Early Physical Therapy Important for Children with Down Syndrome (and Orthopedic conditions too!)
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) has worked to educate the public on the importance of early treatment for children with Down Syndrome. Due to the low muscle tone, decreased strength, poor coordination and balance, difficulty with feeding and coordination of hand use that is often associated with Down Syndrome, early physical therapy can be very beneficial. Physical therapists help children develop gross motor skills and coordination, which helps these children achieve important developmental milestones. Physical therapists are trained to improve a child’s postural and head control as well as ability to sit, crawl, stand and walk. The earlier the treatment starts, the better the outcomes.
Early physical therapy intervention also improves outcomes in orthopedic conditions, such as back and neck pain, shoulder or knee problems. Recent research in low back pain (Referral to Physical Therapy Lowers Care Utilization for Low Back Pain vs. Referral for Imaging by Julie M Fritz, PT, PhD, FAPTA, et al) has shown that the sooner a patient comes to physical therapy for treatment, the fewer expensive interventions are needed. A patient requires fewer expensive diagnostic tests such as MRI. When imaging is done as part of the initial assessment of low back pain (LBP), the odds of surgery, injections, specialist visits, and other expensive interventions are increased.
Alternatively, when physical therapy is started early, before diagnostic tests, patients are given an active approach to LBP which improves a patient’s ability to self manage their condition, improves their outcomes, and reduces the need for diagnostic tests. This research provides more evidence that physical therapy is a less costly approach to treatment and saves on the financial burden to our health care system.
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