, MD, and beyond) to communicate regularly is crucial for patient care.
Dr. Tracy Urvater is the owner of Access Physical Therapy & Wellness – Rockland and leads a team of physical therapists that strive for collaboration of care between all medical colleagues to provide comprehensive care to all patients. Urvater says “communication between providers needs improvement across all disciplines and once this is accomplished, the entire patient experience will improve”. She and her team, located in New City and Pomona, are exceptionally committed to providing attentive quality care to their “extended family members” (patients). She urges the community to recognize the role a physical therapist plays in an individual’s general health. For more information, please contact Dr. Urvater and her team in New City at 845-578-9898 or in Pomona at 845-694- 8808.
This article was originally published in the May 2017 issue of Rivertown Magazine.