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Take a Stand Against SB381

California’s Senate voted against SB381, the bill that would have prevented physical therapists from being able to provide manipulative care. Learn more.

Heidi Jannenga
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5 min read
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April 18, 2013
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Today’s blog post comes from WebPT Co-Founder Heidi Jannenga, PT, MPT, ATC/L.

4/18/2013 UPDATE

Woohoo! On April 15, 2013, California’s Senate voted against SB381, the bill that would have prevented physical therapists from being able to provide manipulative care. This marks a huge victory for the physical therapists in California and for our industry as a whole. And that deserves some serious celebration. But, even though the bill did not pass, our work is far from over. The fact that this bill even made it to the Senate floor proves that people still do not fully understand the expertise of physical therapists. So we must increase our efforts to educate the public on the benefits of PT and why we are the musculoskeletal experts. When people—our peers, our patients, and our potential patients—think back (or knee, or pelvis, or foot...) pain, we need to ensure they absolutely think “physical therapy” as their solution. With that in mind, let’s turn this comment thread into a brainstorming session. What can we do to spread the word about the awesomeness that is PT?

Original Blog Post

Down with SB381! As PTs, we have been fighting this issue of performing joint manipulation or joint adjustment for many years and in many states. Now, this fight is rearing its ugly head again in California.

In 2011, the APTA issued a statement: “Spinal manipulation is not designated as being under the exclusive domain of any one specific profession or group of practitioners. Physical therapists, chiropractors, medical doctors, and osteopathic physicians are all educated and trained to employ manipulation within the scope of their respective licenses and in a manner that protects the public's health, safety, and welfare. It is inappropriate for one profession to attempt to ‘own’ a specific technique or dictate clinical practice through such legislation.”

Although a bit dispassionate for my taste, as a manual therapy certified therapist, I fully agree with the above statements. For over 70 years, physical therapists have received the necessary training to practice manual therapy, including spinal and joint manipulation. In fact, the literature supporting the use of manipulation by physical therapists dates back to 1925. Evidence-based medicine shows that spinal manipulation for a select group of patients with subacute low back and neck pain is beneficial and cost-effective—and it’s physical therapists who are performing this research.

Physical therapy is a medical profession. We’ve proven our abilities; it’s time we get respect. Stand up against SB381. Call or email Senator Yee to let him know your thoughts: (916) 651-4008; Senator.Yee@senate.ca.gov. Regardless of what state you live in, you should care about this issue and get involved. We need to fight this together as a community. Don’t let another state go down, limiting the practice of your fellow therapists.

Take a stand against CA SB381

Addition as of March 15, 2013, in response to comments: 

Perhaps you’ve forgotten that our ultimate goal—why we all chose our respective professions (or at least why I hope we all did)—is to help our patients have a better quality of life. We all have a place in healthcare—different philosophies, sure—but a place nonetheless because our patients are better as a result of our presence. So why are we having this fight to begin with? Why are we wasting our energy fighting against each other?

To those in support of SB381, you’re doing it wrong. Here’s what it boils down to:

  • Manual techniques like manipulation are effective—this proven technique improves patients’ lives (read: helps us each achieve the ultimate goal of all our professions).
  • Physical therapists and chiropractors are both fully trained to use this technique. It’s not a versus scenario.
  • It is not (nor has it ever been) appropriate for one healthcare specialty to claim “ownership” of a technique.

Stop defending (read: hiding behind) this legislation. Let’s all provide this service to our patients. We owe them that. Unless, you know, you’re afraid of a little competition.

To those against SB381, thank you for keeping up the fight. But let’s not minimize our efforts here by insulting and name-calling. It’s bigger than that and we’re better than that. Focus on the issues. Call or email Senator Yee to let him know your thoughts: (916) 651-4008 or Senator.Yee@senate.ca.gov—regardless of where you live. Don’t let another state go down, limiting the practice of your fellow therapists.

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