October is Physical Therapy Month | MedStar Health

October is Physical Therapy Month

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The physical therapy team from MedStar Health Southern Maryland Hospital Center

More Goes into Physical Therapy than Meets the Eye

The biggest misconception about physical therapy (PT), says Clinical Coordinator Ukonnaya Bigelow, PT, DPT, is that not much goes into physical therapy, and that it is easy.

“Some professionals think we’re glorified ‘get out of bed’ helpers,” said Bigelow.  “The reality is, we perform true assessments and evaluations of patients, taking into account their past medical history, their current needs and their discharge plans, whether they’re going home or to rehab.  We implement treatments, stabilize them and make sure patients don’t decline further.”

MedStar Southern Maryland Hospital Center's PT Department includes five inpatient and two outpatient physical therapists, two occupational therapists and one speech therapist. Physical therapists spend most of their time on the 4 East Orthopedic Floor, where there is a rehab gym with equipment to help patients gain back range of motion and strength. Bigelow says they also help patients in navigating rooms with obstacles and walking in busy hallways, since that mimics the types of environments the patient will face after discharge. 

On a typical day, physical therapists may help an older stroke patient whose cerebellum has been affected regain some balance.  They may help motivate a young patient who experienced a stroke in their 30’s and is dealing with the emotions the condition brings, as they try to walk.  Or, they may help an intensive care unit patient, still weak from remaining in bed for extended periods, strengthen the muscles they need to sit up and breathe effectively. 

The reward for this important work, says Bigelow, is when they see patients who have experienced debilitating conditions gain strength and walk without assistance.  For that, she says, she hasn’t minded being called a Drill Sergeant on occasion.   

To commemorate National PT Month, the PT Department will hold an Open House on Wednesday, October 26, 2016, from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in outpatient PT (Ground Floor G-132). Therapist will be available to highlight the modalities and interventions available to treat pain.  This campaign draws attention to the role physical therapy plays not only on mobility, but pain management. The #ChoosePT campaign is focused  on safe pain management without the use of addictive opioids.