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Three area physicians who hold doctorates in physical therapy have overseen and helped to advance a change in the way patients are being rehabilitated these days.

More one-on-one attention is being given to patients and, in turn, those in need of help have more confidence in therapists because of technological and educational gains over the past few decades.

Presentation also plays a part as centers are now brighter and have greater open space than ever.

Beginning Monday, physical therapists around the country will be celebrating these advances as part of National Rehabilitation Awareness Week.

Dr. Joel Antonucci, director of physical therapy at Fountain Life, McMurray; Dr. Cliff Wonsettler, founder, owner and therapist at Wonsettler Physical Therapy and Specialized Health, Scenery Hill; and Dr. Darren Bradley of Bradley Physical Therapy Clinic, Southpointe, have all witnessed positive changes and provided a different way of treating patients.

“The technology side of things have changed greatly in the last 15 years,” Antonucci said. “A lot of the technology used today did not exist then and some of it wasn’t even thought of.

“The direct access with patients evolved with the profession moving to the doctorate of physical therapy in Pennsylvania. It allowed patients to visit a facility without a prescription from one’s personal care doctor. In the past, you’d need the PCP to write a prescription for physical therapy. That gives patients a choice to seek help. Also, we’ve always wanted to be a first responder to sports injuries.”

Wonsettler said some of the other factors for people seeming to be more willing to seek out and take part in physical therapy or rehabilitation is that “Baby Boomers” are at an age where they suffer from more aches and pains and are into more serious health concerns. He also pointed to the increasing number of hip and knee replacement procedures being done.

“A lot of it also is that people want to still be active and be able to sit on the floor and play with their grandkids,” Wonsettler said. “Moving from a master’s degree in physical therapy to a doctorate has also helped raise confidence of patients. ‘I think that has led to a higher-quality of research, a more accurate and understanding of a diagnosis.

“The open space and ability to wear workout clothes to therapy sessions helps build an atmosphere for wanting to work and get better. For athletes, we can get any ball they use in their specific sports into their hands while doing physical therapy or rehabilitation.

“I think the bottom line and goal is to continue to provide services to the communities we live and work in and continuing to build relationships.”

Bradley added that the profession is “more reliant on research.”

“We are spending more time focusing on the research and backing up the science to treat more effectively and efficiently,” he said. “People are living longer, the technology is better and people want to maximize their quality of life.

“These are not passive treatments, and the approach is much more hands on and with joint mobilizations and stretching. People are connecting well with therapists. With us, we have 45 minutes of one-on-one time with patients. They feel better with me listening to their stories. That’s how you build these relationships.”

And those lasting relationships only help medical professionals and patients alike as they continue through the rehabilitation process.

“The one-on-one contact is essential in developing the patient’s confidence in the therapist,” Antonucci said. “If you can connect in a personal way, it makes for a better session and a better understanding of what is needed to get better. I can’t tell you how many patients have become friends and I receive text messages from them without reservation to talk about or discuss something. It can be beneficial.”

Those interested in joining the Be Local Network can contact Chris Slota at 724-225-1326 or by email at chris@belocal.net. Discount cards are available at the Observer-Reporter and Almanac office, 122 S. Main St., Washington.

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