2017 Physical Therapy Trends and Treatments
As a continuation of our content geared toward Physical Therapy Month, we decided it was time to look at newer developments in PT treatments and industry trends. With the Opioid epidemic in our country, it is clear that Physical therapy is going to play a major role in pain management over prescription treatments. Here are some others we found enlightening.
Robotic Training for CP – Out of every 1,000 school-aged children in the United States, 3.6 of them are diagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP). Because of abnormal gait and posture, CP sufferers will experience debilitating joint degeneration over time. A recent study from Columbia Engineering found that the utilization of robotics improved posture and walking in children suffering from crouch gait due to poor muscle strength and coordination. Utilizing a tethered robotic pelvic-assist system, researchers worked with children suffering from CP as they walked on a treadmill in sessions covering six weeks. After the end of the six-week period, the children had enhanced their upright posture and improved muscle coordination. While not fully established for PT treatments as yet, the researchers are planning clinical trials to test larger groups with more variables.
Keep Moving – There was a time when individuals who were rehabbing from surgery or an injury spent most of their time in bed. Those days are long gone as most physicians recommend that their patients begin physical therapy as soon as they are able. The focus is on utilizing physical therapy to guide the healing process, leading to better recovery time and outcomes. Examples of this approach can be found with those recovering from shoulder surgery. In the past, the patient would be in a sling for a minimum of six weeks and would avoid physical therapy until at least the fourth week of recovery. Today, patients are typically lined up for physical therapy by the end of the first week.
Pain in the Neck – In this case, we aren’t talking about a nosy neighbor or that barking dog down the street but real neck pain. Up to 15% of adults report neck pain that has persisted longer than six months and up to 70% of adults will experience neck pain at some point in their lives. Those are numbers that cannot and should not be treated with prescription painkillers. A recent study has found that physical therapy is extremely effective for patients experiencing neck pain. The results also indicated that a treatment plan that included electrotherapy, kinesiotherapy, and manual massage was the most effective.
Hold Off that Carpal Tunnel Surgery – Another chronic pain condition is carpal tunnel syndrome. Historically, surgery has been the most common approach to treating this nerve condition brought on by repetitive motion of the hand and wrist. A recent study in Spain has found that physical therapy can work just as well or better than surgery. In fact, after one month of manual therapy, carpal tunnel patients were reporting better results than those who underwent surgery. Another benefit of PT over surgery is the cost of therapy is more affordable.
Targeted Exosuits – Most of us have heard about the robotic exosuits that are being developed to aid sufferers of spinal cord injuries learn to walk again. However, advances in the technology are beginning to produce smaller, more targeted robotic exosuits. For example, stroke patients may soon have access to lightweight, low-profile robotic ankle supports that assist them in taking normal strides and walking with less difficulty. Results also demonstrated that the individuals were able to increase their unassisted walking speeds and correct problems with pronounced post-stroke ankle conditions like “drop foot.”
It is safe to say that the field of Physical Therapy will continue to benefit from the advancements of technology, yet in many cases, pain management and recovery are still greatly enhanced through manual interventions and therapies.
What new treatments or trends are you noticing in the world of physical therapy? Share your thoughts in the comment section below or drop us a line on our Facebook page.