WALTON COUNTY — They come in all sizes, ages and genders — athletes complaining of sports injuries, accident victims looking for recovery, elderly patients seeking relief from chronic pain.
They all come looking for aid from physical therapy.
One of the fastest growing occupations in the country right now — projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to grow another 39 percent in the next decade — physical therapy clinics and offices are increasingly becoming a common sight in communities such as Walton County.
The Physical Therapy Association of Georgia states there was a 110 percent increase in applicants for services in the last few years and an actual increase of 45.3 percent in patients receiving care.
The changes in health care coming through the Affordable Health Care Act, or Obamacare, also have some expecting a boom in physical therapy.
Walton County has its own boom in physical therapy services with multiple clinics and offices spread throughout the area. Owners and managers say they are working to keep up with the demand.
“We have an aging population,” said Amanda Pilz, owner of ProMotion Physical Therapy in Loganville. “People are living longer and are healthier in the later years. They’re looking for ways to stay healthy and keep up their quality of life and we can help them with that.”
Otis Clark, manager of Drayer Physical Therapy in Monroe, also pointed to the aging baby boomers as one of the primary sources of growth.
“As people age, they need rehabilitation,” Clark said. “There’s also a growing awareness of the benefits of physical therapy.”
Physical therapy can take a variety of shapes — from basic running exercises to keeping limbs in use to hands-on manipulation of muscles to aid in pain managements and healing. Local practitioners say it’s all about dealing with whatever pain and injuries the patients were dealt.
“We specialize in returning people to their function,” Clark said. “We get you ready for your specific job so you can return and work as you did before. We work with people until the problem’s gone.”
Of course, sometimes the problem is not a temporary one, such as the myriad sports injuries Clark and his staff see from local high school athletes. With the aging patients, though, sometimes the problem is an ongoing issue.
“We deal with chronic pain as well,” Clark said. “We work to ensure they can handle the problem and relieve some of that pain, when possible.”
Pilz has been operating her private clinic for 12 years in Loganville, as well as a second location in Grayson, and said she opened her own business so she could take a somewhat different approach than larger, corporate locations.
“I wanted to be able to give a high quality service and treat who I wanted to treat,” Pilz said. “Here, we work with patients one-on-one so they can get personalize care without treatment in a impersonal room filled with other clients. People who want more private care, that’s our niche.”
Pilz also works with chronic pain — even headaches, which she said can be relieved by certain techniques — but said one of the most important tasks for physical therapy is preventative care.
“We help people understand what to do to keep themselves physically healthy,” Pilz said. “We spend a lot of time on education.”
With physical therapy still growing nationwide and Walton’s population growing even as it ages, the county’s therapists expect demand to keep increasing.
“We’re here to help with the quality of life,” Pilz said.