Annual Physical Therapy Senior Check Ups: A Recommendation for Everyone

Time for a Check-up!

Prevention, wellness, and disease management have moved into the forefront of health over the past decade as research continues to show the significant benefits of lifestyle changes on health. Lifestyle changes, including increased physical activity, can lead to health benefits in those with chronic disease, prevent or manage a number of noncommunicable diseases, and lead to an increased quality of life.

Medical Fitness at ExercisAbilitiesDr. Daniel Millrood, PT, EdM and Charlette Chua, PT, DPT have been practicing, teaching, and promoting research that focuses on preventative health care, injury prevention, health promotion, physical fitness, and wellness for more than 3 decades.

They site that “it is almost incomprehensible that despite ongoing advances in biomedical, pharmaceutical, and information technologies, the current health care system in the United States is failing. The United states spends more per capita on health care than any other nation. Yet, the incidence and/or cost of managing obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus, osteoarthritis (OA), and cancer are enormous.”

They suggest that “the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2011 may or may not have been the answer, but the triple aims of health care reform—focusing on cost, access, and quality of care—are solid. A system that emphasizes preventative, patient-centered care, provided and managed by a multidisciplinary team of providers that includes physical therapists (PTs) as specialists on movement and function, is a solution that would allow our health care system to cost-effectively maximize the amazing resources we have at our fingertips.”

The APTA (American Physical Therapy Association) envisions physical therapists as primary-point practitioners in the preventative health care arena. Millrood and Chua site that physical therapists often treat individuals after disease and/or injury has already affected patients and their families.

It has become increasingly clear that a more preventative approach allowing the “skilled physical therapist services prior to the onset of injury, disease, and illness, including intervention and patient education, could prevent unwanted suffering and loss of quality of life that results from a lack of physical fitness.”

This realization led to the development of a physical therapy-based adult fitness examination.

It’s time for your Physical Therapy Check-up

An annual assessment with a physical therapist is used to determine health status and identify health risks of individuals in their community.

Client Benefits: Physical therapists have the education, experience, and expertise necessary to provide a broad health screening to allow tracking the patient’s health status over time. It may also lead to necessary, more in depth, physical therapy assessment and treatment plan or to referral to another health care professional for potential problems identified during the checkup.

In 2012, Millrood and Chua produced the Adult Fitness Examination (AFE) which is a comprehensive, noninvasive, evidence-based physical therapy approach to assessing the fitness of asymptomatic adults. It incorporates fitness components of musculoskeletal alignment, balance, range of motion and manual muscle testing that are not addressed by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). The AFE measures functional performance and uses common physical therapy test and measures. The AFE can be used to monitor wellness outcomes over time and promotes interdisciplinary communication regarding adult fitness.

Thus, even asymptomatic or “healthy” individuals are strongly encouraged to have an annual PT check-up. Individuals that have functional limitations or disabilities are encouraged for an annual therapist assessment at a minimum to optimize needed safe and effective exercise capabilities and benefits. Therapists can help guide individuals to safe and effective exercise programs, assist in finding resources for community health and wellness classes, medical fitness classes and/or adaptive classes and programs available in your area.

Physical activity is a powerful intervention, as evidenced by the numerous studies showing its relationship to morbidity and mortality in well populations as well as populations with functional limitations, impairments, or disabilities. Perhaps most importantly, physically active adults report greater quality of life and enhanced productivity at work and with leisure activities. An Adult Fitness Examination or annual PT checkup by physical therapist can help direct individuals on a pathway of health and wellness, help keep them on track, and assist with prevention of future disease risk. Schedule yours today!

Resource: Millrood, D., & Chua, C. (2012). Adult fitness examination: A physical therapy approach. Alexandria, VA: American Physical Therapy Association.

Lisa Bailey PT  is a physical therapist at Exercisabilities.  She specialized in senior fall prevention, aquatic therapy, and many of adult and senior therapy topics.

ExercisAbilities Inc.