As a physical therapist, optimal patient function and their successful recovery are two of the most important aspects of the treatments that you provide. In order to help patients reach these two outcomes, you must consider all of the various contributors that play a role in their lives. Yes, you likely place a high emphasis on the physical-based components of a patient’s rehabilitation.
These being their strength, balance, general level of flexibility, and their level of functionality prior to the onset of the injury or illness that has resulted in complications, but have you considered the nutritional needs of the patient? As it turns out, this is just as important. In this guide, you will learn why and will be provided with steps on how to incorporate nutrition into the treatments that you provide to your patients.
Nutrition and Healing
According to numerous studies, nutrition is a critical component to the healing process. In fact, nutrition may mean the difference between a successful or non-successful recovery.
What a patient eats and/or consumes in terms of supplements has the capability of impacting both their overall level of functionality and their ability to successfully recover from an injury and/or illness.
In fact, many of the conditions that you evaluate and come up with a treatment plan for stem from nutritional deficiencies. Many chronic diseases and lifestyle choices – such as being inactive – actually require nutritional-based interventions.
Nutrition plays a critical role in long-term changes in a patient, as well as their outcome after treatment; therefore, it is imperative that you include nutrition in your initial evaluations in order to develop a solid plan for your patients.
A Holistic Approach
As a physical therapist, you utilize non-pharmaceutical approaches to help patients recover from illnesses and/or injuries.
While stretching, balance, endurance, and strengthening exercises are all essential aspects of the care that you provide, integrating nutrition into your treatment enhances the holistic approach you have to health.
There are many different benefits associated with adding a nutritional component to the regimen that you utilize with patients. The following outlines just a few of these advantages:
- Patients that experience complications with inflammation throughout the body may be advised on a diet and/or supplements that may be added to their daily care regimen that will drastically reduce that level of inflammation.
- Those that have suffered from some form of cognitive decline may experience improved cognitive-based functioning by integrating certain nutrients into their diet.
- For those that suffer from insulin and/or regulation issues with their blood sugar levels, nutrition may improve these problems.
- The healing process is dramatically increased when the right types of foods are eaten and the right type of nutrients are taken each day.
- Nearly all patients that require physical therapy have some degree of pain. By eating the right foods and taking the right types of supplements, the pain levels that are experienced may be drastically reduced.
As a physical therapist, you should combine many components in your treatment plans in order to improve the outcomes of your patients. These include therapeutic-based exercises, manual types of therapy, interventions to improve cognitive functionality, and patient education.
In addition to these components, you should make way for nutritional assistance, too! Not only will your patients feel better and perform better, but the reputation of your practice in the community or communities that you serve will also grow rapidly – resulting in more business.
The Screening Process
In order to integrate nutritional therapy into your patient’s physical therapy sessions, you will need to start by conducting a thorough screening process.
You should understand that nearly 70% of all adults in the country are considered overweight.
In those that are not overweight, malnutrition is often experienced. This is because many consume items that are processed, do not contain a lot of vitamins, or other types of micronutrients that directly impact the immune and metabolic functionality of the body.
When screening, you should determine the nutritional needs of your patient, any adverse practices that they engage in that are related to food, and risk factors for disease. You may engage in the screening process by using the following:
- Determine the Patient’s BMI
- Utilize the Mini-Nutritional Assessment
- The DETERMINE Health Questionnaire
Identify Nutritional Needs
Each patient that you see will have unique nutritional needs. You may determine these by using the National Health Interview Survey, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS).
Once you have identified the nutritional needs of your patient, you may then explain that information to your patient.
Encourage Behavioral Changes Towards Good Nutrition
The next step to addressing nutrition with your patients is to explain that they must make behavior changes towards foods. In this instance, you may be required to refer your patient to a dietician that is licensed for further advice on how to succeed in this endeavor.
To change behaviors related to food, many professionals utilize either or both the Transtheoretical Model (TTM) and the Health Belief Model.
Dietician and PT Collaboration
Once your patient has seen the licensed dietician, you may collaborate with that professional in order to outline goals that will result in positive outcomes for your patient.
You may also network with other physical therapists to determine strategies and techniques that lend to the success that they have experienced in terms of nutritional therapy for healing.
Start Your Network Today
When integrating nutritional therapy into your physical therapy regimen with patients, it is critical that you have a solid network of doctors, dieticians, and other physical therapists in order to succeed in your endeavor.
Today, you can start connecting with like-minded physical therapists by joining the Colorado Physical Therapy Network.
Not only will these individuals help in sharing strategies that have been successful for their patients, but they may also be able to provide you with many special tools and resources that will help in your endeavors. For more information, contact us today at: 303-757-7004