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October is National Physical Therapy Month

by Colin Atkinson, PT, DPT, at Advanced Physical Therapy in Seward-
Advanced Physical Therapy Staff. L to R: Peter Burke, Stephanie Robertson, Mark Ifflander, Collin Atkinson, Elizabeth Finocchio, Erin Danielson.

As a new face around town, I am often asked what brought me to Seward.  The short answer is that one of my graduate school professors looked me in the eye the week before graduation and said, “if I were young and wanted an adventure, I’d move to work at this great clinic in Alaska.” After interviewing with Advanced Physical Therapy, and visiting Alaska, I couldn’t resist the opportunity.  The first question is frequently followed by “what exactly do you do as a physical therapist?”  Honestly, this is never a surprising question since I feel like even my parents have a hard time understanding what I do on occasion.  Since October is National Physical Therapy Month, I thought that I could spend a little bit of time explaining what physical therapy is in order to facilitate access to physical therapy care, and the health benefits associated with moving well, to individuals within the Seward community.

Simply put, physical therapists work together with their patients to facilitate the patient’s ability to move better.  For example, a physical therapist can diagnose and identify why it is difficult for someone to get dressed without back pain, or walk up and down stairs without knee pain.  In both of these cases, the factor limiting the patient’s ability to move is pain.  A physical therapist can examine and identify the source of this pain and work alongside the patient to find strategies to address the painful structure.  Furthermore, collaboration between a physical therapist and the patient can facilitate identification of the reason why the patient’s back or knee became painful in the first place, and prevent reoccurrence of symptoms.  With hands on therapy provided by the physical therapist, supervised and individualized therapeutic exercise and skills training, and the patient’s performance of a home exercise program, physical therapy makes it possible for these individuals to get dressed and walk up and down stairs without being limited by pain.  Oftentimes it is possible to prevent surgery and decrease dependence on pain medication with appropriate physical therapy care.

Additionally, it is not uncommon for individuals within our community to encounter difficulties with movement unrelated to pain.  I commonly have the opportunity to work with individuals who are having difficulty navigating their environments due to limitations in balance and strength.  The aging adult has the capacity to improve balance and gain strength, regardless of age, with an individualized physical therapy program.  It is possible to prevent falls and the resultant injuries associated with this trauma by addressing the root causes of imbalance.  Tripping and falling are not normal consequences of “getting older,” even in Seward with our icy streets and sidewalks.  Physical therapy provides an avenue to help these individuals improve movement, increase independence, and decrease risk of falls.

I can think of no better way to celebrate national physical therapy month than by getting the word out about physical therapy to the Seward community.  I love my profession and I am continually energized by the determination and resilience of my patients in this community.  I am fortunate to be a member of the Seward community, and humbled to be a witness of the Alaskan spirit as my patients relentlessly push their boundaries.

Collin Atkinson, PT, DPT

Collin Atkinson is a physical therapist with Advanced Physical Therapy in Seward, AK.  If you believe that you could benefit from physical therapy care, please call our front office a (907) 224-7848 to schedule an appointment.

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