Pictured are Rhonda Kurtz , Kristine Schulte and Jeanne Smith

by Rhonda Kurtz , Kristine Schulte and Jeanne Smith

October was Physical Therapy Month - a time for celebrating the profession of physical therapy as well as those physical therapists who change the lives of their patients. Physical therapists work in a variety of settings but their goals are the same — identify and maximize quality of life and movement potential.

The history of physical therapy dates back to the ancient Greeks Hippocrates and Galenus, who recommended manual therapy techniques as well as massage for stress relief and physical healing. The field of physical therapy exploded during the early 20th century. It was then that it became more than “just a massage.”

Post-polio patients and veterans wounded in World War II required extensive assistance. Some never regained enough strength to walk again and required training with adaptive equipment to allow them to function within their environment. Physical therapists were on the forefront of those recovery periods working in conjunction with the doctors.

Today’s body of knowledge of physical therapy is quite large; therefore, some physical therapists specialize in specific areas. Such areas include sports medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics, wound care, orthopedics, cardiopulmonary, pelvic floor dysfunction and neurological rehabilitation.

Physical therapists help people in many ways. They might work with a patient who suffered a stroke or who was involved in an accident. Or they might help an athlete recover from surgery or injury or assist a child through the proper developmental stages.

Physical therapists also play an integral role in the field of women’s health, using state-of-the-art-techniques for treating pelvic floor dysfunction.

Many people have been affected by a physical therapist, either directly or indirectly. Maybe you have suffered an injury and required strengthening and retraining to return to work or to play a sport.

Perhaps a parent or loved one has suffered a stroke or a heart attack and required extensive rehabilitation to return home. Maybe you have a child with special needs who required help to progress through normal childhood development.

Perhaps you have chronic pain due to poor body mechanics or imbalanced muscular alignment. All of these conditions would benefit from physical therapy.

There are numerous other ways in which physical therapy can impact your life. Physical therapists’ scope of practice is extensive and continues to grow as we learn more from research and gain access to new techniques and instruments.

Already we can address many impairments and help patients achieve a better quality of life. Who knows what tomorrow’s technological advances and research will allow us to do?

Rhonda Kurtz, Kristin Schulte and Jeanne Smith are physical therapists at UTMB.