Celebrating National Physical Therapy Month

You probably already know that breast cancer awareness is an important topic during October. But did you also know that physical therapy (PT) and the specialists who practice it is celebrated during the same month?

The goal of National Physical Therapy Month (NPTM) is to raise awareness of the key role that physical therapists and physical therapy assistants can play in helping people find relief from pain, improve mobility and overall functional ability, and live healthier, more physically-able lives.

National Physical Therapy Month was established in 1981 by the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). On the APTA website, the stated purpose of the month-long campaign is to recognize the physical therapy profession's efforts to "transform society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience." Here's a look at how National Physical Therapy Month tends to play out.

Group exercise and rehabilitation class.
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NPTM Themes

Each year, the APTA selects a theme to be the main focus of National Physical Therapy Month. Past NPTM themes have included specific conditions and aspects of physical health, including low back pain, posture, balance, fitness and obesity, and sports injury prevention.

For example, for National Physical Therapy Month in 2017, the APTA put the spotlight on their Choose PT initiative. This campaign, which was labeled across social media outlets with the hashtag "#ChoosePT," zeroed in on the many ways in which the physical therapy community plays a major role in helping to manage awareness of a growing public health problem in this country: the opioid epidemic.

The connection between opioid drug abuse and physical therapy may not seem clear until you consider that taking medication for pain caused by things like a knee injury, shoulder surgery, or chronic low-back problems is a common way for someone to become hooked on opioid drugs. By helping people to manage pain and disability with hands-on therapy and physical exercise, physical therapists actually can play a huge part in combating the opioid crisis.

How National Physical Therapy Month Celebrated

During National Physical Therapy Month, physical therapists and PT clinics are encouraged to engage their communities in activities to promote healthy lifestyles and to raise awareness of the importance of PT. This can be a great opportunity to take advantage of public offerings from local PT clinics such as free posture screenings, balance assessments, or fun runs.

Often there's a designated "Day of Service" during October as well, when physical therapists take part in community service activities. This could mean volunteering free therapy at a clinic in an underserved neighborhood, for example, or spending a day cleaning a local park.

If you happen to be a physical therapy patient during the month of October, there's a good chance that the clinic you go to will be celebrating National Physical Therapy Month. You may notice that the physical therapists, assistants, and other staff will be wearing shirts with the APTA logo, for example. Some clinics even offer free gifts and other incentives to patients as a way to draw attention to the NPTM (and you can look into what gifts you could and should not give to your PT).

A Word From Verywell

Your physical therapist is a healthcare professional that helps people move better and feel better. He or she helps to promote healthy lifestyles, and the profession should be celebrated. Be sure to visit your local PT during October to celebrate National Physical Therapy Month!

By Brett Sears, PT
Brett Sears, PT, MDT, is a physical therapist with over 20 years of experience in orthopedic and hospital-based therapy.