Every year the month of January is filled with renewed hope. We set our sights on new possibilities and we look forward to making positive changes. For many people this consists of resolutions to get healthier through diet, exercise, or both.
The opportunity to begin again is capitalized on by local gyms, boot camps, personal trainers and a whole slew of businesses offering New Year specials. The daily talk shows are buzzing with heath, wellness and fitness experts. In the past couple of weeks Dr. Richard Bresser has been making the rounds on the talk show circuit discussing back pain, how to prevent it, and when to see your doctor if you are experiencing back pain.
His message for the most part has been appropriate recommending that people sit less and move more. Some of my physical therapy colleagues are frustrated with his discussion on posture. Currently, there is no evidence that there is a perfect type of posture or that posture can be positively correlated with back pain. My peers are frustrated with the messages about back pain that are being disseminated through the media, especially social media. They are concerned that the information being presented doesn’t reflect current research and it perpetuates memes rather than providing accurate and up-to-date information.
A perfect example of this occurred in our clinic this week when two patients brought in a half page ad from our local newspaper for a “back brace” that is purported to “decompress” the spine. According to the ad the brace is even “approved” by Medicare. As health care consumers we are inundated with these types of ads on a daily basis via newspapers, social media, television and talk shows. Patients are attracted to these advertisements because they are in pain and want to get better.
The issue in both these instances is that a steady stream of misinformation and memes that are presented to the public on a daily basis. There are many people making money off of the information and the allure of a quick fix. With more and more information available it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to know who to listen to, who is providing you with good information, and who is taking advantage of you.
Recently our national organization, the American Physical Therapy Association, has adopted a new vision statement for the physical therapy profession: Transforming society by optimizing movement to improve the human experience.
My vision of physical therapy transforming society is by providing patient education and evidenced based treatments, with the client’s needs and goals as the focus, one patient at a time. I highlight that it is the client’s needs and goals that should be the focus our attention as it is their human experience. When we lose site of the patients needs, we are focusing on our needs, or our organizations needs. Physical therapy must be a “value added” service and experience for the patient. A service and experience that efficiently and cost effectively optimizes the patient’s ability to move and meet their goals.
As a healthcare community it is our responsibility to educate people to become an advocate for their own health and well being. The old adage applies here: “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” Don’t fall victim to these social memes or shell out $180 for a back brace. Instead seek out skilled experts who provide evidenced based care with their focus on your needs and goals.