4 Action Items for Primary Care Physical Therapists Working in Preventative Medicine

As medical providers, we’re all aware that our country is pretty sick. We’re not referencing the flu, COVID, or Strep, but the bigger grouping of sick, those metabolic syndromes that cause a myriad of complications and end people’s lives decades earlier.

When physical therapists think of hypertension and diabetes, we often think about their management and how to modify our treatments for safety within these populations. But we will never make a dent in these numbers by only managing those already on medications and facing the consequences of these illnesses. When working in primary care, physical therapists have to start early and work on how we can help people prevent the development of these conditions.

Top Primary Care Physical Therapy Action Items:

1: Metrics:

Vitals (especially Blood Pressure) and Blood Sugar are easy measurements that give us a good look at how the cardiovascular system is working. Changes can be seen in these measures far before patients sense that something has gone wrong. Screening these on EVERY PATIENT is key to catching hypertension or diabetes early AND to empowering people to keep track of their own numbers.

2: Education:

Helping patients to understand what blood pressure and blood sugar mean and how they affect the human system is a very powerful tool. While information accessibility is fairly high, health literacy can vary between patients. Though patients may know they have high blood pressure, they may not know that their actions can have a large effect or that they may be able to reverse these changes altogether.

3: Lifestyle Modification:

As health facing physical therapists, we all know the importance of nutrition, sleep, stress management, and EXERCISE for the body as a whole. And while many patients may have some understanding of this, we are perfectly placed to help them with the details. For example, when we help someone see the effects of diet change on their blood pressure readings, we empower them to maintain this change and look to do more.

4: Reassessment & Monitoring:

Any measurement doubles in efficacy with reassessment. Checking vitals and blood sugar creates a wonderful beginning, a stable platform on which to build. But once a patient commits to lifestyle changes, our educational aspects become far more powerful with reassessment and monitoring. Additionally, this is how we understand if the changes made are working!

As primary care physical therapists, we often reserve the above elements for those already diagnosed with hypertension or other metabolic diseases, but if we want to start preventing said illnesses, we need to complete these action items with every patient.

Only by starting early, educating younger people and adults on the importance and power of their health choices, can we not only TREAT these diseases, but also begin to erase them.  This blog is only scratching the surface, jump into our online Primary Care Physical Therapy course to take the deep dive!