The Role of Physical Therapists in The Treatment and Prevention of Obesity

More and more physical therapists are becoming Doctors in Physical Therapy as a result of our profession’s decision to go that route, I think it is important that we take a step up from what we are “used to doing” and start treating patients as a whole instead of just addressing their injuries. Fortunately, I am not alone in this view as more and more physical therapy clinics are taking on the wellness mantra in helping their patients not only recover from injury, but to also educate them about obesity and it’s treatment by living a healthier lifestyle.

Obesity is a condition we should all be addressing with our patients. We already know the effects being overweight can have on the various musculoskeletal structures in the body and I do not believe it is necessary to list them here. 

But, as Doctors of Physical Therapy, we also need to be conscious of how obesity affects the other body systems and be able to provide education and strategies for the prevention of obesity. This might include helping them find their motivation for getting healthier, getting them started on a basic exercise routine with follow-up on a consistent basis to make sure they are hitting their exercise plan goals. 

The role of a physical therapist may also include nutrition counseling. Now I am not saying we have to be experts in nutrition planning, but we should at least have a few “tools in our bag” like basic meal planning recommendations, referrals to good dietitians or high quality supplement weight loss products for them to consider. 

Sometimes, I hear other physical therapists complaining that providing treatment for obesity should not be our role and that we should not make nutrition recommendations. I say, “Why not?” If we are truly going to call ourselves Doctors, then nutrition planning is a key component to helping a patient with their health.

Additionally, we know how to read and decipher the research behind various nutrition strategies, so we should consider it another education opportunity that we should use to help our patients while bringing in more money for our practices depending on the strategies we use.

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