By Lee Weyhrich
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of physical therapy practices is estimated to grow by nearly a third within the next three years. One reason for this is an increase in the number of sports injuries. Between 2000 and 2008, there was a 6 percent rise in the number of injuries, and that number has continued to rise.
At one time, the majority of physical therapists could be found in hospitals. These days, the BLS claims 80 percent of physical therapists work from private practices. Chris Lynch, owner of Trussville Rehab and Performance Fitness, is one such therapist.
There are at least seven physical therapy practices in the greater Trussville area, with two to three in the city limits, Lynch said.
“We’ve been serving the Trussville community for 14 years,” Lynch said. “I’m actually an occupational therapist with a master’s degree in exercise science, a certification in strength and conditioning and I’m CrossFit (a type of athletic training) certified. We do outpatient physical therapy, as well as hand therapy, which is ordered by physicians.”
Most patients don’t know they have a choice in therapy. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, many doctors send patients to therapy offices in which they own a stake. APTA argues these physician-owned physical therapy centers raise the cost of services and confuse patients in regard to choice.
In 1989, Stark Law was put into place in order to end POPTCs. It was further restricted as Stark II in 1994. Stark III was signed into law by President Bill Clinton in 1995 and greatly lessened these restrictions in regard to certain referrals, including those regarding physical therapy. Stark III went into effect in 2007, allowing doctors to once again have a stake in the offices they referred their patients to.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons claims these newer, lessened restrictions allow a doctor to have a more hands-on approach in their patients’ recovery and better monitor progress.
Regardless of one’s position of POPTCs versus private physical therapy, the decision of which service to use ultimately falls on the patient.
“You can take a prescription from a doctor, just as in medicine, and take it to any rehab center,” Lynch said.
Lynch said the majority of his patients are weekend warriors, athletes or older people with back or joint problems, or who have had joint replacements.
“One of the things I tell people, about 80 percent of joint problems could be avoided if people took care of themselves, but we get busy and don’t take care of ourselves,” he said.
He said that his facilities also offer training in ways to avoid injuries by the use of simple stretches and exercises. Lynch is proud of his facility and his employees. Having a 14,000-foot gym in addition to standard therapy facilities allows his company to offer a wider array of services than many other companies.
“This has been a great career because you have the opportunity to help people and impact lives,” Lynch said. “Trussville is a great community. We see a lot of people who are repeat customers and have a lot of people recommend their friends and family. I never go to work and don’t enjoy it.”