As a physical therapy assistant you can work in a variety of settings in the rehabilitation field, from surgical hospitals to old age care homes, to sports clinics. One of the main patient groups a physical therapy assistant will work with is those suffering from arthritic diseases. With a high portion of the population being effected by the group condition of arthritic diseases, working with these patients is both a strong study point in the academic portion, as well as a major learning component for the clinical internship portion of the physical therapy assistant program they attended.
It is estimated that more than 40 million people in the United States of America have some form of arthritis, with many individuals having their daily life effected by this condition. The most common form of arthritis is osteoarthritis (wear and tear, degeneration of the joints) which effects almost half of all those that have arthritis. There are several very debilitating versions of arthritis such as ankylosing spondylitis (spinal arthritis) and rheumatoid arthritis, which can leave deformities and permanent damage to the individuals it effects.
Physical therapy assistants (PTA’s) will work under the guidance of a licensed physical therapist. Physical therapy has under numerous clinical studies proved to be efficient and beneficial for managing the symptoms associated with rheumatoid, knee, spinal, and degenerative osteoarthritis. The therapist assistant will assist the head therapist by offering a number of treatment modalities to help combat the symptoms of arthritis. This can include therapeutic exercises, range of motion exercises, and whatever exercises are deemed necessary to give the patient maximum range of motion for their affected joints.
The PTA may also offer patients who suffer from arthritis such modalities as heat, ice, electro-therapy, ultrasound, and even ice to reduce inflammation and pain for the patient. Manual techniques and massage techniques will also be used by the PTA. Learning how to work with patients with arthritis is about more than the modalities and hands on skills for the PTA, it also heavily involves strong communication skills, and understanding to work with a patient whom may not be able to physically do tasks that seem easy to you and I. Overall the role of the physical therapy team is to restore function to the muscles, and to help limit further damage to the body from the arthritic condition in which the patient suffers. Along with proper doctor prescribed medical treatment plan, physical therapy can benefit a suffer, and help them lead a more pain free life.
Working with patients of all backgrounds, with all types of diseases will always be a part of a physical therapy assistants job. Being compassionate to the individuals one will see in the work world is a requirement for a PTA. As arthritis effects such a large percentage of the population in 2011, your role as one who assists patients with this often painful condition will be one with great need. Another reason to study as a PTA, as with the nations aging population, we will see a greater need for care of individuals effected by the diseases of aging.