People usually think of calling a physical therapist after an injury has put them out of commission. This is perfectly natural and also the most common reason a physical therapist is consulted. However, with the population of the United States becoming increasingly older, physical therapists are now getting more calls for preventative care. Instead of working with patients to regain mobility, strength, or flexibility after an injury, individuals are making appointments with physical therapists to prepare for physical activity in order to avoid injury altogether. This is especially true for physical therapists who specialize in sports medicine.
According to an article in The Wall Street Journal, services that were once reserved for professional athletes have now begun to become more mainstream. Older amateur athletes and recreational sportsmen have the resources and the motivation to make this physical therapy niche explode in the coming years. Physical therapists excel in putting together exercise plans that help improve the weakest part of a patient and allow them to increase their overall activity level without further damaging themselves. By allowing a physical therapist to design their workout routine, as opposed to a more traditional fitness trainer, the client ensures his or her specific needs are met, rather than having someone create a routine designed to strictly encourage weight loss that may not consider their unique limitations. Additionally, by choosing a physical therapist to create an exercise regime, the client can be evaluated for overall fitness and flexibility before any deficiencies cause an injury. These problems can be addressed early and potentially prevent future injuries.
What does this mean for you as a physical therapist? If you are interested in branching out into this emerging field, you will need to be sure your credentials are of the highest caliber. To set yourself apart from personal trainers, consider obtaining an advanced degree in sports medicine and join an industry association such as the American Physical Therapy Association. Many patients look to these industry experts to point them to accredited and reputable therapists, and having yourself listed can increase the number of patients that are able to find you.
Having experience in a variety of physical therapy applications can also be beneficial, as can an extensive history in working exclusively with sports medicine. If you have decided this is an avenue you would like to pursue, you can begin working as a sports medicine physical therapist who treats traditional sports related injuries, and slowly advertise your services as a trainer to build up your clientele in that area until you have a steady flow of clients interested in preventative training rather than rehabilitation.
Have you had clients request your services as a fitness trainer? Is it something you enjoyed or are interested in doing as a career? What about it appeals to you rather than the more traditional therapist role?